Medical debt is one of the chief causes of bankruptcy in the United States but, as one TikToker explains, it doesn’t have to be. If you earn under $37,470, most hospitals are required to cancel your debt outright so long as you contact them in the appropriate way.
Jumping off the "What's a piece of information you learned that feels illegal to know?" trend, TikToker Jared Walker, who runs nonprofit Dollar For that deals with people experiencing medical debt, explains that due to the majority of hospitals maintaining a nonprofit status they have to have financial assistance or Charity Care policies.
The original clip has more than 1 million views since being uploaded over the weekend.
What this means is that the hospital is legally required to forgive your entire bill if you're earning up to 300% of the Federal Poverty Line, currently $37,470. Those earning more but also experiencing medical debt can also get a percentage of their bills canceled out as well, proportional to the amount they're earning over that threshold.
Despite the legal requirement to forgive the debts of those earning under a certain amount, many hospitals will not do this automatically. While some will apparently screen patients prior to treatment for eligibility many will only grant this debt forgiveness if it's approached through the proper channels. Channels that are often complicated and confusing for patients... especially as the vast majority of people seem totally unaware that this is an option, and many hospitals aren't doing much to make their patients aware of it.
Walker founded Dollar For after his family experienced several medical emergencies in order to make the process faster and more accessible for Americans in need, and now he's brought it to TikTok to try and spread the word.
Strangely his first videos addressing the topic were removed from TikTok with no explanation, though they've since been restored to the site along with follow-up videos answering people's questions on navigating the finer details of the process, including what to do if your bills have already been moved to collections.
People have also been sharing their success stories, including a woman who was able to get all of her bills from giving birth in August wiped away. Childbirth can cost into the tens of thousands in the U.S., even an uncomplicated delivery with insurance.
The website, linked in the TikTok's bio, has more information on the process available plus a household calculator for quickly working out how much debt you're eligible to have written off, as well as access to more specialized help and services provided by the nonprofit.
Walker has been contacted for comment and this article will update if he responds.