RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit whose model was developed by two former debt collectors, has absolved medical debt for over 3.9 million Americans, totaling more than $7 billion.
The nonprofit, through donations, purchases medical debt by the bundle, taking about $1 to retire every $100. Those with the now-absolved debt receive a letter letting them know, and, according to RIP Medical Debt, suffer no tax consequences.
“We buy debt in bundles, millions of dollars at a time at a fraction of the original cost. This means your donation relieves about 100x its value in medical debt,” the group’s website says. “People across the country receive letters that their debt has been erased. They have no tax consequences or penalties to consider. Just like that, they’re free of medical debt.”
Jerry Ashton, who modeled the nonprofit, said in a 2019 video that he was “reformed” into a “predatory giver.”
“As a bill collector collecting millions of dollars in medical-associated bills in my career, now all of a sudden I’m reformed: I’m a predatory giver,” he said.
The nonprofit’s CEO Allison Sesso said Ashton and Craig Antico, another former debt collector, “would have conversations with people on the phone, and they would understand and have better insights into the struggles people were challenged with.”
According to a report from NPR, the group chooses recipients randomly but limits their services to those who earn at twice the poverty level and below. But, now, with the economy in free-fall, random recipients include anyone who makes as much as four times the federal poverty level.
The debt bought up in bundles depends on what’s available for purchase, Sesso told NPR. “Nobody can come to us, raise their hand, and say, ‘I’d like you to relieve my debt,'” she emphasized.
“Thank you to everyone that had anything to do with taking care of this bill,” one anonymous recipient said, according to RIP Medical Debt’s site. “It is a blessing and a relief to know that it’s not hanging over my head. I had never ever heard of this program, but I’m grateful and appreciative of the help they provide.”
“Thank you for the help. My husband and I live on one income. My being diabetic puts a financial strain on us,” another person said.
Notably, RIP Medical Debt in 2019 partnered with a Christian Assembly Church in Eagle Rock, California, to help relieve a stunning $5.3 million in medical debt around Christmas time.
“For many people in our communities, medical debt is a crushing weight during a most challenging time in their life,” co-pastor of the church Tom Hughes said at the time. “Medical debt is one of the leading causes of personal bankruptcy and contributes significantly to the likelihood of a person experiencing homelessness.”
“We mapped out all of the active households that call Christian Assembly Church home, and we chose the top 28 neighborhoods. This gift is really impacting the poor in the 28 neighborhoods where we live,” he continued. “Because of the generosity of the people of Christian Assembly Church, we are able to make this gift possible. All of this is being done in Jesus’ name because of the generosity of our God and the compassion and mercy He has shown us.”