Holiday gift announced at candlelight vigil in support of Munson Medical Center nurses; Hospital and emergency room bills forgiven for more than 9,200 individuals and families
Traverse City – Members of the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) have donated funds to cancel more than $8.9 million worth of medical debt for over 9,200 individuals and families across 40 counties in northern Michigan.
The gift from MNA members was announced during a “Hope for the Holidays” candlelight vigil on Thursday, December 20 in support of nurses at Munson Medical Center (MMC).
The vigil, outside the Grand Traverse County courthouse in Traverse City, brought together Munson nurses and community supporters calling for a fair contract at the hospital and fair treatment for Munson patients who face financial challenges.
“We’re excited that MNA members across the state are stepping up to help so many Michigan families during this holiday season,” said Melissa Boals, a registered nurse (RN) at MMC. “We’re negotiating right now for our own health care – and we also know that aggressive billing practices by Munson can be both financially and emotionally devastating for our patients”
The donation from MNA members will cancel over $2.9 million in medical debt for residents of northwest Michigan, including Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Manistee and Wexford counties. MNA, the state’s largest and most effective nurses’ union, worked with RIP Medical Debt, a New York-based organization which uses charitable donations to purchase and cancel medical debts for individuals and families facing financial challenges.
“Thank you, Michigan nurses!” said Meg Zammit, a Traverse City realtor who serves on the board of the newly-formed Northern Michigan Alliance for Health Care Justice. “This is a great way to give back to our community at a time when we all want to focus on our families – not financial problems caused by the high cost of health care.”
“We’re thrilled to continue working with the Michigan Nurses Association” said Jerry Ashton, Executive Vice President and co-founder of RIP Medical Debt. “Nurses do incredibly important work on the ground with patients and are the best barometer of undue hardships in healthcare. We salute this important campaign.”
MNA and RIP Medical debt collaborated in 2017 to cancel $1 million in medical debt for 500 Michigan families.
Donations to RIP Medical Debt relief are used to relieve debts for those most in need. Target criteria include individuals and families earning less than twice the federal poverty level, those with medical debts greater than five percent of their income, and those facing insolvency due to medical debt.
RIP Medical Debt acquires debt for a fraction of its value. A $12,500 donation from MNA members, combined with charitable gifts from other donors, achieved the cancellation of $8.9 million worth of medical debt in Northern Michigan. Due to privacy concerns, MNA and RIP Debt Relief are unable to release either the names of consumers whose debt has been cancelled, or the medical providers where the debt originated.
“Medical debt is the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States, and that’s just unacceptable,” said MNA President Jamie Brown, RN. “Nobody wants to get sick – and nobody should face financial ruin because of high medical bills.”
Nurses at Munson who require medical care say they receive calls demanding payment before Munson Medical Center will perform surgery; demands for payment before leaving Munson for referral to other facilities; and demands to borrow from retirement funds to pay off medical debts to the hospital.
“The nurses and medical staff at Munson always go the extra mile to do their best for patients,” said Kelly Lambert RN, a nurse at MMC. “It’s a shame that when it comes to billing, the bosses at the hospital want to treat you like a number, not a person.”
“We definitely want a better health care plan for nurses in our first contact,” said Nikia Parker RN, a nurse at MMC. “When nurses know we can take care of ourselves and our families without financial hardship, then we’re better able to focus on taking care of our patients.”
Concerns about Munson’s policies span across northern Michigan. Nurses at Manistee Hospital have also been negotiating with Munson executives for over a year. Safe staffing for patients and quality, affordable health care for nurses are key contract issues at both hospitals, which are both part of Munson Health Care.
For more information, please visit:
HBO’s John Oliver explains medical debt: www.ripmedicaldebt.org/about/
Munson Medical Center nurses are affiliated with the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA). MNA is the largest, most effective union for registered nurses in Michigan, advocating for nurses and their patients at the State Capitol, in the community, and at the bargaining table.