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Author: Komal Alam

Community Benefit and Economic Stability (CBES) Project

Since 2021, Georgia WatchGeorgians for a Healthy Future (GHF), and SOWEGA Rising have worked to protect consumers in Southwest Georgia from unaffordable medical bills and debt through the Community Benefit and Economic Stability – Georgia (CBES-GA) project with support from leading health advocacy organization, Community Catalyst. Southwest Georgia experiences medical debt at a higher rate than the rest of Georgia and the country, particularly in communities of color. Southwest Georgia also has some of the highest insurance premiums in the country due primarily to the lack of competition among providers and insurers. This level of consolidation leaves consumers with little choice about where to seek care and incentivizes predatory medical billing practices. In Dougherty County, 25% of black residents have a medical bill in collections, compared to 21% in Georgia and 17% nationally (Urban Institute, 2020), creating significant barriers to care and trapping already cash-strapped Georgians into a cycle of poverty.  

“The medical debt burden disproportionately impacts black and brown people due to unfair and discriminatory barriers to health coverage and economic security, noted Sherrell Byrd, Executive Director of SOWEGA Rising. “Particularly in rural Georgia, you will see the highest rates of medical bills which drives up insurance costs, creating barriers to people who have to choose between paying bills and seeking necessary medical care.” 

Leveraging the policy expertise of Georgia Watch and GHF, as well as the local knowledge and community trust of SOWEGA Rising, the CBES-GA team has aimed to protect consumers in Southwest Georgia from unaffordable medical bills and debts so that all Georgians can afford the care they need. As this phase of the project winds down in the summer of 2022, we are reflecting upon all we have accomplished and how we will continue the work.


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