Ada First United Methodist Church in Oklahoma is the most recent church body to jump on one of the coolest church trends in recent years. “Fancy leather jackets for the pastor?” No, the other cool trend. “Imagine Dragons songs during worship?” No, the other cool trend. You know, the one where churches partner with RIP Medical Debt to buy up tons of medical debt in the area for pennies on the dollar and then forgive it all.
It’s very cool. RIP Medical Debt is basically the good version of a loan shark. Where predatory businesses purchase medical debt on the cheap and then drive up interest rates, burdening people with ever-growing expenses, RIP Medical Debt buys it up and forgives it all, changing people’s lives at a cheap price.
The global pandemic certainly required us to adjust our initial goal,” Senior Pastor Brian Matthews told local news. “But even with that adjustment, we were able to forgive over $1 million more than we hoped. With RIP’s expertise, we were able to forgive roughly $380 in medical debt for every $1 donated.”
It’s a trend that started after John Oliver did a segment on medical debt for his Last Week Tonight show on HBO, highlighting the work RIP Medical Debt does. Several pastors saw the clip and realized that churches are uniquely equipped with lots of resources that makes partnering with RIP Medical Debt a snap, using tithes and offerings to change family’s lives. It’s happened in Chicago, Ohio, Texas, Kansas and Florida, among plenty of other places.
But the harvest is still huge. Medical debt is the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. but for 1,327 residents in Coal, Garvin, Hughes, Pontotoc and Seminole counties in Oklahoma, it won’t soon be the cause of theirs.