Prop 209 protects Arizona families with crippling medical debt — like mine

Here is the author’s opinion and analysis:

Too many Arizona families are suffering because of emergency medical debt or predatory debt collection practices. I should know – my own family is one of them.

My daughter Jolene was born in 2007 with Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic condition that affects the way your body produces mucus, impacting your lungs and making it difficult to breathe. At the time, my husband and I were both working as teachers and had health insurance through the school system, but we soon realized that this was not enough to cover the significant health needs of our daughter. Soon our lives were consumed by navigating medical bills and figuring out how to pay them.

By the time Jolene was 5 and our second daughter Cecilia was born – who was also diagnosed with cystic fibrosis – we had our wages garnished and had to garnish our house to pay the bills for collections. There was nothing else we could get away with – more work we could take on besides taking care of our daughters full time.

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You may think your family is economically secure, but an unexpected diagnosis of a chronic illness or a sudden medical emergency can cost you tens of thousands of dollars — even if you have insurance — and predatory debt collectors. will take all of you to pay for it.

Nearly two-thirds of all bankruptcies are related to medical debt. For us, there was no other way out of the money pit we found ourselves in because of the care of our daughters. That’s why I’m voting Yes on Prop 209, the Predatory Debt Collection Protection Act. It protects Arizonans by further protecting our assets and property from debt collectors and by limiting the interest rate on medical debt.

The law limits outrageous interest rates on medical debt so families aren’t trapped in an endless cycle. It limits the interest rate on medical debt to a maximum of 3%. It also protects families from losing their homes by increasing the homestead exemption, already in Arizona law, to $400,000. This means that your primary residence will be protected from debt collectors.

Prop 209 also increases the value of household assets protected from creditors to $15,000, protects a vehicle worth up to $15,000, and protects up to $5,000 held in a bank account. The measure would also adjust these amounts annually for inflation and add protection against wage garnishment.

The truth is that a chronic illness or sudden medical emergency can cost families tens of thousands of dollars, even with insurance. Mastering the system can feel like a full-time job, and when you think you’ve got it figured out, something changes, you lose essential doctor or prescription coverage, and you go deeper into debt. Now, when someone can’t pay right away, medical debt collectors can raise interest rates up to 10% a year, take away a family’s house or car, and lower credit scores. patients to make it more difficult to repay their debts.

The National Consumer Law Center gives Arizona laws a D grade for consumer protection. People shouldn’t have to worry about losing their homes if they get sick or face heavy medical bills. Especially because around two-thirds of all bankruptcies are related to healthcare-related debts, we should strive to do better.

The Predatory Debt Collection Protection Act is a common-sense policy designed to fix a broken medical debt system — and help anyone who may one day need more expensive care than they can afford.

When my eldest daughter Jolene passed away after battling cystic fibrosis her entire life, our community organized a GoFundMe to help pay the bills.

Now we are lucky to be self-employed and to pay much better insurance on the market so that our youngest daughter’s treatments don’t cost us so much. But no parent of a child with a chronic illness should have to go through what we did to give him the care he needs.

Vote yes on Proposition 209, the Protection from Predatory Debt Collections Act, to protect the well-being of families like mine.

Anna McCallister-Nichols is a mother, educator, and small business owner who lives in Tucson with her family.

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John A. Bogar