Medical debt is a part of life. However, the burden of medical debt in America has grown significantly and communities must address the problem.
According to The Motley Fool, nearly 1 in 5 Americans has past-due medical debt. A 2019 CNBC article reported that health care bills are the top reason for people to withdraw money from their retirement accounts or to file for bankruptcy. The burden of medical debt is hurting people’s financial health and their ability to have sound future.
Many solutions to pressing problems come from the private sector, rather than from the government. Reportedly, a church in Chicago collaborated with a New York-based charitable organization named RIP Medical Debt to help erase the medical debt of close to six thousand families in the city. The not-for-profit organization, founded in 2014, is known for using donors’ funds to buy up people’s medical debt at a fraction of the total sum of the debt, and forgiving it. It has been reported that every dollar donated could wipe out $100 in medical debt. Similarly, churches in Arizona, Iowa, Wyoming, Texas, and other states have raised funds and worked with the not-for-profit entity to help forgive millions of dollars in medical debt.
The burden of medical debt and related actions such negative credit reporting and collection efforts could prevent people from getting approved for mortgage for a house or a loan to buy a car, stop them from investing in educational opportunities, limit their ability to save money for unforeseen circumstances, and more. Particularly, at a time when people are struggling due to the financial challenges related to the pandemic, the burden of medical debt could be more painful than ever before.
Helping Americans become medical debt-free is a noble mission. I am glad to see that there is an effort, through the involvement of community-oriented and faith-based organizations, to help erase medical debt from the lives of people facing financial difficulties. More communities around the country should explore options to cancel burdensome medical debt for Americans in need.