INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Thousands of Hoosiers are drowning in medical debt and FOX59 is shining a light on the problem to find a way to help struggling families.
According to TransUnion data provided to us by former debt collectors, 23% of Hoosiers in central Indiana currently have medical debt that is in collections. That means, as of September of this year, 678,942 Hoosiers owe nearly $900 million.
Maybe it's you. Maybe it's a loved one. Often times, it's someone hit by an unexpected emergency.
Cherry Storms-Blair knows how that feels.
"Phone rings all day, Monday through Friday," the Anderson mother said. "It's overwhelming. It's frightening."
She started getting calls from collection agencies soon after her daughter, Jada Storms, got into a car accident in 2017.
A car driven by Tyler Toby Leboeuf crossed the median and crashed into Jada's car. Jada was trapped inside the mangled metal. Her body was broken beyond belief.
Her mother told us all four of Jada's limbs were broken. Her right arm was broken in two places. She suffered a compound fracture on her left leg. She had five broken ribs, two cracked vertebrae, a collapsed lung, lacerated liver, and lacerated kidney.
"Her fingers were the first things that I kissed for her, because I just couldn't touch her anywhere else. She was so broken," said Cherry.
But with round-the-clock medical care, Jada survived. A living miracle, her mother called her. However, today, Jada and her mom are trapped in medical debt.
Jada's was under her mother's health insurance at the time of the accident. That picked up some of the bills, but she said Leboeuf did not have insurance. So everything else went straight to her and her mother.
"Over probably a million dollars easy," said Cherry.
While she struggles to walk as easily as she used to, she is regaining her strength. But the debt prevents Jada from getting any more physical therapy or better resources to help her get better faster. That's important to her, because she wants to get back to work and back to a normal life.
"For me, to not be able to provide and do the things that I used to do, it hurts," Jada said. "There are other things out there we can try, but we can't afford them."
Now, the only option left for her and her mother is filing for bankruptcy. Their credit scores are another causality from a tragedy they never asked for.
"I would love to pay them," said Cherry. "If it wasn't for this group of people that I now can't pay, maybe Jada wouldn’t be here today. And all I have is a heartfelt sorry and I don't have the money. And that's just not enough."
Here at FOX59, we know so many of these cases are simply good people hit with bad luck. That's why we are committed to finding a way to help our community. Stay tuned to our coverage on medical debt. We're going to continue to follow stories just like Jada's and find ways to help Hoosier families get out of debt.