$2.9 Million in Medical Debt Forgiven
Ann Arbor, MI — July 2, 2019 — Vineyard Church, in partnership with RIP Medical Debt, has completed the purchase of $2.9 million of medical debt — and forgiven it — with a donation of just $18,113. This transaction clears the medical debt responsibility for 2,120 individuals living in Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Ingham, Jackson, Livingston, Monroe, Oakland, and Wayne counties in Southeast Michigan.
Each year, the Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor and its congregants use the Lenten season to consider ways we can put our faith into action. We invite our congregants to identify six people who we would commit to pray for daily, setting aside some money with which to bless one of those six, and offering our own personal requests to God for support, help, transformation. As a congregation we dedicate our Easter offering to bless our community. In the past, we have advocated for food security by giving an Easter offering to Food Gatherers. We have advocated for affordable housing by giving an Easter offering to Habitat for Humanity to help build a house for a single mom. We have advocated for criminal justice reform and partnered with Religious Action for Affordable Housing (RAAH) by helping create housing for those exiting the criminal justice system. This year, as we prepared to celebrate Easter, we learned about RIP Medical Debt and their ability to help cancel current and past due medical debt. Given that Easter is a time in the church where we celebrate liberation and new life, we decided to partner with RIP Medical Debt to cancel all of the available medical debt for our neighbors in Washtenaw County. We were overwhelmed and delighted to learn that our Easter offering would not only cancel all available medical debt for purchase in Washtenaw County, but it would extend to seven surrounding counties. Truly, it’s like Christmas in July!
RIP Medical Debt locates, acquires, and then cancels unpaid and unpayable medical debt with donations such as this one from Vineyard Church. The church frequently uses its Easter collection, which is typically larger than on most Sundays, to serve others in our community. This medical debt forgiveness program seemed like a perfect fit. Because this is a no-strings-attached gift from a 501(c)(3) charity, the recipient does not owe any taxes on the “cancellation of debt” income, and, it comes off their credit report.
RIP Medical specifically seeks to buy the debts of people who earn less than two times the federal poverty level, those in financial hardship, and those facing insolvency. It purchases the portfolios at a steep discount — a penny or less on the dollar. These bills have typically passed through several collection agencies for months and sometimes years.
Only RIP Medical Debt knows the names of the people selected. The donor organization has no access to this information and cannot make any suggestions other than geographic locations. Medical records remain with the physician or hospital.
NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt coverage of the Vineyard’s Medical Debt Payoff
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is RIP Medical Debt?
RIP Medical Debt is a New York based 501(c)(3) charity that locates, buys and forgives medical debt in the USA. RIP abolishes medical debt for the general public, veterans and local communities. Once medical debt is purchased, RIP then forgives the debt and mails yellow envelopes to inform those helped that they are forever free from that particular debt and its blemish on their credit report.
How does $18,113 pay for $2.9 million in debt?
Outstanding medical debt often is bundled into portfolios for sale on the secondary debt market. The New York based charity, RIP Medical Debt, negotiates to purchase medical debt at significantly reduced rates — pennies on the dollar (the average ratio is 1:100).
How are people selected?
The Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor has no role in selecting people due to privacy/HIPPA laws. Instead, we work with the charity RIP Medical Debt who used sophisticated data analytics to search medical debt portfolios and pinpoint those bundles most in need of relief.
Why can’t you help me specifically?
The Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor has no role in selecting people due to privacy/HIPPA laws.The Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor made a donation to the charity RIP Medical Debt to pay off debt for 2,120 individuals living in Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Ingham, Jackson, Livingston, Monroe, Oakland, and Wayne counties in Southeast Michigan. This was a randomized group and we were not able to pick specific families or amounts of debt. We don’t even know the names of the individuals who will receive the letter from RIP Medical Debt. That’s a process that the organization takes care of.
I got an envelope! Now what?
No further action is needed on your part. You are now free and clear of the debt reference in your letter. You are under no obligation to respond to the letter. However, if you are willing, our church would love to hear your story and how this debt forgiveness will impact you and your family.
What if I missed the envelope? Or threw it away?
The letter in the yellow envelope is only meant to inform you of the debt forgiven. Since no further action is needed from the recipients, you are free and clear of the debt whether you read the letter or not.
What if I’m struggling with medical debt now?
Unfortunately, we are not able to connect specific people with funds from RIP medical debt. Contact us for help with general needs such as rent, groceries, and utilities. For larger debt relief there are helpful resources at Friends in Deed, Hope Clinic, Barrier Busters and SOS Community Services.