Democratic Congressional candidate Tracy Mitrano announced Friday that residents of the 23rd Congressional District will see more than $500,000 in medical debt disappear in an instant, and that she will launch a five-city healthcare crisis listening tour.   

Mitrano’s announcement came during a press conference at the Pendergast Library in Jamestown, highlighting a unique partnership helping district residents out from under crushing medical debt.

Working with RIP Medical Debt, a 501©3 nonprofit organization, Dr. Ralph Walton of Jamestown, a renowned Chautauqua area medical professional, and Dr. Marguerite Uphoff of Ithaca, a champion of pediatric care, announced that they and other area doctors would purchase more than $170,000 of medical debt owned by individuals struggling with the burden. Their generosity will eliminate more than $500,000 of medical debt at one percent of original cost.

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“I am proud of the patients I helped during my long career, but when I think of a patient whose family struggled to pay a bill or was impacted severely by the debt load, my heart breaks. I know there must be a better way and I wanted to draw attention to this crisis,” said Walton, who was present for the announcement.

“Drs. Walton and Uphoff genuinely care about the well-being of residents in the 23rd congressional district," Mitrano said. "These dedicated professionals and their colleagues realize healthcare costs are too high, and we need to develop common-sense solutions. I applaud their efforts and look forward to working closely with them and other medical professionals across the district to address this crisis.  

“The healthcare industry across the United States is broken and in chaos," Mitrano continued. "We can do better. You deserve quality healthcare at an affordable cost. “To this effect, I am launching a five-city healthcare listening tour beginning in Dunkirk on Monday, Jan. 20. I want to hear from everyone about their healthcare concerns and what their experiences have been with our healthcare system."

Mitrano drew a sharp contrast with Rep. Tom Reed's (R-Corning) record on the issue,

“In almost 10 years representing this district, Tom Reed has consistently voted against providing affordable healthcare his constituents --- more than 70 times at last count," she stated. "In December, he voted against a bill to lower prescription drug prices and last May, he opposed a bill to protect Americans with preexisting conditions, in a continued bid to end a provision of the Affordable Care Act.  

“Tom Reed will not give us the solution; he is part of the problem,” Mitrano added.

She went on to detail Reed's continued acceptance of lavish re-election campaign contributions from major pharmaceutical and health insurance companies.

Prior to joining Congress and for several years thereafter, Reed ran a medical debt collection business, which profited from individuals overburdened by medical expenses.

Upon the conclusion of the five-day healthcare listening tour, Mitrano will issue a plan to address healthcare costs and work on a non-partisan basis to bring about a real solution to the crisis.  

Dates, times and locations of Mitrano’s five-city healthcare crisis listening tour are as follows:

Monday, from 6 to 8 p.m., Dunkirk Democratic Committee, 423 Central Ave., Dunkirk.

Tuesday, from 6 to 8 p.m., Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Jamestown, 1255 Prendergast Ave., Jamestown.

Wednesday, from 6 to 8 p.m., John J. Ash Community Center, 112 N Barry St., Olean.

Thursday, from 6 to 8 p.m., United Steelworkers Local 100 Union Hall, 100 Nasser Civic Center Plaza, Corning. 

Friday, from 6 to 8 p.m., IBEW Local 840, 1431 State Route 5, Geneva.