RIP Medical Debt

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Roxbury Congregational Church joined with 121 other churches to abolish $26.2 million in medical debt for New Englanders and first responders

Roxbury Church was one of 122 United Church of Christ congregations, four Associations, and more than 100 households in the Southern New England Conference that worked together to abolish $26.2 million in medical debt for those most in need. Families in seven states plus first responders around the country will soon be receiving letters telling them that their medical debt has been forgiven.

At an Oct. 25 news conference, local, regional and national UCC leaders announced that a Conference-wide fundraising campaign in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, birthed before the pandemic, along with a contribution from a national ministry of the UCC, raised over $200,000. The gifts were sent to the New York-based nonprofit RIP Medical Debt.

A yellow envelope bearing a UCC logo is on the way to each benefiting family, with a letter naming contributing congregations and organizations. It reads: “You may never enter the doors of one of our churches, but we are the United Church of Christ and we love you. … Most importantly, you are beloved by God and your debt has been forgiven.” 

We had a special collection in the spring for this effort. "We are most grateful for the continued generousity of our congregation and its members, said Rev. David F. Peters, the church's pastor.

“Our scriptures call us to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, to let the oppressed go free,” said the Rev. Jocelyn Gardner Spencer, senior pastor of the United Church on the Green in New Haven, Conn. “In the midst of a pandemic that is disproportionately impacting communities of color, and with wide-spread unemployment causing people to lose their insurance just when they may need it most, eliminating medical debt for vulnerable individuals and families is a tangible way in which we are responding to our call to make God's love and justice real.”

The debts were forgiven in two separate buys. The first wiped out $8.4 million in debt for 7,175 households in the six New England states and New York - all of the debt available in the secondary debt market i the region at the time of the buy. The second wiped out $17.8 million in debt for 12,144 health care workers and first responders across the United States.

Specific criteria were used in both debt buys. Qualifying debtors were those earning less than two times the federal poverty level; in financial hardship, with out-of-pocket expenses that are 5 percent or more of their annual income; or facing insolvency, with debts greater than assets. 

 

If you wish to contribute to future medical debt forgiveness, please send your check made out to RCC with "Medical Debt" in the memo to the church.

 

Here is a piece written by the pastor in Bloomfield about the reaction he received: LINK

 

For more information about the ugly side of medical debt and whole idea of Medical Debt forgiveness please watch this episode from John Oliver's Last Week Tonight. Please forgive the tough language in a few parts. Be sure to watch to the end as John forgives medical debt.

© 2020 Roxbury Congregational Church, UCC
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