INDIANAPOLIS — Ten thousand dollars a year for a working class family is a lot of money.
But the reality for many families with high-deductible insurance plans is that is the amount of out-of-pocket expenses they could owe in a year if they require medical care and hospital stays.
Dr. Jeffery Meltzer and his wife, Dr. Leigh Meltzer, spent their careers delivering thousands of babies in central Indiana.
In their roles, Jeffrey Meltzer said they get to see the joy a new baby brings to a family but they also witness the financial struggles of many families who cannot afford their medical bills.
"I saw the devastating effects of illness and health care bills on patient families," Jeffrey Meltzer said. "The average person and family who have a high deductible plan, which is the average Hoosier, we know that the out of pocket expenses and deductibles are approaching or even over $10,000 a year."
Many Hoosiers struggle to pay off mounting medical debt and the COVID-19 pandemic has only brought more light to this issue.
As Indiana shuttered in March 2020 to slow the spread of the virus, the Meltzers started a charitable organization called the Indiana Health Fund which was incorporated the week of the COVID-19 closures.
The Indiana Health Fund is a charitable organization founded to help Hoosiers confronted by medical bills and medical debt that is causing financial hardships and even medical bankruptcy.
Jeffrey Meltzer says he took a leave of absence from his role as an OBGYN to found the organization. Since its founding, the Meltzers have created a board and began raising funds to use in order to erase medical debt for families in need.
"Making choices about whether to buy, go to the grocery store, put gas in your car so you can go to work, and paying your health care bill, we at the Indiana Health Fund, we don't think anybody should have to become bankrupt because they got sick or they needed health care," Jeffrey Meltzer said.
He said in this pandemic, with unexpected health care costs impacting so many families and more Hoosiers out of work, their mission is more important than ever before.
"With health care being tied to people jobs, and if you think about them, all of the people in the service industry who are not working, just routine health care becomes a major problem for the average person," Jeffrey Meltzer said.
The Indiana Health Fund is working to eliminate medical debt to improve access to care. The Meltzers use their industry knowledge and experience to negotiate and pay off debt with healthcare institutions and providers on behalf of patients.
"The cool thing is we plan on paying off groups of bills," Jeffrey Meltzer said. "So it could be 10, 15, 20 patients at a time and then we can negotiate down the debt."
He said it helps donor dollars go farther. For example, a $1,000 donation can contribute to paying off $10,000 worth of medical debt if they are able to group the bills and negotiate down the debt.
Jeffrey Meltzer said families with fears of not being able to pay may keep them from seeking the care they need, even preventative care. That causes a ripple effect because avoiding screenings can create more problems in the future.
He said healthier Hoosiers help contribute to a healthier community and taking care of the burden of medical debt for families can help break that vicious cycle.
The Indiana Health Fund is still looking for donors, generous individuals as well as corporations and foundations. The organization is also taking referrals from care providers for Hoosiers to help and people can apply online.
The Indiana Health Fund aims to help families and individuals who make two to four times the federal poverty level, or about $50,000 annually for a family of four.
This is for families who have a high deductible health insurance plan who also face financial hardships and owe a debt that is more than 5% of their annual income.
They are especially looking to help families who are facing possible bankruptcy and have debts greater than their assets.
For more information on how to donate or apply for help, visit www.indianahealthfund.org to learn more.