An Iowa church got in the holiday spirit during this year of the pandemic by helping to erase $5 million in medical bills for fellow Iowans.
Capitol Hill Lutheran Church in Des Moines sought out charities and causes, and at a member’s suggestion, contacted an organization called RIP Medical Debt.
"We asked them how much money it would take to forgive all the medical debt in Polk County," the Rev. Minna Bothwell told the Des Moines Register. "They responded, 'With what you have, you could forgive debt in all of Iowa.'"
When a hospital patient can’t pay a bill, a debt collector purchases the debt. It then can be sold to other agencies responsible for getting the debtor to repay what he or she owes, sometimes with interest. The nonprofit RIP Medical Debt buys debt from some of these agencies and simply abolishes the debt instead of seeking payment.
Bothwell said roughly $8,000 bought $5 million worth of medical debt in Iowa. RIP Medical Debt buys medical debt at steep discounts. Donations allow the company to buy debt in bundled portfolios, millions of dollars at a time at a fraction of the original cost.
"We have many people in our church who have borne the burden of debt when coming to the United States," Bothwell said. "We've seen firsthand what debt has done to families, and how hard it can be."
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