The nonprofit that buries medical debt

Americans are saddled with medical debt they can’t pay. One nonprofit buys and buries it.

Forty-one percent of Americans carry medical debt they cannot pay. But some may receive a letter announcing their debt is gone.

The nonprofit that buries medical debt

Nonprofit RIP Medical Debt buys bundles of debt owed by patients making 4x the poverty level or less, then erases it, per NPR.

Co-founders Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton are ex-debt collectors who  were inspired after talking with Occupy Wall Street activists in 2011.

Since launching RIP in 2014, they have:

  • Bought $6.7B in debt
  • Unburdened 3.6m people

How it works

Hospitals sell patients’ debt to debt buyers for a fraction of the amount owed. Buyers profit by collecting on the original amount.

RIP raises money to buy debt — either directly from hospitals or on the secondary market — and forgives it.

Donors include:

  • MacKenzie Scott, who gave $50m in 2020.
  • “Last Week Tonight,” which partnered with RIP in this episode to buy ~$15m, freeing ~9k people
  • Hospitals themselves. Heywood Healthcare in Massachusetts donated $800k of debt in January

The bummer? Americans owed ~$195B in medical debt in 2019, and RIP estimates it could be up to $1T now.

The bright side? Some legislative progress is being made, including a recent change that eliminates some medical debt from credit scores.

More: Check out nonprofit Rolling Jubilee, which absolves all kinds of debt.

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Topics: Healthcare

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