Millions of debt collection lawsuits are overwhelming state courts, and almost half are from hospitals and doctor's offices for unpaid medical bills, ProPublica reports.

What's happening: People all over the country are discovering a warrant out for their arrest after unknowingly missing a court date. Even if they are able to pay the debt, bail is posted instead.

Debtors' prisons are illegal in the U.S., but judges and lawyers have found a workaround: If people with unpaid bills are no-shows in court when summoned, they can be jailed for contempt.

Most of the people tried through this process didn't pay their bills because they just don't have the money, ProPublica found.

In many courtrooms, several legal questions still loom regarding the bail money and how hospitals lobby for what is owed:

"If the judge is upholding the rule of law, he would give the bail money back to you when you appear in court. Instead, he is using his power to take money from you and hand it to the debt collector. It raises constitutional questions.”
— Peter Holland, former director of the Consumer Protection Clinic at the University of Maryland Law School, tells ProPublica

Go deeper: At hospital nonprofits, lawsuits frequently target former patients

Go deeper

Amy Harder, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Climate change goes mainstream in presidential debate

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty

The most notable part of Thursday’s presidential debate on climate change was the fact it was included as a topic and assumed as a fact.

The big picture: This is the first time in U.S. presidential history that climate change was a featured issue at a debate. It signals how the problem has become part of the fabric of our society. More extreme weather, like the wildfires ravaging Colorado, is pushing the topic to the front-burner.

Finally, a real debate

Photo: Morry Gash/AP

A more disciplined President Trump held back from the rowdy interruptions at tonight's debate in Nashville, while making some assertions so outlandish that Joe Biden chuckled and even closed his eyes. A Trump campaign adviser told Axios: "He finally listened." 

The result: A real debate.

Biden to Trump: "I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life"

Former VP Joe Biden pushed back Thursday against allegations from President Trump, saying he had never profited from foreign sources. "Nothing was unethical," Biden told debate moderator Kristen Welker about his son Hunter's work in Ukraine while he was vice president.

Why it matters: Earlier on Thursday, Hunter Biden's former business partner, Tony Bobulinski, released a statement saying Joe Biden's claims that he never discussed overseas business dealings with his son were "false."