Carmel doctors launch fund to help reduce Hoosiers medical bills • Current Edition
As OB-GYNs, Drs. Jeffrey Meltzer and his wife, Leigh, have seen firsthand how devastating the rising cost of medical care in the United States can be for people dealing with an unexpected injury or illness.
So the people of Carmel decided to do something about it. In 2020, they organized the Indiana Health Fund, a nonprofit that aims to keep medical bills from financially draining Hoosiers. The organization primarily targets individuals or families whose income is 200-400% above the federal poverty level, as they are ineligible for many forms of assistance but may not have the resources to cover a large medical bill.
“There’s really no one doing that in this space,” Jeffrey Meltzer said. “We’re trying to help patients and families before the debt does all kinds of damage to them. The goal is not to help someone who has this $10,000 debt that really destroyed their credit rating for five years. The goal is to help people as (medical bills) arise. If you have such a debt and you don’t pay it back, it can literally ruin your whole life.
The IHF awarded its first grants in January, totaling more than $16,000 in reduced medical costs for three families and one individual. Recipients included a father-of-two who underwent emergency surgery to remove his gallbladder at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was forced to go to the emergency room several times because his doctor’s office was closed at the time. The pandemic also led to him being fired from his job.
Another recipient was a couple who racked up more than $15,000 in bills related to surgery and cancer treatments. IHF representatives were able to use their knowledge of the healthcare system to negotiate the cost and help cover it.
The IHF wants to at least double the number of individuals it helps this year and “expand dramatically” in the future, according to Jeffrey Meltzer.
Community Health Network referred the first set of grant recipients, but IHF is looking to expand its reach in the future. Individuals can contact the IHF directly for assistance.
In addition to eliminating debt, IHF aims to educate patients about available financial resources and programs and to help them better understand the billing process.
“We made very quick two-minute videos on how to interpret a medical bill, how to know if you should call your insurance before going to the emergency room,” Leigh Meltzer said.
The organization recently expanded with the appointment of Colleen Rusnak as interim CEO. Rusnak, a Carmel resident, previously held positions at the Neurosurgical Atlas and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. She said she was grateful for the support of volunteers and donors who help the nonprofit function.
“We appreciate the support from the community as we tackle this important issue by helping those who have access to affordable health care,” Rusnak said.
Jeffrey Meltzer, who is president of the IHF, became increasingly interested in the financial side of his industry about 15 years ago and went back to school to earn an MBA in healthcare management . What he learned convinced the Meltzers to give back to the community beyond childbirth.
“Even in our own practices, we saw that the cost of healthcare was becoming oppressive for people, so we came up with the idea of creating a non-profit organization to help people better manage the cost of healthcare. health for their family,” said Jeffrey Meltzer. “That’s how it all started.”
In addition to leading the IHF, Jeffrey Meltzer is the medical director of reproductive health for Natera, which provides cell-free DNA testing, and he previously worked for IU Health. He holds a bachelor’s degree in religious studies and an MD from Emory University.
Leigh Meltzer, OBGYN who practices at IU Health North, is a graduate of North Central High School and holds a BA and MD from Indiana University. She trained at the University of Maryland Medical Systems, where she met her husband.
The Meltzers have three adult daughters.
Learn more about IHF, including how to donate, at IndianaHealthFund.org.