Letter: Medical debt wasn't a choice for them, but forgiving it is a choice for us is a group of 20 churches who have pooled money to settle families’ medical debt for pennies on the dollar.

Letter to the editor FSA

Medical debt is a crisis for many families with financial hardship in our country. These families didn’t choose to take on medical debt and have their credit score plummet. They didn’t wake up one day an decide to have a heart attack, receive a cancer diagnosis or get a required treatment for a medical situation.

Sources, including The Kaiser Foundation/Health and others, estimate that Americans owe nearly $195 billion in medical debt. They also report that 66% of all bankruptcies are tied to medical debt. Fifty percent of Americans can’t afford a $400 emergency medical bill and 60% of insured families will deplete most or all of their savings to pay medical bills. The numbers go on and on, but most disturbing is that experts also say many financial hardship families are more afraid of medical debt than the illness.

This is a desperate situation for these families, but there is some hope. In 2014, two debt collectors, with a combined 70 years of experience, formed a 501c3 charity, RIP Medical Debt. With donor gifts, they were able to purchase pools of discounted medical debt for pennies on the dollar and notify families that their debt has been forgiven, tax free, thereby restoring their credit and ability to buy basics. It took nearly four years to get the word out and gain traction, and in 2019 they forgave their first billion dollars. In 2020, RIP obtained an HHS OIG Advisory Opinion to purchase debt direct from health care providers and forgive debt. This success encouraged MacKenzie Scott to give $50 million, unrestricted, for RIP operations in December 2020. Today RIP Medical Debt has forgiven $8.5 billion for 5.5 million families across the US.

In late 2019, we were inspired to connect with RIP and see if there was a mission opportunity to help our neighbors. Over the next year, several churches in Minnesota successfully provided gifts through RIP and forgave medical debt. In 2021, we saw an opportunity to bring faith communities together and form THEE Alliance Forgiving Medical Debt in MN & Upper Midwest. Our goal was to bring awareness of the RIP opportunity, leverage our experiences and have our members forgive $100 million for 50,000 families.

Today, the 20 members of THEE Alliance have, collectively, forgiven almost $50 million of medical debt for nearly 50,000 financial hardship families in 43 states. We are always in contact with interested faith communities for questions and wanting to join us. We feel that our inspired dream of a couple years ago, to forgive $100 million for these families, is closer than we ever imagined.


Alliance members:

  • Lord of Life Lutheran – Maple Grove
  • First Congregational UCC – Winona
  • Grace Presbyterian Church – Winona
  • Central Lutheran – Winona
  • Cedar Valley Lutheran – Winona
  • Lutheran Campus Center – Winona
  • St. Anthony Park UCC – St. Paul
  • Falcon Heights UCC – Falcon Heights
  • Woodbury Lutheran – Woodbury
  • Trinity Lutheran – North Branch
  • St. Andrew Lutheran – Eden Prairie
  • Gethsemane Lutheran – Hopkins
  • St. Michael Lutheran – Roseville
  • Word of Peace Lutheran – Rogers
  • Advent Lutheran – Maple Grove
  • Christ Lutheran – Preston
  • Zion Lutheran – Anoka
  • Wesley United Methodist – Winona
  • St. Barnabas Lutheran – Plymouth
  • St. Joseph the Worker Catholic – Maple Grove

Skip Lieser is the lead adviser with

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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