In March, Covenant announced that we had made a $100,000 donation that would be used to relieve $10 million worth of secondary medical debt for the poorest households in Travis County and surrounding Austin suburbs. To date, that donation has been used to relieve nearly $8 million of medical debt.
As reported, Covenant did this through RIP Medical Debt, a non-profit organization that purchases medical debt that has gone into collection. This type of debt is sold for pennies on the dollar: a $1 purchase will relieve $100 dollars of debt. Instead of collecting on that debt, RIP Medical forgives it. Covenant’s donation of $100K can forgive as much as $10 million dollars of medical debt.
Thus far, our donation has relieved the debt for 3,039 households in and around Austin. In Travis County, we’ve helped 1,705 households and in the surrounding counties, 1,334 households have had their medical debt erased.
While the COVID-19 quarantine has made it difficult to hear from the recipients, Covenant Pastor Thomas Daniel said that the emails he’s received have been of disbelief. “’Is it real?’ is the question several recipients have asked,” Thomas said.
He continued, “God has allowed us to make a significant impact on thousands of families throughout Central Texas. It is humbling to see how our congregation is serving our neighbors in the midst of a global health crisis.”
At the end of 2019, Covenant had a budget surplus. The church funneled $100,000 to our mission committee. Covenant’s Mission Director, Whitney Bell, said her team started researching the best way to use the budget surplus and discovered RIP Medical Debt.
The team learned that Travis County’s most needy households were holding about $10 million of the area’s medical debt that was qualified to receive help from RIP Medical Debt, based on the non-profit’s criteria for distribution.
“This money helps the poorest of the poor,” Whitney said. “These are people who have to make decisions whether to pay for their medical bills or pay their rent. Medical debt is never a result of a bad choice; it’s the result of an emergency. And it can haunt folks for a long time. To be able to abolish that points directly to the call of Christ to love our neighbor.”
The remainder of the money will go toward more medical debt in the area, as those needs are reported to the RIP Medical Debt organization.
“In this time of uncertainty, we are still fulfilling our mission to follow Jesus wherever we live, work and play,” Thomas said.
See an earlier article in the Austin American Statesman. Read Covenant's announcement here.
More about RIP Medical Debt
RIP Medical Debt was started in 2014 by two collectors who didn’t like their jobs and wanted to do something good. Statistics show that 66 percent of all bankruptcies are related to medical debt and 25 percent of credit card debt is medical. Armed with the knowledge gained from their jobs and knowing the toll medical bills take on the nation’s poor, they launched RIP Medical Debt. One hundred percent of all donations to RIP go toward the medical debt of the country’s poorest people. Find the answers to your questions about how RIP distributes funds, who gets them and more in the organization's FAQ.