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The charity eradicating medical debt

Nonprofit charity R.I.P. Medical Debt, which buys and absolves people’s health care debt in bulk, has wiped away $700 million since its inception in 2014 — and that number should hit $1 billion later this year, co-founders Jerry Ashton and Craig Antico told me.

How it works: R.I.P. Medical Debt rose to fame in 2016 after it helped comedian John Oliver forgive $15 million of medical debt.

  • Hospitals pursue patients' bills, occasionally threatening legal action, but if they think it's a lost cause, they sell the uncollected debt to debt buyers for pennies on the dollar.
  • Debt buyers become the new collectors, and they "get very aggressive," said Ashton, who used to work in the bill collections industry but now calls himself a "predatory giver."
  • R.I.P. Medical Debt jumps in and buys the debt from the debt buyers using donated funds, and immediately abolishes the debt.
  • The organization focuses on the poor: debtors have to earn less than twice the federal poverty level, are insolvent, or have medical debt that makes up at least 5% of their annual income.

What they're saying: "There's no such thing as great health insurance," Ashton said. "If you and I think this paper-thin safety net of insurance is going to save us, that's not going to be the case."

Go deeper: "A drop in the bucket" of medical debt