We Shouldn’t Have to Do This, But Here’s How to Relieve Someone’s Medical Debt

One of the clearest signs that the United States has a wholly inadequate health care system is the large number of Americans devastated by medical debt. Seventy-nine million American adults actively owe money on medical bills, and more than half†of the people who file for bankruptcy in this country do so over medical debt.

Ideally, the U.S. would follow the lead of so many other prosperous nations and make medical coverage a right, thereby sparing people from lifelong financial hardship just because they happened to get sick or injured and couldnít afford to pay their wildly unaffordable bills. However, the current system is far from ideal, so what do we do to alleviate the problems in the meantime?

RIP Medical Debt is doing its darnedest to help people overwhelmed by hospital bills stay afloat. The charity buys up medical debt from institutions in the same way that any debt collecting agency might Ė but instead of proceeding to hound the debtors with threatening phone calls, they simply forgive the debts.

Because companies are able to purchase medical debt for such a small fraction of what the debt is worth Ė often for just a penny or less on the dollar Ė itís an especially effective tactic. RIP Medical Debt has been able to wipe out over half a million in medical debt for roughly 60,000 Americans without spending anywhere close to that amount.

The New York Times recently did a story on two women from Ithaca, New York who raised $12,500 on behalf of RIP Medical Debt and successfully eliminated $1.5 million in debts.

All of this begs an obvious question: If medical companies are willing to part with the debt their owed for that cheap, why donít they offer it to the patients at that rate? Because thatís not how this evil, for-profit system works, unfortunately! However, so long as the system can be exploited, we ought to be mutually snatching up debt to let Americans off the hook.

There are some catches: when purchasing debt in this manner, you canít buy specific debt. In fact, you donít find out who owes the money until after paying for it. As such, the benefactors of this charity are pretty much random.

RIP Medical Debt does take some steps to ensure that people in need are the ones benefiting. It specifically looks to forgive the debts of people whose debts are greater than their assets and that have income less than twice the federal poverty level. Generally speaking, though, if these debts are going to a collection agency, itís because the debtors are struggling to pay.

The charityís founders, Jerry Ashton and Craig Antico are former debt collectors themselves who were inspired by an old Occupy Wall Street movement the Rolling Jubilee that similarly bought up and forgave old debts. Ashton and Antico recognized how much more fulfilling it is to eliminate debt rather than to harass people for owed money and decided to engage in this on their own.

You can donate to RIP Medical Debt here in order to help get sick people out of debt thatís hardly their fault. With Americans facing an estimated $1 trillion in debt, itís not as if this charity will be able to fix the problem singlehandedly, but it will make a huge difference in the lives of people who randomly have their debt purchased.

45 comments

Helen C
Helen C25 days ago

Good idea, helping each other

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 months ago

Brian F. I just wish a laugh button was offered! ObamaCare, the ACA, was passed with not even a single Republican vote! So how is it a “Republican healthcare plan”?

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 months ago

Wasn’t ObamaCare supposed to fix this problem? Instead, it just forced everyone to buy health insurance that pays next to nothing. So now we have the expense of health care and on top of that, the expense of health insurance!

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Ann B
Ann B2 months ago

our answer is to move out of Illinois

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Bonnie Lynn M
Bonnie Lynn M2 months ago

Thanks. I just made a small contribution. Wish it could be more. I'll try to send more in the future. Under current circumstances it's a great idea.

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson2 months ago

Thank you.

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson2 months ago

Thank you.

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Sherri S
Sherri S2 months ago

I have astronomical medical bills because I was attacked by a pitbull whose owner has no job no home....nothing. Because she’s a scumbag if your dog was out-of-control I’m left in debt. There needs to be some better laws to protect innocent people when things like this happen to them.

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Brian F
Brian F2 months ago

Annabel Bedini This is why we can't fix the ACA as Elizabeth Warren and many Democrats want to do. The ACA is a horrible Republican healthcare plan that gives far too much control to our criminal healthcare industry. We are the only industrialized country that has this horrible for profit healthcare system that only cares about money. This is why we need Medicare for all, which 70% of Americans support.

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini2 months ago

Ruth G
Yes, and as we have said on other streams, free health care for everyone is the norm in all European countries. We pay for it with our taxes, yes, but who wouldn't be willing to pay a steady, fixed tax when employed, shared between the employer and the employee, in return for life-long universal health care with no bills to pay? The situation in the United States looks completely outrageous when we know it does not need to be like this.

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