Medical debt is money that is owed or past due for health services, and can come from a variety of sources such as:
Medical debt is an important issue in Los Angeles County, affecting one in ten adults, with an alarming total of over $2.6 billion in medical debt as of 2021. Medical debt disproportionately affects families with children, lower-income, Latino, Black, American Indian, and Pacific Islander residents, and people with chronic health conditions. For many individuals and families this burden leads to physical and mental health problems, and financial instability. They may have difficulty paying for basics like food and housing and skip or delay needed medical care. Even with insurance, costs can add up quickly and lead to significant debt.
Legal Aid organizations provide free legal services related to medical debt to vulnerable and low-income individuals and families. They represent clients, as well as help with insurance denials, appeals, and negotiating medical bills. Services are delivered in multiple languages, including Arabic, Armenian, Bangla, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Dari, English, Farsi, Filipino, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese.
Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County (NLSA) provides free legal services and healthcare referrals. NLSA’s
Health Consumer Center represents clients with medical debt and helps with questions about healthcare programs such as Medi-Cal, Medicare, Covered California, County health programs, and in-home supportive services.
Hotline: (800) 896-3202
Bet Tzedek provides free legal services related to medical debt for low-income individuals and families.
Hotline: (323) 939-0506
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles provides free legal services related to medical debt to low-income individuals and families.
Hotline: (800) 399-4529.
Health Consumer Alliance is a partnership of nonprofit legal services organizations across California that offer free assistance to consumers in understanding and navigating health insurance and medical debt.
Hotline: (888) 804-3536
The LA County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBA) serves consumers, businesses, and communities through education, advocacy, and complaint resolution. They offer services related to medical debt, including consumer and financial counseling. Services are provided in multiple languages.
Anyone facing medical bills they cannot understand or are unable to pay can find help from a counselor at the DCBA Consumer Counseling Center. A free one-on-one service with a DCBA counselor is available. Make a telephone appointment or an in-person appointment.
Helpline: (800) 593-8222
Free financial resources to help with managing debt, boosting income, and restoring financial stability can be found at GetAheadLA.org.
For more information about how to deal with medical bills and collections visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC)
To dispute a bill, make a complaint or express a concern about health insurance or a billing issue, contact the DMHC. You can get information on your rights and protections as a consumer related to medical debt.
Hotline: (888) 466-2219
Help bring the problem to light by sharing your experience with medical debt. If you or someone you know has dealt with medical debt, share your experiences through our public comment form. By adding your voice, you are contributing to a better understanding of how medical debt impacts our community and helping to support meaningful solutions.
To keep up with new developments related to medical debt, including programs and policies, resources, and news of community led activities and public and private efforts to address the problem, sign up to receive our Medical Debt in LA County newsletter, here.
Join consumers and community organizations to develop effective approaches to reducing medical debt burden in our community. Sign up here.