DC-area church members help write off $ 9 million in medical debt
Members of eight United Church of Christ (UCC) congregations in and around the District of Columbia have enough money to write off $ 9 million in medical debt for people in four states. More than 7,800 families in Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and New Jersey will benefit from the fundraiser, church officials said Tuesday.
Because collection agencies will accept deep discounts to write off growing medical bills, the more than $ 65,000 donated by 92 UCC members will effectively wipe over $ 9 million in overdue bills, officials said. ‘UCC.
Church officials have noted that the significant debt relief comes from a “1 to 100” ratio of donation purchases to debt. Long overdue medical bills are often sold to collection agencies at very steep discounts. Businesses will take pennies on the dollar to clear the slate, providing quick profits for bill collectors.
While the 7,800 households receiving funds will soon receive letters from the nonprofit group RIP Medical Debt indicating that their bills are paid – in envelopes bearing the church logo – the church will not know the names of the beneficiaries. specific. However, each family will know which UCC congregations have helped pay down their debt.
The Reverend Tim Tutt, senior minister for the Westmoreland Congregational UCC in Bethesda, Maryland, said the pandemic is prompting members to help others.
“I am very proud that this network of UCC churches has come together during the pandemic to help alleviate the medical debt of our neighbors,” he said in a statement. “In a time when people were isolated, trapped and frightened, we reached out with communal dollars to care for the vulnerable and at risk. “
Donations came from Christ Congregational UCC, Silver Spring, Maryland; Cleveland Park Congregational UCC, Washington; First Congregation UCC, Washington; Hope UCC, Alexandria, Virginia; Little River UCC, Annandale, Virginia; Rock Spring Congregational UCC, Arlington, Virginia; Seneca Valley UCC, Gaithersburg, Maryland; the Potomac Association Justice and Witness Committee at the UCC Central Atlantic Conference; and a Cleveland-based national UCC ministry, justice ministries and local churches.
“Our church was thrilled to participate,” Reverend Ellen Jennings, pastor of the Cleveland Park congregation, said in a statement. “This is a huge justice issue for so many people, especially those with low incomes, who are not eligible for Medicaid or Medicare.”
Those eligible for debt relief earned less than twice the federal poverty level, suffered financial hardship, or faced insolvency with debts greater than their assets.
“Jesus healed the people,” Mr. Tutt said. “Helping pay off the medical debts of those in need is one way for us as Christians as UCC’ers, can follow the way of Jesus. Paying off medical debt helps relieve financial, emotional, and mental pain. It is healing.
The United Church of Christ is renowned for its progressive spirit among its more than 800,000 members. The group says it was the first main Protestant denomination to ordain a female minister and the first to ordain an openly gay man into pastorate.