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FOX61 Interviews Mike Waterbury About Proposal to Eliminate Medical Debt in CT
FOX61 Interviews Mike Waterbury About Proposal to Eliminate Medical Debt in CT

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont recently announced a proposal to cancel medical debt in the state. FOX61 News interviewed Goodroot CEO Mike Waterbury about how this proposal would work, and why it presents an opportunity to prevent medical debt in the future. 

Watch the interview below or on FOX61’s website or YouTube. 

Full interview transcript: 

ANGELO BAVARO: This morning we are digging into the details of Gov. Lamont’s plan to cancel medical debt in Connecticut. So joining us to break this down is Mike Waterbury of Collinsville-based Goodroot, which is a community of companies with the mission of reinventing health care. Mike, thank you so much for being with us. Really appreciate it. 

MIKE WATERBURY: You’re welcome. Good morning, Angelo. 

ANGELO BAVARO: Good morning. So we talked about this issue of medical debt. This can be a really heavy burden on families across the country. Put this into perspective, what does this look like here in Connecticut, across the country? 

MIKE WATERBURY: Medical debt, we look at it a little differently than regular debt. I mean, you don’t necessarily choose if you need help, right? Sometimes we can call it medical oppression, because it really isn’t your choice. It’s a leading cause of bankruptcy and affects minorities significantly more than others, one in four Americans. I think, Gov. Lamont talked about $88 billion in medical debt in the United States, but some numbers are even closer to $200 billion. It’s really showing the systematic failures of the system and the pressure and the burden that it puts on patients. 

ANGELO BAVARO: And to address some of these failures, the governor now introducing this plan to cancel medical debt. Break down the big takeaways of that plan. What do families need to know about this? 

MIKE WATERBURY: Well, first of all, I applaud the governor’s efforts in this regard. It’s very important to Americans and Connecticut residents. I think the biggest takeaway, Angelo, is that if you invest, the governor was talking about $20 million, you can eliminate $20 billion. So it goes to show this disconnect between what is the true cost of this healthcare and why should $20 million resolve $20 billion? Shouldn’t the prices be transparent, and the system work more effectively? I’m hopeful that what comes of this is that we really understand what’s causing medical debt and work to fix it. I mean, if you just eliminate it now, we’ll probably have the same conversation three or four years from now and it might even be higher. So we need to take all the information and all the data and all the constituents, the hospitals and insurance companies, and analyze what’s driving this and start to put actions in place to fix it. 

ANGELO BAVARO: And diving deeper into this plan by the governor, how is this actually going to work? How is he going to cancel this medical debt? 

MIKE WATERBURY: He mentioned a company called RIP Medical Debt, which is a nonprofit that’s doing this work across the country. They’ve done it for some cities, like Toledo, Ohio. Essentially, what you do is you go to the provider community, mostly the hospitals, you get the data, then you analyze the data, we look for billing errors and issues with the data, and then you come back with sort of a proposed amount that resolves the debt. And then you notify the patients that have that debt that has been resolved. The key, I think, is to take all that information and all that collaboration and start to really understand what’s causing this. I mean, is it the fact that patients aren’t using financial assistance plans that they can use? Is it the fact that the bills are inaccurate? Is it the fact that the insurance companies have issues with participation in networks and other things like that? That will really ultimately be the key. We do another a lot of this work here at Goodroot as well, so we’re happy to help and hopeful that we can get involved. But it’s a very exciting time and again, I applaud what the governor is doing in this regard. 

ANGELO BAVARO: And in the meantime, as we wait to see what happens with the governor’s plan, what can consumers do to avoid medical debt? 

MIKE WATERBURY: Well, a few things. First of all, you have to get engaged and try to be educated. Healthcare is complicated, but financial assistance plans — nonprofit hospitals, which most of them are, have financial assistance plans. So based on your income levels, you can qualify for either free care or highly discounted care. We have a company called Breez Health that helps people with that. So education, financial assistance plans, if your employer has access to navigation services that help you understand your healthcare better, that’s a great avenue. So it really starts with getting educated, understanding the care you need, making good decisions and then applying for programs that are somewhat complicated, but programs that can help you afford the healthcare. 

ANGELO BAVARO: There you go. Mike, thank you so much for joining us this morning. Really appreciate all the great insight. Mike Waterbury of Goodroot. Thank you so much. 

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