As OB-GYNs, Drs. Jeffrey Meltzer and his wife, Leigh, saw firsthand how the rising cost of medical care in the U.S. can be devastating to people battling an unexpected injury or illness.
So, the Carmel residents decided to do something about it. In 2020, they organized the Indiana Health Fund, a nonprofit that aims to prevent medical bills from financially draining Hoosiers. The organization primarily targets individuals or families whose income is 200 to 400 percent above the federal poverty line, as they are ineligible for many forms of assistance but may not have the resources to cover a large medical bill.
“There’s really nobody doing this in this space,” Jeffrey Meltzer said. “We’re trying to help patients and families before the debt causes all kinds of damage to them. The goal isn’t to help somebody who’s had this $10,000 debt that’s really destroyed their credit rating for five years. The goal is to help people as (medical bills) are happening. If you have this huge amount of debt and you’re not paying it off, it literally can ruin your whole life.”
IHF awarded its first grants in January, totaling more than $16,000 in reduced medical bills for three families and one individual. Recipients included a father of two who had emergency surgery to remove his gall bladder early in the COVID-19 pandemic. He was forced to make repeated trips to the emergency room because his doctor’s office was closed at the time. The pandemic also led to him being laid off 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 health care system to negotiate down the cost and help cover it.
IHF wants to at least double the number of individuals it helps this year and “grow 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 IHF directly to apply for assistance.
Besides eliminating debt, IHF aims to inform patients about financial resources and programs available and help them better understand the billing process.
“We’ve done some very quick, two-minute videos on how to interpret a medical bill, how to know if you need to call your insurance before you go to the emergency room,” Leigh Meltzer said.
The organization recently grew with the appointment of Colleen Rusnak as interim executive director. Rusnak, a Carmel resident, has previously held positions at Neurosurgical Atlas and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. She said she is thankful for the volunteer and donor support that help the nonprofit function.
“We appreciate the community’s support as we tackle this important issue in assisting those with access to affordable healthcare,” Rusnak said.
Jeffrey Meltzer, who serves as president of IHF, became increasingly interested in the financial side of his industry approximately 15 years ago and returned to school to earn an MBA in healthcare management. What he learned convinced the Meltzers to give back to the community beyond delivering babies.
“Even in our own practices, we saw the cost of healthcare was becoming oppressive to people, so we came up with this idea to create a nonprofit to help people better manage the cost of healthcare to their family,” Jeffrey Meltzer said. “That’s how it all started.”
In addition to leading 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 has a BA in religious studies and an MD from Emory University.
Leigh Meltzer, an OBGYN who practices at IU Health North, graduated from North Central High School and has a BA and MD from Indiana University. She trained at the University of Maryland Medical Systems, which is where she met her husband.
The Meltzers have three adult daughters.
Learn more about IHF, including how to donate, at IndianaHealthFund.org.