“While there is so much good happening across our health system each day, we can, and must, do better.” -- Michael Ugwueke, president and chief executive officer of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.

Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare on Tuesday announced two initiatives to uplift the financial wellbeing of its associates, patients and the Memphis community as a whole.

In September of this year, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare employees will see a minimum wage increase from $10.08 to $13.50 hourly, and the minimum wage will become $15 per hour as of January 2021. MLH will later share plans to improve the skills, knowledge and education required for new and traditional healthcare roles.

In addition, MLH will begin offering financial assistance to patients in households making up to $53,325 for families of three, which comprises more than 50 percent of the Memphis population.

“We work each day to improve every life we touch by uplifting our associates, patients and community,” said Michael Ugwueke, MLH president and CEO. “While there is so much good happening across our health system each day, we can, and must, do better.”

MLH will no longer use court-ordered attempts to collect on patient bills for citizens at or below 250 percent of federal poverty guidelines, and will work with both insured and non-insured patients on affordable payment plans before taking further steps to resolve medical debt.

The change in court collection practices comes as concerns grew about MLH’s heavy pursuit of debts held by thousands of patients, as well as its own employees. These practices were recently investigated and published by MLK50 and ProPublica, and appeared on NPR. After MLH’s 30-day review of its practices, new solutions developed.

MLH provides the largest number of hospitals, physician offices and outpatient centers in Memphis.

The backdrop is that Memphis is more than 60 percent African-American, with a 26.9 percent poverty rate, according to the 2017 American Census Survey.

In comparison, the poverty rate for Tennessee is 15.8 percent.

(To learn more about Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and its new initiatives, visit methodisthealth.org.)