Half A Million Dollars in Medical Debt Wiped Out!

On Sunday, September 18, Pastor John Jackman announced that the Debt Jubilee Campaign of Trinity Moravian Church had successfully raised enough money to purchase and forgive just over $500,000 in medical debt owed by individuals in Forsyth County, North Carolina. The campaign, originally scheduled to run through the end of October, was concluded early after only six weeks of fundraising.

“This has been an amazing experience,” said Pastor Jackman. “Everyone I have told about the program has a story to tell — either someone in their family or a close friend who has been crippled by unexpected medical debt. I have to hear their story, and then they make a donation.”

According to Rihanna Joseph, Development Officer at RIP Medical Debt, the process of actually purchasing the debt has commenced; upon receipt of official confirmation of the debts and forgiveness, the church plans to symbolically burn a list of the forgiven debts in a special service. “It’s like a real-world parable of how God forgives our debts, said Pastor Jackman.

How is it possible for an average sized congregation to make this big a difference? Trinity has partnered with RIP Medical Debt, a highly-rated nonprofit in New York, which was started by two executives who worked in the area of debt factoring. As experts in the field of the resale of debt, RIPMD is able to purchase “aged” medical debt (debts which have not been successfully collected for a period of time) for literally a penny on the dollar. In this process, called “factoring,” the debt holder can receive a small amount and write off the debt; usually a third party debt collection agency purchases the debt, and then has the right to collect the full amount if they can, often using aggressive measures. In this case, however, Trinity and RIP Medical Debt use the system to do good: instead of collecting, they forgive the debt. Each debtor will receive and official letter indicating that their medical debt has been forgiven, and is wiped off their credit report. Trinity Moravian Church has had a campaign to raise $5,000 in cash, which will be used to purchase the factored debt.

But this is not the end of the Debt Jubilee Project! The next target is Davidson County, where there is an estimated $4.7 million dollars in unpaid medical debt available for purchase on the secondary market. According to Pastor Jackman, the project will be partnering with other churches and groups to raise the money to purchase and forgive that debt. The Moravian Ministries Foundation has already provided a matching grant of $2,500 to match the initial donations.

For more information about the Debt Jubilee Project, the latest news on medical debt issues and health care issues in North Carolina, visit https://debtjubileeproject.org. Organizations that wish to partner with the Jubilee Project may visit “Partner With Us” on the website.

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