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Headshot of David Zhao

David Zhao

  • Hosted by Public Counsel
  • Sponsored by Amgen Inc., Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP
  • Service location Los Angeles, California
  • Law school University of California, Los Angeles School of Law
  • Issue area Consumer Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2024
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

David’s (he/him/his) project at Public Counsel will combat the proliferation of consumer medical debt for low-income Angelenos through direct representation, community education, and affirmative litigation.

David’s previous experience as a victim of a predatory medical lending practice in 2020 influenced his desire to help other debtors facing economic injustice and expropriation.

Needs Addressed by Project

One in ten adults in Los Angeles County are currently burdened by medical debt; for people of color and low-income individuals, the rate is even higher. A new industry of medical credit cards and “care now pay later” consumer products, often offered directly to patients by care providers, are fueling an increase in debt as people struggle to afford healthcare.

Medical debt harms peoples’ health. People with medical debt are two to three times more likely to be food insecure, housing insecure or unhoused, and to forego additional medical care. Collectors also sue medical debtors, who often lack legal resources, to garnish their wages and bank accounts – especially in Los Angeles County, which accounts for over half of California’s entire collections caseload.

Fellowship Plans

During his fellowship, David will provide direct representation for low-income medical debtors in Los Angeles County facing collection lawsuits. He will also provide community workshops on understanding how medical debt works and how to identify and avoid predatory medical debt lending. Additionally, he will pursue potential litigation opportunities related to deceptive medical debt practices.

“As someone who has dealt with predatory medical lending, I know how difficult it is to face the legal, financial, and moral stigma associated with debt, and I hope to help others in similar situations as well.”

David Zhao /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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Sponsor: Texas Access to Justice Foundation

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Sponsor: Fenwick & West LLP