Church’s 2-year campaign eliminates over $100 million in medical debt for families across the US

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The United Church of Christ (UCC) has now given peace of mind to people across the country by paying off more than $100 million in medical debt.

The Cleveland, Ohio-based denomination announced Monday that it has forgiven $33 million in medical debt from patients in Buckeye State, bringing the total debt forgiven by the church over a period of two years at $104 million.

As an expression of love for Valentine’s Day, 10,757 households in 70 Ohio counties received letters telling them that their medical debt had been eliminated.

They received letters that said, “The funds that paid off this debt were generously provided by the United Church of Christ. No matter who you are or where you are on your life journey, you are welcome in our churches. the debt was cancelled. »

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To one recipient, it sounded too good to be true.

“To be honest, I thought it was a scam at first,” said the man, identified as Chris A. “Nobody does that. You never hear of that. . I worked in a prison all my life.”

“Every time someone says something to you, you have to ask them what their angle is. Well, I couldn’t find your angle. I had to stop being so cynical. I was thrilled and shocked that could someone do something that nice for me,” he added.

Repaying UCC’s debt was the latest initiative in a campaign the denomination has pursued with its partner, RIP Medical Debt, a New York-based nonprofit organization. The church sent $200,000 from its Giving Tuesday project to RIP who then bought the debt for pennies on the dollar, according to the church.

“As we close this campaign by eliminating all debt we have in the State of Ohio, we urge you to remember that charity and celebrations were never the goal of this initiative,” said said the Reverend Traci Blackmon, UCC Deputy Minister General for Justice and Local Affairs. Church Ministries, said in a statement. “The plea was.”

The relief campaign began in Chicago two years ago

UCC’s long-term medical relief campaign began in 2019 at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. The denomination along with three local UCC churches and seven area Baptist churches began buying medical debt in Chicago through RIP. That first purchase used a $38,000 investment to clear $5.3 million in debt — and 5,888 families in South Side neighborhoods and some rural areas received letters saying their debt had been forgiven.

Blackmon also announced that UCC would continue debt cancellation through 2021, using funds raised on Donation Tuesday and through donations from UCC conferences, associations, congregations and other organizations.

The UCC is a mainline Protestant denomination that is considered theologically liberal. His latest donation also goes towards a new $5 million campaign by RIP called A nation that cares.

RIP spans across denominations and geography. In it, “faith communities across the country have formed a coalition to provide medical debt relief across the United States, regardless of where the patient lives,” according to the company’s website.

The company’s goal is to raise $5 million to relieve approximately $500 million in medical debt and will announce campaign results just before Christmas.

“In today’s time of divisiveness and polarization, this act of love demonstrates that we are a nation of people who care about their fellow Americans. The love of Jesus Christ knew no bounds. As we celebrate his birth, let our charity know no bounds like well,” RIP’s website said.

Miracles ‘Tetelestai’

As CBN News reported, other churches have also partnered with RIP to pay off families’ medical debt. In 2019, Covenant Church in Carrollton, TX partnered with RIP to clear $10.5 million in debt with a $100,000 donation.

Letters were mailed to 4,229 families within a 20-mile radius of the church’s four campuses in Texas, telling them that their medical debt was completely gone.

Senior Pastor Stephen Hayes told CBN News at the time that debt cancellation is a familiar message to Christians and an effort the church should champion.

“In the scriptures, when Jesus was on the cross, he made seven statements before taking his last breath and the sixth of those seven was the word ‘tetelestai’ in Greek, which means ‘it is over’. This word , tetelestai, was the same word that tax collectors or other money handlers would use when your bill was paid in full, it was like the big red paid stamp So if you had a debt and you pay your debt, that the tax collector would write on your debt, it’s over, tetelestai,” Hayes explained.

Founded in 2014 by two former debt collectors, RIP redeems unpaid medical debt held by collection agencies at dramatically reduced rates.

In the case of the Covenant Church, every dollar donated bought $100 of debt.

“One hundred to one, or a little more than one hundred to one, is an incredible return on a dollar. Ten thousand gives a million dollars in debt forgiveness. Ten million abolishes a billion dollars of debt. trillion dollars in debt, that’s about 300,000 people,” Craig Antico, co-founder of RIP Medical Debt, told CBN News.

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