Clearing debt in a world drowning in it

By Rev. Rick King

The Jublilee tradition in Judaism (see Leviticus 25:1-4, 8-10), carried forward by Jesus and our Christian tradition, is taking on new meaning in the U.S. amid a broken health care system and countless uninsured/underinsured people.

Even insured people can rack up thousands of dollars in medical debt—people such as William:

“Having been in the hospital 3 times in the last 12 months, I still have thousands in co-pays remaining. With high costs for medicine, it has been difficult to pay all of my medical bills. Thank you so very much.”

William’s words are addressed to RIP Medical Debt, a non-profit founded in 2014 that has cleared the medical debts of over 1.5 million people to the jaw-dropping tune of $2.5 billion.

Teaming up with SAPUCC

As many of you know, our church is teaming with St. Anthony Park UCC to work with RIP Medical Debt starting in January, enabling people to begin the new year free of the medical debt that has been weighing them down and making it difficult to live in normal circumstances, let alone in a pandemic.

People acquire medical debt in a variety of ways. Laura wrote RIP Medical Debt, saying, “We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for choosing my brother as a recipient of this debt relief. He was found unresponsive Thanksgiving morning and passed away. My mother started her stage 3 cancer treatment back in 2017 and the financial burden had been too much to bear. Receiving this letter [about the canceled debt] has lifted a weight from our obligation on behalf of my brother. After our mom’s extensive treatments she is cancer-free. Thank you again for such a wonderful gift.”

How it will work

Here are the nuts and bolts of our 2021 campaign with SAPUCC:

  • We’ve set as our goal to raise $15,000; 80 percent will go to debt forgiveness, 20 percent will go to operating expenses.
  • We have designated debt relief in four states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
  • Our campaign will run from Jan. 1 through Feb. 14, 2021.
  • You can make your gift directly through our church, either online or by check payable to FHC-UCC.

Pastor Victoria Wilgocki and Jason Mitchell of SAPUCC join Sara Wright and me in expressing our excitement at this initiative approved by our Outreach Ministry Team, endorsed by our Executive Board, as a mission tailored to our time and circumstances: a health crisis and the necessity of carrying it out largely online rather than in person.

More on this in the coming weeks. Thanks in advance for your compassion and generosity!

Editor’s note: You can donate to the medical debt campaign through our online giving portal, Select “RIP Medical Debt” as the fund to receive your gift.