Some 782 families in New Mexico and Arizona are now free from medical debt after a church in Santa Fe cleared their bills totaling nearly $1.4 million.
With a grant of $15,000 the St. Bede’s Episcopal Church was able to clear $1,380,119.87 in medical debt for the 782 families who live in New Mexico and parts of Arizona, the Episcopal News Service reported.
“I don’t know if this parish has ever funded a program with such a great impact. We were able to do it because every week we set aside 10% of donations to the church for outreach. Prioritizing service to others is our gospel imperative,” the Rev. Catherine Volland told ENS.
The church worked with a New York-based organization called RIP Medical Debt which uses donor funds to eliminate medical debt for some of America’s neediest families by purchasing that debt at a fraction of the actual cost. A gift of $500 to the organization, for example, can relieve $50,000 worth of medical debt.
“Once we’ve pinpointed the portfolios for those in or near the poverty level, we buy up their debt and relieve it. Then we send relief notices to the benefiting families, and subsequently help the recipients repair their credit reports — renewing their access to opportunities and resources that will allow them to rebuild and recover,” the organization explains on their website.
The Survey of Income and Program Participation shows that in 2017, 19% of U.S. households carried medical debt which is defined as medical costs people were unable to pay upfront or when they received care, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.