DuPage Health Coalition: Promoting health equity by tackling medical debt

January 05, 2023 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Thanks to grant funding from Edward-Elmhurst Health, the DuPage Health Coalition is launching a new program to alleviate medical debt for uninsured and underinsured families in the community.

This program is being supported through Edward-Elmhurst Health’s Community Investment Fund. In July 2022, Edward-Elmhurst Heath awarded $3,994,000 to 14 organizations across Cook, DuPage and Will Counties with the goal of advancing health equity and supporting local economic growth.

For 20 years, DuPage Health Coalition has operated programs to help keep residents healthy regardless of their ability to pay.

The Coalition is made up of hospitals, doctors and community organizations, all collaborating to enable low-income families to receive high-quality healthcare.

“We’ve worked to build a model of care that is compassionate, efficient and effective,” said Kara Murphy, President of DuPage Health Coalition.

The Coalition serves 6,000 patients a year through its flagship Access DuPage program, which is free to eligible residents of DuPage and helps them receive low-cost primary healthcare services along with other medical assistance. They also offer a Silver Access program that offers financial help for families purchasing health insurance on the Affordable Care Act Healthcare Marketplace, and help address other obstacles to care like transportation issues or language barriers.

While the Coalition has been working for years to alleviate medical debt through partnerships with providers like Edward-Elmhurst Health, the issue of medical debt has become an increasing topic of concern in the community.

“Medical debt is a health equity issue,” said Murphy. “People change their health behaviors based on their worry that they may get a bill, or if they've received a bill they can't afford.”

The Coalition sent a survey to gauge how many of their patients were struggling with medical debt. Seventy percent of survey respondents indicated that someone in their household had medical bills that they were unable to pay.

“Our hospital partners all have financial assistance policies and applications,” said Murphy. “Despite everyone's best efforts, it became clear that the system wasn't working as well as it could.”

The grant from Edward-Elmhurst Health will help fund a project to connect patients with medical debt counselors who will help them navigate the financial assistance application process. The coalition has hired a team of four bilingual medical debt counselors trained to help people apply for medical debt assistance. In addition, DuPage Health Coalition is also partnering with national non-profit RIP Medical Debt on other ways to effect broad-scale reduction in medical debt in DuPage County.

Learn more about Edward-Elmhurst’s Community Investment Fund partners.


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