A New Mexico Episcopal church says it paid off all available medical debt for the entire state of New Mexico and several Arizona counties.
St. Bede’s Episcopal Church, located in Santa Fe, gathered donations and partnered with RIP Medical, a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding families with medical debt whose incomes are less than twice the poverty level, to pay off $1,380,119.87 in medical debt for 782 households.
“I don’t know if this parish has ever funded a program with such a great impact. We were able to do it because every week we set aside 10 percent of donations to the church for outreach,” Rev. Catherine Volland said. “Prioritizing service to others is our gospel imperative.”
The church donated $15,000 to RIP Medical Debt, which, like a collection agency, buys debt for a fraction of the cost and then pays it off via donations. Each family whose medical bills are paid off receive a letter in the mail telling them they no longer owe money thanks to donations from places like St. Bede’s Episcopal Church.
RIP Medical Debt doesn’t require anything from the families in return. They have a “no strings attached” policy, and handle contacting the credit agencies to clear the family’s credit history.
The church’s partnership with RIP Medical Debt is part of their mission to serve the Santa Fe community, struggling families in the Southwest and reach out with love to the world.
“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,” one parishioner said. “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.’
Roughly 21 million Americans have $46 billion worth of medical debt. The pandemic placed a heavy and unexpected burden on many families as unemployment rates grew, meaning individuals were left to pay their medical bills on their own. Perhaps more churches or individuals should consider following St. Bede’s example of partnering with organizations to alleviate financial stress for their communities.