Educating Georgians about Medical Bills and Debt

Berneta L. Haynes, Director of Equity and Access at Georgia Watch, presenting to staff at Northside Hospital about medical bills and debt.

Berneta Haynes, Director of Equity and Access, presenting to staff at Northside Hospital about medical bills and debt.

From surprise medical bills to high deductibles, healthcare costs have risen and Georgians are having difficulty paying their medical bills. To help struggling Georgians, Georgia Watch created the Georgia Consumer Guide for Medical Bills and Debt, which provides information and resources to empower consumers to manage and minimize their medical debt. Specifically, the guide answers some of the most common and complex healthcare and health insurance questions about a variety of issues such as:

  • Insurance coverage and appeals
  • Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statements
  • Bill payment options and debt collection rights

The guide simplifies complex medical billing concerns to help consumers take control of their financial well-being.

Georgia Watch has had great success distributing the guide and engaging consumers and advocates around the state. We have distributed over 1,700 printed copies of the guide and at least 1,100 electronic copies. We have engaged at least 40 partner organizations around the Atlanta metro area and conducted 12 workshops to-date, including a webinar for the staff of the Centers for Disease Control.  So far, we have educated over 2,500 Georgians through the guide and workshops.

Some consumers have reported using the guide to successfully negotiate or eliminate their medical debts. One consumer told us that she suffered from an unexpected medical emergency last year and did not have insurance coverage at the time. She tried to apply for financial assistance for some of her bills, but was told she did not qualify. For a year, she worried about paying off her debt. However, she received a copy of Georgia Watch’s guide in February and used the information in the guide to negotiate $29,000 in medical bills down to $0. Her story demonstrates that the guide is a powerful tool for Georgia consumers seeking to take control over their medical bills and debt. Through the guide and accompanying workshops, we hope to hear more success stories like this as we continue helping Georgians learn to avoid and obtain relief from medical debt.

If you are interested in providing a workshop for your organization or community group, or you have successfully used the guide to negotiate a medical bill, we would like to hear from you. Please contact Berneta L. Haynes at

Many thanks to Georgia Watch volunteer Kenna McCoy of Southern Methodist University for contributing to this post.