RIP Medical Debt sends surprise letters to clear people’s medical debt

Americans owed at least $195 billion in medical debt. This is despite the fact that more than 90% of the population has health insurance coverage, according to a March study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

RIP medical debt tries to relieve Americans of this burden. The non-profit organization reimburses medical bills for those who need it most.

The charity is looking for households with incomes below twice the federal poverty level, which is $13,590 for 2022, or who have medical debt of at least 5% of their gross income.

RIP Medical Debt uses “accurate data analytics to identify the medical debt of those most in need of relief”, according to the charity’s website. Once it has paid off their debts, the organization then sends a surprise letter in the mail notifying individuals that their medical debt has been cleared.

Since the charity’s inception in 2014, it has helped pay off nearly $7 billion in medical debt so far, helping more than 3.6 million families, says Allison Sesso, President and CEO of RIP Medical Debt. In a high-profile sweep in 2016, late-night host John Oliver purchased nearly $15 million in medical debt as part of a “Last Week Tonight” segment on the debt-buying industry, then donated it to the organization.

Despite the association’s great victories, there is still much to do. Medical debt is so common, “I’m doing everything I can to shout about it from the rooftops and make sure we’re doing something consistently about it,” Sesso says.

A charity that acts as a collection agent

To help clear people’s medical debt, RIP Medical Debt acts as a debt collector, buying bundled portfolios of debt for pennies on the dollar. However, instead of collecting the debt, the charity is repaying it for patients using funds others have donated to the cause.

It works because “debt buyers essentially realize that if they buy a bad debt portfolio, there’s only a small percentage that they’ll recover,” Sesso said. “They’ll try to get it back using various tactics, like putting medical debt on credit reports or calling people incessantly.”

Since medical debt is so difficult to collect, it’s cheap to buy in bulk, she explains.

“Don’t Blindly Pay the Bill”

Even if you are not lucky enough to receive a letter from RIP Medical Debt, you can always negotiate your medical debt.

If you have an unpaid bill, “don’t just blindly pay the bill. Don’t put it on a credit card. Don’t just take it at face value for what it’s worth,” Sesso says.

Instead, “I know it’s hard, but try to navigate a hospital’s charitable care policy,” she suggests. If you don’t have Medicaid or a federal government grant, “talk to your insurance company and explain your situation.” Try to negotiate and see if they’ll agree to less than what you owe, she says.

Get an itemized bill from the doctor or hospital to make sure you’re not being billed for anything you don’t owe, experts recommend. Another way to see if you’re being charged a fair amount is to use the fairhealthconsumer.org website, a non-profit organization that collects what insurance companies pay in communities across the country. Marshal Allenauthor of “Never pay the first bill“said Grow in September.

And remember: Having medical debt “isn’t a personal failure,” Sesso says. “Tell your story, talk to other people. You’d be surprised how many other people have similar stories. You’ll feel relieved of the mental anguish of feeling like you’ve done something wrong. “, she says.

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John A. Bogar