St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Mamaroneck, New York has received notification their donation to RIP Medical Debt has resulted in the retirement of nearly $10 million dollars in medical debt for 10,157 people.
RIP Medical Debt is a company that uses the money they are given to purchase bundled financial portfolios of medical debt, eliminating it by negotiating down the price of the debt, usually resulting in the forgiveness of $100 in debt for every dollar donated.
Inspired by a similar story that appeared in Episcopal News Service in early 2019 about Emmanuel Memorial Church in Champaign, Illinois getting nearly $4 million dollars in medical debt relief for 3,617 families, the rector of St. Thomas held onto the possibility of such an initiative for their outreach committee to pursue should the needed funds of $15,000 be raised. The proceeds of the annual Christmas Fair, a St. Thomas event since 1955 that each year gives all the money raised to a charity, provided the occasion.
The outreach committee had initially hoped the debt relief might be applied locally to Westchester County or other counties in the greater New York City area, but it was not to be. Medical debt collectors in the area find it much more lucrative to pursue debt rather than settle for pennies on the dollar, so there was no debt available to be purchased. RIP asked if St. Thomas would be willing to apply their money to Oneida County, located in central New York State, and St. Thomas agreed, thinking their money would purchase just over a million dollars in debt.
St. Thomas’s rector, the Rev. Carol D. Gadsden, received notification the debt of 10,157 people was purchased and fully retired for a total dollar amount of $9,864,923.75. Outreach committee chair Jim Minnerly, Christmas fair chair Michael Ford, and Gadsden were united in their message to their congregation as to the importance of this donation. “Families go bankrupt, lose their homes, have their credit destroyed because of medical debt. Medical expenses are a factor in nearly 60% of bankruptcy filings. Nearly 43 million Americans have a total of $75 billion in past-due medical debt. No person or family should be subjected to such a situation. We thank you for all you did to make this year’s fair such a success, enabling us to make a difference.”
They have a message for other churches, organizations, and coalitions, too: “If you can pull together the necessary $15,000 to open a portfolio of medical debt, do it. So very little can do so very much.”