It will be a very Merry Christmas for more than five-thousand families in the Los Angeles area this year. Christian Assembly Church in Eagle Rock announced this week’s letters have been mailed to the poor in 28 communities. The notifications are informing people their medical debt has been paid.
Pastor Tom Hughes said the church partnered with the non-profit RIP Medical Debt. RIP is a national organization that bundles unpaid medical debt and allows groups like Christian Assembly to buy that debt.
Hughes said, “Medical debt is crushing weight on people in the most challenging time of their life. In fact, 60-percent of people who file bankruptcy do so because of medical debt. It is one of the leading causes of homelessness.”
Church members were able to collect $50,000 in 2019 but were unsure how they would use the monies. A big reveal is planned in time for Christmas church services.
“You may be thinking if they had medical insurance they wouldn’t be having this problem but 75-percent of the people who have experienced this did have medical insurance by the disease or injury that weighted them down with these medical bills,” said Hughes.
Christian Assembly was able to purchase the $5.3 million in debt for one penny per dollar. Hughes said his church is going one step further than just paying off the debt for the poor they helped.
“We are going to help these families work with the credit agencies and repair their credit scores,” said Hughes. “All 5,555 households will be receiving this week the letters stating their medical debt has been canceled with no strings attached because of the generosity of the members of the Christian Assembly.”
The mission of RIP which was founded in 2014 by two former debt collector executives Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton is to empower donors to forgive billions in oppressive medical debt across America. RIP is able to erase $10-thousand in medical debt for every $100 donated.
Due to health privacy laws, the names of those receiving the letters from the Christian Assembly will remain private.
On social media, the public is responding with praise for the church.
“I am not a member of your church or a recipient of your gift for medical debt,” wrote Arturo Nunez on the church’s Facebook page. “I thank you for who you help. It is a very Christian act, God bless the church.”
“So thankful to be a part,” wrote Deanna Fintz from Los Angeles.
“You and your congregation are what make this world so much better,” wrote Toni Marsteller from Riverside, California.
Hughes noted the letter is just a notification however, if someone lost the letter or threw it away, their debt is still forgiven.
“All of this is being done in Jesus’s name. The letter will also state that this is simply being done because of the generosity of our God and the compassion and mercy he has shown us,” said Hughes. “Merry Christmas, Jesus loves you and so do we.”
If you received the gift of medical debt forgiveness from the Christian Assembly in Eagle Rock and would like to share your story contact reporter Michelle Mears at the California Globe.