The United Church of Christ has paid off more than $100 million of medical debt for people with limited finances across the country, according to Christian Headlines. The church partnered with RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit founded by two former debt collection executives to use “donations to buy large bundles of medical debt” and relieve the debt at no consequence to the donors or recipients. With their donations from Giving Tuesday, the United Church of Christ used $200,000 of it to pay off $33 million in medical debt for Ohio residents, bringing the total relief provided by the church to more than $104 million in just two years.
The idea that churches could help those in need relieve their medical debt came to Reverend Otis Moss III, the pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago when he came across an article in the New York Times about the nonprofit organization RIP Medical Debt. Seeking ways to engage with communities and recognizing the burden of medical debt on people with limited financial means led Moss and others to join the effort.
According to Christian Headlines, “the nonprofit, founded in 2014, purchases ‘portfolios’ of medical debt from health care providers and from the secondary debt market at an average $1 for $100 of medical debt, according to its website. Those providers sell the debt at pennies on the dollar to try to recoup some of the cost of those unpaid bills. Usually, those who buy that debt then continue to bill people for it. RIP Medical Debt instead abolishes the debt, with no tax consequences or strings attached for the recipients, according to its site.” Regarding donations from the church, “the beneficiaries, while remaining anonymous to the denomination, receive a letter saying, ‘The funds that abolished this debt were generously provided by the United Church of Christ.’”
Relieving over $5 Billion in medical debt, RIP Medical Debt has proven the power of individuals to help one another overcome financial burdens. The generosity of donors has made their movement successful, and the addition of churches who have embraced their goal will grow the nonprofit’s impact on the community to even greater levels.