March 4, 2021

Contact: Jack Cardinal,, 781-960-5208


New Project Funds Work with Health Systems on Better Billing and Collections Practices

 (BOSTON, MA) – Today, Community Catalyst announced the launch of the new Community Benefit and Economic Stability Initiative to support grassroots organizations in working with health systems to change billing and collective practices, as well as financial assistance programs, so that people are better served by the hospitals in their communities. With funding support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the program will support 12 organizations spread across Georgia, Illinois and New Mexico in co-designing financial assistance and billing and collection policies and practices with local hospitals that are responsive to community need. Re-imagining hospital policies is especially critical for Black and brown communities, who too often face the brunt of unfair practices due to discriminatory barriers to affordable coverage and economic stability.

“When overcoming sickness or injury, the last thing anyone should have to deal with is contending with an unfair and overpriced bill from a hospital,” said Emily Stewart, executive director of Community Catalyst. “Hospital systems benefit from communities through public investments and reimbursements, and it’s time their billing and financial assistance practices were centered on giving back. This project is a critical step toward supporting community leaders in advancing equitable billing policies with local hospitals.”

Medical debt has been a serious problem for people across the country that has only worsened during COVID-19. Thirty-seven percent of people who report having medical debt or medical bill problems use up all their savings to pay their bills, and 40 percent have received a lower credit rating as a result of their medical debt. Additionally, 26 percent reported they have been unable to pay for basic necessities such as food, heat and housing.

This burden is disproportionately borne by Black people due to unfair and discriminatory barriers to health coverage and economic security. They are significantly more likely than white people to report problems with medical bills (45 percent vs. 35 percent), and are more likely to have past-due medical bills.

The Community Benefit and Economic Stability Initiative will help consumers leverage existing requirements so that non-profit hospital assistance and billing and collection policies will be responsive to the experience and perspectives of people struggling to pay their medical bills. This project builds on Community Catalyst’s previous efforts, including work with policymakers to strengthen financial assistance and consumer protections for those with medical debt, collaboration with the Health Care Financial Management Association to encourage best practices for resolving medical bills, and creating resources to bolster hospital community engagement, including its community benefit dashboard tool to assess hospital efforts as well as identifying policy levers to address the social determinants of health.


About Community Catalyst: Community Catalyst is a leading non-profit national health advocacy organization dedicated to advancing a movement for health equity and justice. We partner with local, state, and national advocates to leverage community power so all people can influence decisions that affect their health. Health systems will not be accountable to people without a fully engaged and organized community voice. That’s why we work every day to ensure people’s interests are represented wherever important decisions about health and health care are made: in communities, state houses and on Capitol Hill. For more information, visit Follow us on Twitter @CommCatHealth.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: For more than 45 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are working alongside others to build a national Culture of Health that provides everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at