guard leading man in handcuffs to cell Once a month is “medical debt collection day,” in Coffeyville, Kansas, when people are summoned to court to fork over whatever cash they may have toward medical bills. And if they don’t show up, they’re thrown in jail. (Photo: Shutterstock)

In some places in America, the weight of medical debt isn’t just about money. It can lead to getting arrested and going to jail.

An ACLU report that examined the abuses of the judicial system by debt collectors and attorneys and judges who partner with them notes, “The people who are jailed or threatened with jail often are the most vulnerable Americans living paycheck to paycheck, one emergency away from financial catastrophe. In the more than 1,000 cases reviewed by the ACLU, many were struggling to recover after the loss of a job, mounting medical bills, the death of a family member, a divorce, or an illness. They included retirees or people with disabilities who are unable to work. ”

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.

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