A Group Of Churches Just Paid Off Millions In Medical Debt

“We were bowled over, actually."

Churches across America have been raising money and erasing millions of dollars worth of medical debt for people all over the country.

The churches are working with RIP Medical Debt, a non-profit that purchases debt portfolios on a secondary market for "pennies on the dollar," according to USA Today. That allows smaller amounts of money, like $22,000, to wipe out as much as $2.2 million dollars in medical debt.

When someone can't pay off a medical bill, the collectors often bundle their debt with other people's debt and try to re-sell those bundled debts to a different group of bill collectors. Then it's up to the new bill collectors to wrangle the people for their money. RIP Medical Debt uses that secondary system to buy up bundles, but instead of tracking down the people to collect — it simply forgives the debt.


RIP Medical Debt specifically targets low-income Americans who are suffocated by debt (you must be earning less than twice the federal poverty level, or about $25,000). By raising money through 18 different churches, RIP Medical Debt has been able to squash $34.4 million of debt since 2018. Churches from Kansas, Maryland, Illinois and Virginia have all participated, among many others. 

Emmanuel Memorial Episcopal Church, a small congregation in Champaign, Illinois, helped raise $15,000 that canceled out $4 million of debt across the southern part of Illinois. 

"We were bowled over, actually," Rev. Christine Hopkins told USA Today. "It was to the point of tears."

Two-thirds of bankruptcies in America are tied to medical debt, according to the American Journal of Public Health. The topic of how to handle the rising costs of health care is a popular issue on both sides of the aisle in Congress, and as Americans continue to find innovative ways to pay medical bills — like starting GoFundMe's — RIP Medical Debt has hacked the system to help relieve people of their debt. Now, it's getting a helping hand from churches across the country.


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