A church in Santa Fe, New Mexico has written off the medical debt of over 700 families in a couple of states.
According to the Episcopal News Service, the St. Bede's Episcopal Church donated $15,000 to pay the medical obligations of 782 families. The donation was able to help the households in New Mexico and several counties in Arizona such as Gila, Apache, Graham, Navajo, Mohave and some families in Maricopa.
To identify the appropriate recipients, the inclusive church collaborated with RIP Medical Debt, an organization that purchases debt for a fraction of the cost and partners with donors for payment, enabling the church's donation to pay a total of $1,380,119.87 in medical debt. The payments are coordinated with credit agencies to ensure that the recipients' credit histories are cleared. The latter will then receive letters, informing them of being freed from the amount they owed.
RIP Medical Debt was founded by Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton, former debt collection executives. With the program, the organization has already eradicated more than $4.5 billion medical debt of over 2.6 million families and individuals in the United States.
The Christian Post shared about a survey in 2017 which showed that 19% of American families "were unable to pay upfront" with their medical debt.
In a response letter, a beneficiary felt grateful for the donation, particularly during this time of crisis.
"I was having a hard time trying to figure out how I was going to pay all this amount of money and it's not been easy finding a job especially when you have two kids and with this pandemic going on. It has really been a very hard year for me and for everyone. I would love to thank personally that special person that helped me with my account. I am so thankful and I just want to say God bless you always," the recipient wrote.
A St. Bede's member said that the church's effort of aiding families with medical debt is "in tune" with their mission.
"It's great to know that we do more with our donations than just serve our own church - we reach out to our local community and all over the world. In a time when so many are struggling with medical concerns and costs, this partnership with RIP Medical Debt seems so in tune with our mission to "Celebrate God's Love for All," the congregant stated.
The church hopes that other institutions would also join the program to relieve low-income households from medical debt.
St. Bede's revealed that it sets aside 10% of the donations it receives for outreach activities.
It has several other programs to help the community, including Little Free Food Pantry, "Girls Inc." for expansion services, "Many Mothers" for hiring Spanish-speaking staff, a charitable healthcare institution called "Ahli Arab Hospital" in Gaza City, the leadership program "Tomorrow's Women" and the scholarship initiative "New Mexico Center for Therapeutic Riding."
The congregation also donates to Santa Fe Indigenous Center and The Interfaith Shelter. Moreover, it was able to fund and build 20 houses in Juarez, Mexico.