2022 Medical Debt Summit - RIP Medical Debt

From Exam Room to Kitchen Table: The Role of Medical Debt in Health

2022 Policy Summit Streaming Live Wednesday, Oct 12, 1pm ET

About the Summit

RIP Medical Debt's 2022 summit, From Exam Room to Kitchen Table: The Role of Medical Debt in Health, comes as the medical debt crisis gains more attention from the media, researchers and lawmakers.

As the pandemic lingers, and a potential recession looms in the near future, medical debt remains a barrier for many in securing economic stability and good health, in addition to impacting historically marginalized people and communities of color more.

Medical debt deepens inequity and the affordability crisis in our country. Further, the stories of people affected by medical debt shine a light on the toxic stress and stigma that comes with medical debt, increasing the urgency for solutions and a shift in the narrative about medical debt from personal failure to systems failure. Our communities, government, industries and the health care system continue to debate solutions to the challenges of medical debt and all face constraints.

This forum will convene multiple perspectives on approaches to ending medical debt and affording people equitable access to the health care they need and deserve. Further, this summit seeks to identify barriers to policy solutions and to amplify the harm that inaction perpetuates for individuals nationwide every day.

Join us on the afternoon of October 12, 2022, via live stream where researchers, experts and industry leaders will contribute to in-depth conversations on the many challenges around the growing problem of unpaid and unpayable medical debt – and the potential pathways to eliminating medical debt.

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Agenda & Speakers
1:00pm — 1:10pm ET
Welcome & Introduction
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Allison Sesso
President / CEO, RIP Medical Debt

Allison Sesso

President / CEO, RIP Medical Debt


Allison Sesso became the President / CEO of RIP Medical Debt in January of 2020. RIP Medical Debt was established for the sole purpose of reducing the medical debt burdens of low-income individuals with limited capacity to pay their medical bills by leveraging donations from people across the country. They have abolished $6,748,483,828 to date for over 3,619,950 people. Under Allison's leadership and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, RIP Medical Debt launched the "Helping COVID Heroes Fund" focused on relieving the medical debts of healthcare workers and emergency responders like nurses, home health aids, pharmacists, social workers, hospital technicians, the National Guard and others working on the front lines of the pandemic. It also benefits service workers and others facing financial hardship resulting from the COVID induced economic downturn. Through this effort RIP has abolished over $100 million in medical debt. Prior to joining RIP Medical Debt, Allison served as the Executive Director of the Human Services Council of New York (HSC), an association of 170 nonprofits delivering 90% of human services in New York City.

Under her leadership HSC pioneered the development of nationally recognized tools designed to illuminate risks associated with government contracts, including an RFP rater and government agency grading system. She led negotiations with New York City and State government on behalf of the sector and successfully pushed for over $500 million in investments to address the nonprofit fiscal crisis. During her tenure at HSC, Allison also led a commission of experts focused on social determinants of health and value-based-payment structures and published the report, Integrating Health and Human Services: a Blueprint for Partnership and Action, that examines the challenges of operationalizing relationships between health and human services providers, offering several recommendations. She also served on the New York State Department of Health's Social Determinants and Community Based Organizations (CBO) Subcommittee helping to formulate recommendations around the integration of CBOs into Medicaid managed care. Allison's work on behalf of the human services sector led City & State to recognize her as a top nonprofit leader in 2018 and 2019, one of the 25 most influential leaders in Manhattan in 2017, and one of New York City's 100 "Most Responsible" in 2016. She recently received the 100 "Most Responsible" award for the second time for her efforts at RIP Medical Debt.

1:10pm — 1:20pm ET
Lay of the Land: What's New in Medical Debt Policy (and at RIP)?
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Eva Marie Stahl
VP Public Policy, RIP Medical Debt

Eva Marie Stahl

VP Public Policy, RIP Medical Debt


Eva Marie Stahl is the Director of Public Policy at RIP Medical Debt. Eva oversees development and implementation of RIP Medical Debt's policy work. She works closely with RIP's staff to ensure that beneficiaries' voices and experiences are centered in solutions that address the medical debt crisis. Prior to RIP, Eva was a leader in the health advocacy community for over a decade as Director of Policy & Partnerships at Community Catalyst. Eva was part of the senior leadership team responsible for developing state and federal policy agenda. During her tenure, she collaborated with national partners in coalition to advance health care affordability priorities. Eva also coordinated efforts to support health advocates and community partners advancing a health equity agenda that addresses social determinants of health, including economic security. Eva has a Ph.D. in social policy from Brandeis University and a master's degree from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

1:20pm — 2:05pm ET
Providers Weigh In: How Medical Debt Impacts Patient Health and Decision‑making

Providers Weigh In: How Medical Debt Impacts Patient Health and Decision‑making


Increasingly, research shows that medical debt is bad for our health and interferes with patient-provider caregiving and trust building. At the same time, provider and patients need space to openly discuss fears regarding the cost of health care and how it affects patient decision-making. During this round table, providers will share their expertise on medical debt as a social determinants of health and how medical debt affects patient trust.

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Moderator
Dr. Oxiris Barbot
President and CEO of United Hospital Fund and former NYC Health Commissioner, RIP Medical Debt Board Member

Dr. Oxiris Barbot

President and CEO of United Hospital Fund and former NYC Health Commissioner, RIP Medical Debt Board Member


Dr. Oxiris Barbot is a nationally recognized physician, public health practitioner, and innovative leader at the intersection of public health, social justice, and health care delivery. She was recently named president and chief executive officer of United Hospital Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to realizing an effective and equitable health care system for every New Yorker. She is the first woman to serve as president since the organization's founding in 1879.

Dr. Barbot's career has been defined by service, scholarship, and a commitment to community health equity. She led New York City's successful response to the first wave of COVID-19. Her strategic decision-making, leadership of early action to address racial inequities, and clear and effective communication in both English and Spanish made a significant difference in public understanding, rapidly flattening the transmission curve and addressing the needs of the most vulnerable. She showed both integrity and courage in providing strong, science-based public health leadership in a politically charged environment. While commissioner she was named to the Crain's New York Business "Notable Women in Health Care" list and City & State New York's "Health Power 100" and "Nonprofit Power 100." 

Dr. Barbot is also adjunct assistant professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and was previously senior fellow for public health and social justice at The JPB Foundation. She received her undergraduate degree from Yale University, her medical degree from New Jersey Medical School, and completed her pediatric training at George Washington University - Children's National Medical Center.

Dr. Ram Raju
Former Senior Vice President with Northwell Health and CEO with NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation, RIP Medical Debt Board Member

Dr. Ram Raju

Former Senior Vice President with Northwell Health and CEO with NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation, RIP Medical Debt Board Member


Ram Raju, MD, combines his executive leadership experience in health care with a deep commitment to achieving social equity to improve the health of communities in need. As the former senior vice president and community health investment officer, he evaluated the needs of Northwell Health’s most vulnerable communities, and provided solutions for them by collaborating with community-based organizations. He’s responsible for promoting, sustaining and advancing an environment that supports equity and diversity, and helping the health system eliminate health disparities.

Dr. Rishi Manchanda
CEO, HealthBegins

Dr. Rishi Manchanda

CEO, HealthBegins


Dr. Rishi Manchanda is a physician, author, and healthcare leader who has spent more than a decade developing novel strategies to improve health in resource-poor communities. He has served as director of social medicine for a network of community health centers in South-Central Los Angeles, as the lead primary care physician for homeless veterans at the Greater Los Angeles VA, and as chief medical officer for a self-insured employer with a large rural immigrant workforce. In his 2013 TED Book, The Upstream Doctors, and 2014 TED Talk, he introduced readers and viewers to the Upstreamists, a new model of healthcare workers who improve care by addressing patients’ health-related social needs, such as food, financial, and housing insecurity. The talk has been viewed nearly 2 million times, and the book has become recommended reading in medical schools and universities across the world.

Panel 1
2:05pm — 3:00pm ET
Case Critical: On the Frontlines of Medical Debt

Case Critical: On the Frontlines of Medical Debt


Right now, the nation faces a steady uptick in chronic and serious disease, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Workers face the erosion of employer health benefits packages that expose them to more health care cost-sharing than ever before, even as rising inflation curbs how far their take-home pay will stretch. On top all of this, our nation still largely operates under a debt collection framework that treats medical debt as if it is an optional consumer purchase rather than a fundamental human need. Medical debt has drawn public ire—and policymaker attention—in fits and starts over the past two decades. Yet it persists—and the impact on patient health is only just beginning to be researched.

Here's what we do know: fears of incurring medical debt are top of mind for many patients, but questions about affordability, paying for treatment, and financial counseling are under-utilized in most clinical settings. This panel will outline how patients currently integrate financial decision-making into their health care journeys; where and when they tend to hit financial barriers; and the impact this has on their well-being. Panelists will debunk common myths about the availability and adequacy of our current health care safety nets. They will examine how medical debt disproportionately impacts women and people of color and share how "financial toxicity" impacts patient outcomes, including mental health and wellbeing. Finally, they will offer insight into the kinds of organizational, systemic, and research changes we need to break down silos and drive good policy.

Next Session
Moderator
Noam Levey
Senior Correspondent, Kaiser Health News

Noam Levey

Senior Correspondent, Kaiser Health News


Noam N. Levey is a Washington, D.C.,-based senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News, where he is currently producing "Diagnosis: Debt," a multi-part series on medical debt in the U.S. in collaboration with NPR and CBS News. Noam joined KHN in 2021 after 17 years at the Los Angeles Times, the last 12 as the paper’s national healthcare reporter based in Washington. He has reported on healthcare issues from more than three dozen states and four continents and won numerous honors, including the prestigious NIHCM award for his 2019 series "Inside America’s High-Deductible Revolution." Noam has also been published in Health Affairs, JAMA and Milbank Quarterly. He started his career at newspapers in Duluth, Minn., Montgomery, Ala., and the United Arab Emirates. Prior to the LA Times, Noam was an investigative reporter for the San Jose Mercury News. Noam has a degree in History and Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University. 

Jared Walker
CEO, Dollar For

Jared Walker

CEO, Dollar For


Jared Walker founded Dollar For in 2012 in Portland, Oregon. Dollar For was born out of a desire to help folks in medical crisis after watching his own family's experience. A medical crisis should not lead to a financial crisis. Jared is on a mission to crush as many medical bills as he can while making Charity Care known, easy and fair. 

Berneta Haynes
Attorney, National Consumer Law Center (NCLC)

Berneta Haynes

Attorney, National Consumer Law Center (NCLC)


Berneta L. Haynes is a staff attorney at National Consumer Law Center, where she focuses on consumer energy policy and medical debt. She recently authored NCLC’s The Racial Health and Wealth Gap: Impact of Medical Debt on Black Families. Before joining NCLC, she served as a director at Georgia Watch, a state-based consumer advocacy organization in Atlanta, where she worked to make energy programs, quality healthcare, financial protection, and civil justice more equitable and accessible for all. Her duties included leading coalitions, steering the passage of crucial medical billing legislation, and authoring consumer-facing educational materials (such as the Georgia Consumer Guide for Medical Bills and Debt) and policy guides on healthcare billing. Previously, she practiced law at Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago and Southern Environmental Law Center in Atlanta. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in English, Writing, and Psychology from Drury University, her Master’s degree in English from University of Iowa, and her law degree from University of Iowa College of Law.

Dr. Veena Shankaran
Co-director of the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research & Professor, Fred Hutch

Dr. Veena Shankaran

Co-director of the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research & Professor, Fred Hutch


Dr. Veena Shankaran is co-director of the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research. Her research focuses on measuring the impact of cancer diagnosis and treatment on patients’ and caregivers’ finances and developing strategies to lessen this impact. She also conducts studies describing real-world treatment patterns and costs of care in the Puget Sound region and nationally. Dr. Shankaran is a medical oncologist who specializes in caring for patients with gastrointestinal malignancies with a particular focus on cancers of the esophagus and stomach. In collaboration with other gastrointestinal oncologists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, Dr. Shankaran is helping to expand the gastrointestinal cancer clinical trials program to provide patients with novel treatment options. 

Dr. Ray Kluender
Economist, Harvard Business School and Faculty Affiliate at Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab

Dr. Ray Kluender

Economist, Harvard Business School and Faculty Affiliate at Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab


Ray Kluender is an assistant professor at Harvard Business School and a faculty affiliate at the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). His research focuses on the causes of financial distress among American households and how government, private insurance, and credit markets should function to insure those risks. He has a Ph.D. in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a B.S. in Economics, Mathematics, and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

3:00pm — 3:15pm ET
Coffee Break
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Panel 2
3:15pm — 4:10pm ET
Mission Critical: Key Perspectives on How to Address Medical Debt Right Now

Mission Critical: Key Perspectives on How to Address Medical Debt Right Now


It is well-documented that medical debt is pervasive. Approximately 23 million individuals across the U.S. owe an estimated $195 billion in medical debt, according to a Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker analysis. It is burdening real people financially and emotionally but does not affect people equally. Health events happen and bills keep coming, leaving millions of people financially vulnerable and greater likelihood to skip care they need to be healthy. As we heard from our first panel, the harm of debt is significant, toxic, and long lasting. In this panel, we turn to the systems of care and industries that play a role in keeping us healthy.

As the issue of medical debt gains more attention, stakeholders are more actively engaged in proposing solutions to decrease the burden on patients. Yet many of the proposed solutions require significant policy and system shifts that could take years to realize. What is clear is that the situation is dire and no one stakeholder can solve the problem of medical debt alone. We begin this conversation with one guiding principle: any solution must hold patients harmless as they continue to bear the brunt of the failings of the health care financing system. As inflation rises, so do premiums and out-of-pocket costs, making affordable and comprehensive coverage out of reach for working people across the country. Similarly, COVID has cast a long shadow on our health care system leading to strained delivery systems and provider burn out.

In this panel, we pose the question of a few key stakeholders: How can we all be part of the solution right now? In this discussion, we seek to seed opportunities to identify common ground policy objectives that can help patients avoid medical debt—and improve the status quo for providers—in the next two years. Medical debt is too big a problem to be solved by one partner and one solution – we must create a space to work and partner together, acknowledging each other's constraints.

Next Session
Moderator
Rachana Pradhan
National Correspondent, Kaiser Health News

Rachana Pradhan

National Correspondent, Kaiser Health News


Rachana Pradhan, Correspondent, reports on a broad array of national health policy decisions and their effect on everyday Americans. She came to KHN from Politico, where for five years she covered health care policy and politics on national and state levels. Rachana has been involved in several high-impact projects in her time as a health care reporter, including an investigation into former HHS Secretary Tom Price’s extensive use of private jets at taxpayers’ expense. The investigation, which resulted in Price’s resignation, was a 2018 finalist for the American Society of News Editors’ O’Brien Fellowship Award and earned an honorable mention in the White House Correspondents’ Association’s Edgar A. Poe award. Rachana’s other reporting stints include covering city government for The Daily Progress newspaper in Charlottesville, Virginia, and reporting on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act for Inside Health Policy, a health care trade publication. She graduated from James Madison University.

Ruth Landé
VP of Hospital Relations, RIP Medical Debt

Ruth Landé

VP of Hospital Relations, RIP Medical Debt


Ruth is a former hospital revenue cycle executive. She was the VP of revenue cycle at a world-renown academic cancer center, and at a community-based integrated health system. Her experience supports the need for systemic and policy changes to free both patients and providers from the complexities and inequities of our healthcare system.

Dr. Marty Makary
M.D., M.P.H., Chief, Islet Transplant Surgery, Professor of Surgery Johns Hopkins School of Medicine & author, The Price We Pay

Dr. Marty Makary

M.D., M.P.H., Chief, Islet Transplant Surgery, Professor of Surgery Johns Hopkins School of Medicine & author, The Price We Pay


Dr. Marty Makary is a New York Times bestselling author and health care expert at Johns Hopkins University. Marty is the recipient of the 2020 Business Book of the Year Award for his most recent book, The Price We Pay.

Dr. Makary served in leadership at the World Health Organization and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine. A public health researcher, he leads a Johns Hopkins project on the "re-design of health care" to make health care more reliable, holistic, and coordinated, especially for vulnerable populations. He leads national efforts to increase medical transparency and lower health care costs for everyday businesses and consumers.

Clinically, Dr. Makary is the chief of Islet Transplant Surgery at Johns Hopkins and is the recipient of the Nobility in Science Award from the National Pancreas Foundation. He has been a visiting professor at over 25 medical schools, has published over 250 peer-reviewed scientific articles, and writes for the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

Michael Waterbury
CEO, Goodroot

Michael Waterbury

CEO, Goodroot


Mike Waterbury is one of healthcare’s most influential voices. Often referred to as the "Tenth Man of Healthcare" due to his grit and unwavering commitment to change the status quo, Waterbury takes a stand on the misaligned incentives, growing medical debt and legacy thinking that many industry leaders shy away from. His passion for an improved system—where insured individuals aren’t struggling to afford out-of-pocket healthcare costs—coupled with 25+ years of learnings at the top healthcare organizations in the U.S., led him to found Goodroot, a community of companies focused on reinventing healthcare—and the systems that no longer serve us.

As President and CEO of Goodroot, Waterbury is focused on freeing and amplifying the talent that’s trapped within the industry. He brings visionary leaders, innovators, and seasoned healthcare experts together to champion private companies focused on making healthcare affordable and accessible through innovation. Goodroot acts as an umbrella company, aiding its affiliates with the necessary capital, finance, legal, HR, sales, and marketing support to scale. Waterbury plays a key role in overseeing the launch and growth of each affiliate company.

Boasting nine successful companies since his entrepreneurial debut, Waterbury’s leadership has been invaluable to Goodroot’s continued expansion and marketplace prominence. For its ongoing work to increase access and affordability in the healthcare industry, Goodroot received a 2022 Real Leaders Impact Award, which recognizes companies driven by a sense of humanitarian capitalism that have found a path where they can do well while doing good for humanity. Goodroot ranks No. 51 on the 2022 list of the top 200 impact companies, alongside many healthcare heavyweights and other notable trailblazers.

Katherine Lucas McKay
Associate Director, Insights and Evidence, Financial  Security Program, Aspen Institute

Katherine Lucas McKay

Associate Director, Insights and Evidence, Financial  Security Program, Aspen Institute


Katherine Lucas McKay (she/they) is the Associate Director of Insights and Evidence at the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program. Katherine leads the research of Aspen FSP's Future of Wealth Initiative. Her work at Aspen has also focused on housing security, consumer debt, student loans, inclusive saving strategies. Ms. Lucas McKay was previously the Associate Director of Government Affairs at Prosperity Now, where she led the organization’s policy work on homeownership, entrepreneurship, and consumer financial protection. 

Katherine holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz School of Public Policy and Information Systems and a BA from Wellesley College. She is the Chair of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board of Montgomery County, Maryland. Katherine’s work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Vox, CNN, CNBC, and Greater Washington.

4:10pm — 4:20pm ET
Call to Action
Next Session
4:20pm — 4:30pm ET
Closing Remarks and Acknowledgments
RIP Medical Debt