Woman jailed over unpaid medical bill, story gains national attention


Kendall Downing

HERRIN, Ill. — Imagine getting a medical bill you say you shouldn't have to pay. Then, when you try to fight it, you're thrown in jail and forced to come up with the cash anyway.

That happened to a local woman.

Debtor's prisons were banned in this country almost two centuries ago but Illinois law allows for the arrest of debtors who don't show up in court or fail to come up with a repayment plan.

Lisa Lindsay of Herrin shared her story with Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's office back in January. But it's only recently that her story has gone viral.

"I didn't realize how popular I am," said Lindsay.

Lindsay isn't just popular. She's an Internet sensation. Her name, at least for now, is all over the Web, along with her story.

"There were two state troopers in two separate police cars. And they took me to jail," said Lindsay.

Lindsay, who's a breast cancer survivor, was jailed for nonpayment of a $280 medical bill. She said another agency should have paid those costs.

"They sent me the accounts and when I got the notice to appear, I took those account numbers," she said. "I took the proof from the hospital and they said it wasn't the hospital's issue now. It was someone else's issue."

A bill to halt the practice of locking up debtors is making its way through Springfield. The House passed the measure. It's sitting in committee in the Senate.

"That's just crazy to me that in this country, in this state, you can be arrested for something like that," said Lindsay.

Lindsay got the medical bill more than a year ago. She said the creditors didn't stop calling, despite her efforts to prove them wrong.

She eventually paid the bill and the fines. But it's all on her credit now.

"I just paid over $600 to get it to stop," said Lindsay,"she said. "I did not understand that this would be what would happen."

Lindsay said her breast cancer is in remission. She also said she had hoped to keep news of the arrest quiet.

At this time, she doesn't plan to try to get her money back.