by Joshua Eaton, Sojourners Magazine, 10/10/22.
…First Presbyterian, a congregation in the Presbyterian Church (USA) denomination, is one of many across the country raising money through the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt to buy and forgive medical debts owed by people who can’t afford to pay them back. The church hopes to raise $50,000 as one of two mission components to its capital campaign — enough to forgive $5 million in medical debt. Douglas told Sojourners they should be able to forgive the $5 million by year’s end.
…according to a report released by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation last year. Of those, 11 million owed more than $2,000 and 3 million owed more than $10,000, the report found. And that burden fell most heavily on communities of color, the disabled, and those without health insurance.
… That’s where RIP Medical Debt comes in. Founded in 2014 by former debt collection executives Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton, the nonprofit buys medical debt either directly from hospitals or from secondary brokers. Because RIP Medical Debt is buying debt the same way investors do, it gets the same steep discounts. That means it can forgive about $100 for every $1 it spends.
… On its website, the organization says it targets debt owed by people who owe more than 5 percent of their annual income or who make less than four times the federal poverty guidelines. (In 2022, the federal poverty guideline is $27,750 a year for a family of four living in the continental United States.)
… Once a church signs on, RIP Medical Debt sets up a page for the campaign on its website and handles all the bookkeeping. The church just has to get the word out. And once the debts are forgiven, RIP Medical Debt sends out letters to the people who owed it letting them know the good news.
… Because there’s no application people have to fill out to have their debt forgiven, they often don’t even know it will be forgiven until they get a letter in the mail.
“The sense that they’ve been given some grace is incredible,” Sesso said of the responses RIP Medical Debt gets from the people whose debts it wipes out.