TRENTON, NJ --Louisa Bradlow Carman wanted to shape the world around her via public policy. The twenty-five-year-old policy analyst for Governor Phil Murphy was bright and ambitious. Governor Murphy and his fellow staffers were left reeling after Carman’s sudden death in a traffic accident on New Year’s Day.

The crash occurred along Route One in Plainsboro, New Jersey, around 1:56 a.m. Multiple vehicles were involved in the crash. According to Richard Cowan, a reporter for nj.com, Carman was pronounced dead at the scene by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.

On January 9, during his sixth State of the State address, Governor Murphy announced his plans for the Louisa Carman Medical Debt Relief Act, a bill that incorporates Carman’s research to help alleviate medical debt for New Jersey residents.

Louisa Carman grew up in Chicago, Illinois. She graduated with honors from Swarthmore College in the fall of 2021 with a BA in political science and a minor in dance. Carman worked as a policy analyst in the Office of Health Care Affordability and Transparency.

After graduating from Swarthmore College in the fall of 2021, Carman started as a policy intern in the office of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. After four months, she was offered a full-time position.

Carman is remembered by friends and family as someone who was deeply compassionate for others. This compassion was reflected in her work as a policy analyst for the governor’s office, with a focus on prescription drug affordability and medical debt relief work. The bill named in her honor would provide patients with additional time to recover before their medical debt would be sent to collections agencies.  The proposed legislation would require debt collectors to wait a year before reporting unpaid debt to credit officials. Additionally, the legislation would limit credit collectors' ability to file reports on medical debt if the debt amounts to less than $500.

The governor spoke of Carman’s dedication and kindness during his State of the State address, saying, “Louisa was talented. Incredibly thoughtful. And dedicated every day — as a member of our team — to making our health care system more accessible and more affordable for more people. So with this legislative proposal, we can carry her mission forward — and help thousands of our neighbors avoid falling into medical debt.”

Currently, 1 in 10 New Jersey residents has medical debt in collections. Medical debt disproportionately impacts communities of color in New Jersey, with sixteen percent of residents of color accruing medical debt in comparison to eight percent of white residents, according to reporters Susan K. Livio and Amira Sweilem.

New Jersey currently ranks 45 out of 50 states on the Medical Debt Policy Scorecard. The medical debt policy scorecard was built by Innovation for Justice, a social justice innovation lab spearheaded by the University of Arizona seeking to “enhance transparency and efficiency in debt collection lawsuits through policy, process, and technology reforms,” according to their website.

The Louisa Carman Medical Debt Relief Act was introduced to the New Jersey State Senate on February 22, 2024. The bill is sponsored by senators Shirley K. Turner and New Jersey Senate majority leader M. Teresa Ruiz.

A statement released alongside the bill explains the expansions of customer protections provided by the bill, stating, “The bill provides certain protections to patients with medical debt from collection actions by medical creditors and medical debt collectors. The bill also provides that any portion of a medical debt furnished to a consumer reporting agency in violation of the bill will be void and that it will be a violation of the "consumer fraud act" for a medical debt collector or creditor to violate the medical debt provisions of the bill.”

The bill works in tandem with the Consumer Fraud Act to safeguard citizens from predatory debt collection practices.

As of February 24, the bill has been referred to the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance committee, continuing Carman’s steadfast work to improve the quality of life for New Jersey residents.


Reported Story By:

Rosie the Writer

NJ New Jersey Reporter and Writer


Photo Credit:

Reporter David Brown

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