Church pays off $1.89 million in medical debt
Across 14 Maryland counties, some 900 families no longer have overdue medical bills thanks to an Annapolis church.
Late last month those households opened letters notifying them that their debt was paid.
Revolution Annapolis, a congregation that meets in Germantown Elementary School, worked with a non-profit to resolve $1,893,288.73 in medical bills.
“We knew it was a problem in the community,” head pastor Kenny Camacho said. “Then we heard about RIP Medical Debt on the John Oliver show. And we learned about a large church in Houston that made a large contribution last Easter.”
The church got in touch with RIP and asked it to look for debt in the Annapolis area.
But once parishioners started raising funds they learned that there was not enough of that kind of debt in close to home.
“So We asked RIP to look in an expanding, wider circle,” Camacho said. “With the $15,000 we raised during the month of December RIP purchased debt for 900 families in 14 counties.
“Friends, families, some from other churches, even people not involved in area churches donated.”
The recipients received anonymous letters noting their medical debt was paid “courtesy of Annapolis churches.” Revolution Annapolis was not mentioned.
“There are no strings attached. Forgiving that medical debt is not part of a strategy to get people to attend local churches,” Camacho said. “Revolution wants to resist the idea that the church is just another business. The church should exist so that people can have hope, period.”
RIP Medical Debt is a non-profit headquartered in Rye, New York, that buys up and forgives medical debt leaving the debtor with no bills or tax burden. It has operated since 2014.
“We purchase bundles of medical debt for pennies on the dollar,” said Daniel Lampert, spokesman for RIP.
RIP’s biggest media splash came in 2016 when HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” presented a segment on the debt-buying industry, which buys debt for pennies, or less, on the dollar and then hounds debtors for the full amount.
Oliver said the industry standards were so low, even he could start a debt buying company. And he did.
Within days of setting up its website, his company was offered nearly $15 million in medical debt from Texas for $60,000, less than a penny on the dollar. He bought it and on the air forgave the $15 million, relieving 9,000 people of their medical debt.
That’s how Revolution Annapolis got wind of the chance to do the same.
Now Camacho wants to get other churches in the area to come together to help relieve problem debt, perhaps working with hospitals in the area to help settle the debt earlier in the cycle, to prevent people from having to deal with all the added stress.
“We hope to get others involved, to get people who care in the community who care to make this a place where there is one less problem people have to face. We want to help provide hope and relief,” Camacho said.