A Seymour church has raised enough money to help wipe out $7.1 million in personal medical debt in Jackson and surrounding counties.
The Point recently partnered with New York-based nonprofit RIP Medical Debt to make a difference in local residents’ lives who have struggled to pay their bills.
Over the next few months, thousands of people in Jackson, Jennings and Bartholomew counties will receive letters in the mail stating their medical debt has been paid by The Point and has been removed from their credit history.
RIP works with third-party credit data providers to search and bundle debt portfolios. Once the organization locates accounts meeting criteria for financial relief, it negotiates to buy portfolios at a steep discount. Eligible accounts have passed through several collection agencies after months or years of collection attempts.
RIP offers to purchase these accounts for an average cost of a penny on the dollar. The organization has abolished $715 million in medical debt for about 250,000 Americans since 2014.
Steve Greene, pastor at The Point, and Jeff Lewellyn, ministries director, both had heard about RIP Medical Debt and its work with churches in Evansville and Indianapolis and decided to look into the process.
While discussing the church’s September sermon and worship series called “FOR Seymour,” the two decided they needed to make RIP a part of it.
“The bottom line is that people have known for years what the church is against. We wanted to communicate what we’re for. This series was all about being for our community,” Greene said.
“We feel like by showing someone we’re for them, it’s a shorter step to show them God’s for them,” he added. “We felt like that this was a tangible way to do that.”
The Point set a goal to raise $17,000 to help eliminate $1.7 million in debt in Seymour. Any remaining donations would be used to help erase medical debt in Jackson County and then would be expanded to surrounding counties.
The Point crushed its donation goals by raising $50,252 as of Tuesday. The amount was announced during a Facebook Live session Wednesday.
That money will help pay off the $2.7 million in qualifying medical debt in Jackson County, $1.3 million in Jennings County and $3.1 million in Bartholomew County.
There are three different types of people that qualified for the assistance: Individuals earning less than two times the federal poverty level, those in financial hardship (out-of-pocket expenses 5% or more of their annual income) and people facing insolvency, where their debts are greater than their assets.
In total, 1,500 people in Jackson County and 650 in Jennings County will have their medical debt erased.
“It just snowballed. We knew that going in, it would require $27,000 to do (Jackson) county as a whole,” Greene said. “We’ve expanded that and taken on Jennings County and are a third of the way into Bartholomew.”
Should The Point raise enough funds, it could clear medical debt for 3,950 people between the three counties.
Greene said most of the debt will be paid off by Thanksgiving. The Point will not know the names of people whose debt has been paid.
Many youth in the church and some local businesses helped with the fundraiser. Greene said he was surprised by the amount of support and attention the idea generated.
“I think it’s a greatly humanitarian, loving, kind and gracious thing,” he said. “I don’t think I was prepared with how this struck a cord with people. I heard from people of all ages and stages of life. I love that it has really impacted people. I feel like it has really touched their hearts.”
He believes the money will help change many lives.
“Your credit score can have such a big effect on a person’s life,” Greene said. “Your ability to rent or buy a home, get insurance, buy a car, there are so many things affected. With that medical debt hanging over their head, it was unlikely to improve.”