Sept. 13, 2023
Jack Cardinal,, (781) 960-5208

Day Of Action To End Medical Debt Builds Momentum And Adds Pressure On Biden Administration To Do More To Address the Growing Crisis

*** Photos and Participant Interviews Available Upon Request ***

Washington, D.C. – Today, Community Catalyst hosted a day of action in Washington, D.C. to shine a bright light on people impacted by medical debt and highlight partners working to address the crisis through policy, advocacy and other organizing and powerbuilding efforts. Their message is clear: Medical debt is a uniquely American problem and the Biden administration must do more to provide our communities with relief. This follows the delivery of comments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury earlier this week, signed by 70 groups, demanding tougher actions against medical payment products, which are just another medical debt trap

“Nobody should have to make the impossible decision between life and debt, but in America, that’s the reality for far too many of us,” said Community Catalyst Executive Director Emily Stewart. “The Biden administration has done more to address medical debt than any administration prior and we are grateful for that. But we came to Washington, D.C. because the administration must continue to hear from advocates and impacted people about the additional actions they can take to continue to address the crisis. It’s time the Biden administration used all the tools in its toolbox to address the medical debt crisis. Taking on this issue will further the administration’s commitment to advance health equity while simultaneously helping address the rising costs of health care.”

More than 100 million people have medical debt in America, both insured and uninsured. And, while anyone can incur medical debt, the impact is felt more acutely by Black and Latinx communities due to longstanding barriers to health and economic security due to racism, classism and other forms of oppression. The advocates and impacted people in Washington, D.C. today highlighted, among other things; the prevalence of dental services and lack of dental insurance as a leading contributor to medical debt, with heightened calls aimed at the Biden administration to prohibit the promotion of predatory deferred interest credit cards in dental offices, as well as hospitals and other medical settings. They also pushed the Biden administration to hold non-profit hospitals accountable to their 501(c)(3) status, following growing reports that they are operating more like for-profit entities and not providing adequate charity care. 

Impacted community members and state advocates traveled from Georgia, Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio for the day of action organized by Community Catalyst. They met with members of Congress as well as administration officials from the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Treasury, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and the National Economic Council (NEC).

Together, with a growing coalition of partners, Community Catalyst has outlined a series of executive actions the Biden administration can take to address the medical debt crisis in America, which impacts four in ten adults, and forces too many to make the impossible choice between life and debt. 

The events in Washington reflect the growing momentum towards further action from the Biden administration on medical debt, including:

  • A draft of executive actions related to surprise bills, medical debt and the ability of people with medical debt to access federal loan programs.
  • CFPB pressure that has resulted in credit agencies removing paid debt or medical debt under $500 from credit reports.
  • The administration directed federal agencies to review the practices of predatory medical and dental credit cards.
  • A July CFPB public hearing on medical billing and collections, where Mona Shah, Community Catalyst’s Senior Director of Policy and Strategy, provided remarks.  
  • Senate Banking Committee chair Sen. Brown directly questioned CFPB director Rohit Chopra on these topics, along with letters to the CFPB from Sens. Warren, Markey and Sanders.
Group of community members , advocates, and Day of Action participants stand in front of steps of Capitol Hill and hold signs calling for action to end medical debt

Impacted community members are speaking out, from around the country, about how medical debt has impacted them. Among them are: 

  • Misty, Colorado: At age 23, Grand Junction resident Misty Castaneda underwent life-saving heart surgery, leaving her with $200,000 in medical bills and unable to divorce her abusive partner. Because medical debt had destroyed her credit score, Misty could not get housing, a car, or a credit card on her own, forcing her to stay in an abusive relationship for 20 years. Misty studied and got her license to be an insurance provider, but she could not get a job because prospective employers checked her credit as part of the hiring process. 
  • Janell, Florida: Janell has incurred $21,000 of medical debt due to aplastic anemia, a rare blood condition. Because of low blood and oxygen levels, she has experienced frequent fainting episodes. Recently, she has tried taking a ride share to the hospital to avoid accruing more debt from ambulance services, but she has fainted every time during the rides and required paramedic services. “How can a citizen with medical debt and conditions move forward without fear and stigma?” Janell says.
  • Alyssia, Georgia: Alyssia had to pay for a lot of care with credit cards. She struggled to pay it off and had debt in collections — waiting for the collections to come off her credit report has really hurt her finances. 
  • Samuel, Ohio: In 2021, Samuel was diagnosed with kidney stones that required emergency surgery. Samuel’s original medical bill was $25,000, which was an error and was actually meant to be $6,000. No one from the hospital or his insurance discussed any payment assistance options with him. He wasn’t able to keep up with the bills and his debt was transferred to a third-party collections agency. To date, Samuel is still paying off this debt and his credit continues to suffer.
  • Dana, Pennsylvania: Dana was diagnosed with breast cancer at 23 and had thousands of dollars in medical debt. She paid a lot of it with credit cards, but is still suffering financially. She was never told about safety net programs (like SNAP) or charity care that might have helped her recover, physically and economically, from this illness. 
  • Nicole, Wisconsin: After a short inpatient stay at a hospital, Nicole was diagnosed with MS. Unable to work due to her condition, Nicole went down many avenues to receive assistance — submitting a financial assistance application, finding an experienced patient advocate, obtaining Medicaid coverage, and applying for disability benefits — but she still deals with illegitimate bills and confusing, lengthy processes. 

Learn more about the medical debt campaign and proposed solutions. Those that have been impacted by medical debt are encouraged to share their story with the Biden administration.

Photos and participant interviews are available upon request. Please contact


About Community Catalyst:

Community Catalyst is a national organization dedicated to building the power of people to create a health system rooted in race equity and health justice, and a society where health is a right for all. We’re an experienced, trusted partner to organizations across the country, a change agent to policymakers at the local, state, and national level, and both an adversary and a collaborator to health systems in our efforts to advance health justice. We partner with local, state and national organizations and leaders to leverage and build power so that people are at the center of important decisions about health and health care, whether they are made by health care executives, in state houses, or on Capitol Hill. Together with partners, we’re building a powerful, united movement with a shared vision of and strategy for a health system accountable to all people. Learn more at