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Jared Walker Found the Secret to Forgiving Medical Debt—So He Shares It

His nonprofit, Dollar For, does two things.

WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.

For Jared Walker, the math was simple.

Many Oregonians can't afford their medical bills. And many hospitals are sitting on vast cash reserves.

So Walker decided to play Robin Hood—with lawyers instead of a bow and arrow.

His nonprofit, Dollar For, does two things. First, it solicits private contributions to help families struggling to pay for their medical care. Second, it seeks to reduce those bills, using the legal obligation that hospital systems have to provide charity care (that is, to waive bills for people who can't afford to pay them).

Given what an outsized role medical debt plays in many Oregonians' bankruptcies, that's an enormously valuable project. In an interview with WW editor and  publisher Mark Zusman, Walker explains how he shifted from a very different job, and why the mission proved simpler than he expected.