Today, we are excited to The Peachy Library, our educational initiative aimed at helping patients understand and improve their financial health.
At Peachy, our goal is to help our friends, family, and neighbors take back control of their financial health by providing a better solution to medical billing. Medical debt is an enormous problem in the United States, and it’s one that affects millions of patients every day. Peachy was founded by patients, for patients to solve this very problem.
To help you, dear reader, truly understand why we've set out to conquer this massive problem, we first need to offer you a peek behind the curtain. We need to introduce you to our founder and CEO, Lex Oiler. We need to tell you her story so that you can understand just how passionate we are about helping you take control of your medical bills and, in turn, your financial health.
Lex Oiler grew up in a middle-class family in suburban Ohio. Her parents were hard-working people who paid their bills on time and tried their best to be frugal and responsible. But when Lex was in high school, she got really sick and had to spend six weeks in the hospital.
As we all know, hospital stays are typically accompanied by outrageously large medical bills, and even though Lex’s parents were responsible people, they weren’t prepared to deal with a mountain of medical bills. They especially weren't ready to deal with those huge, unexpected medical bills combined with an economic downturn and the loss of a job.
Eventually, this ordinary, well-meaning family was forced to file for bankruptcy. This experience brought Lex what would be the first wake-up call in a string of many on her journey to founding Peachy.
Responsible people aren't immune from the effects of medical debt.
Lex had always thought that bankruptcy was just for irresponsible people that didn't pay their bills and racked up too much credit card debt. Experience, however, taught her that this wasn't true. Medical bill-induced bankruptcy, she quickly learned, was decidedly not just for the financially irresponsible...and none of it was unique to her or her family.
Paying medical bills is way too complicated.
Years later, Lex received an alert from Credit Karma that her credit score had dropped because a medical bill had to been sent to collections. The year before, Lex had given birth to her son, and apparently, she had somehow missed a bill. The amount of that bill? A meager $44.
And her punishment for not paying a bill she didn't recall ever seeing? (and that nobody had ever followed up on if they did send the original bill!)
A drop in her credit score, and now flagged as someone with an account in collections. (If you've ever been victim to the myth "medical bills don't affect your credit score"...they lied.)
Wanting to get this bill removed from her credit report, she sought to pay off the bill. With credit card in hand, she called around, but couldn't figure out who the debt belonged to.
A few years later, in July of 2020, determined to get the bill removed from her credit report before moving, Lex made seven calls in one day, trying to find the owner of the debt and get it resolved. Because the bill had been sold between agencies, she never was able to find the owner of the debt. But lucky for her, she found a collection agent who was requested a courtesy removal and in November 2020, more than four years after the $44 bill was sent, it finally fell off her credit report. Her credit score improved 78 points.
The painfully obvious explanation of this is: paying medical bills is way too complicated. It should have been easy. After venting to friends, and on Twitter, Lex quickly realized that difficulty paying, understanding, and tracking medical bills wasn't just an issue for any specific demographic–this flawed system was affecting everyone. Even medical providers she was mad at and didn't trust anymore!
And with that, Peachy was born. 🍑
Lex knew that there was a huge problem that needed solving, and who better to solve it than somebody who had experienced the problem first-hand???
What exactly is the problem?
In the United States, there is a mind-blowing amount of medical debt–$81 billion of it as of 2016. Unfortunately, this problem isn't exactly trending in the right direction.
Over the last decade, patient responsibility has grown significantly, and over one five-year period, from 2012 to 2017, it nearly doubled. Things are decidedly not looking up in the medical debt department.
But there is something surprising about this enormous medical debt issue. Most of these unpaid medical bills that get sent to debt collectors aren't exceptionally large. In fact, the annual total of unpaid medical debt in collections is less than $1,000 for two-thirds of consumers and these bills are generally smaller than non-medical collection accounts. As a reference, for unpaid non-medical collection accounts, the median account is $366, and the average account is $1,000. Unpaid medical collections accounts, on the other hand, are even smaller, with a median of $207 and an average of $579.
Beyond this fact, many people with unpaid medical bills can pay them, but other factors impact those medical bills’ actual payment. These factors include complicated payment processes, difficulty understanding medical bills, and difficulty remembering and knowing which bills need to be paid.
These factors indicate that helping people escape medical bill purgatory doesn't always require helping them find more money, but instead simply enabling easier payment, more straightforward bills, and easy bill notification.
How is Peachy going to solve this problem?
By harnessing email and SMS messaging, Peachy helps healthcare providers reach you easily to inform you of your bills. Then, Peachy allows you to pay from your phone by simply clicking a link–no app to download, no stamp to buy, and no phone number to call.
But Peachy doesn't stop at allowing easy payment and text notifications; it also helps you set up provider-offered payment plans. If payment in full is not feasible for you, Peachy will help you set up a payment plan that works for your situation.
Even then, Peachy doesn’t stop at helping you pay your bills–Peachy also takes back the credit-score-impacting power from medical bills. Historically, medical bills could only hurt your credit, but Peachy changes that. Peachy proactively reports your “on-time” payments to the credit bureaus so that paying your bills can help you improve your credit score!
As Peachy seeks to solve this problem, we recognize the need to begin educating patients on the world of medical billing, financial health, credit, and more. And that's why The Peachy Library exist: because as we seek to solve the medical bill payment and notification problem, we want to help patients come out the other side more prepared to conquer their medical bills and improve their financial health.
If you’re ready to start learning about how you can take your financial health to the next level, join our email list! Every month, we’ll send you an email breaking down all of the educational content that we've developed, just for you!
We can’t wait to get to know you and start learning, together.
*Currently Peachy is in private BETA, but we are prioritizing our waitlist based on patient-driven referrals. Want your providers to start offering Peachy? Refer them! We'll do our best to get Peachy payment options into your hands ASAP.