A church located in Central Florida raised funds to wipe out approximately $7.2 million in medical debts for residents of four counties who are living at the poverty level. Soon, 6,500 families will receive letters advising them they no longer owe the crippling debts.
“It’s one thing for us to say, ‘God loves you,’” Stetson Baptist Church Senior Pastor Dan Glenn told the Orlando Sentinel. “It’s another for us to show that.”
Due to how the church, located in DeLand, Florida, runs its fiscal year, 53 Sundays fell into the budget instead of the normal 52. Leaders of the church decided to use the 53rd Sunday’s collection to raise money for a gift to the community.
What began as a modest effort to raise about $48,000, the congregation collected nearly $154,000. The plan calls for donating the funds to two charities. The donations will be made to One More Child, which services foster homes for children, and RIP Medical Debt, an organization that purchases medical debt from health care provides for approximately one penny on the dollar and then pays off the purchased debt with donations, the Sentinel reported.
Pastor Glenn’s plan was originally to provide money to cover one foster home for a year and pay off the medical debt for every Volusia County resident living near the poverty level. Instead, the efforts of his approximately 350 congregants will take the $153,867.19 raised and fund three foster homes and pay the medical debt for impoverished residents in Volusia and four surrounding counties, Glenn explained.
“It was awesome,” the pastor expressed. “I can’t wait for some of those families to receive a letter that says: ‘Your debt has been forgiven.’”
The Sentinel cited a study published by the American Journal of Public Health which reported that two-thirds of Americans who file bankruptcy do so because of overwhelming medical-related issues — even those with insurance. Many health care providers end up selling their unpaid receivables to collection agencies for pennies on the dollar. Those agencies then go after the debtor demanding full payment — plus interest and legal fees, the article reports.
“For the most part, hospitals don’t have the infrastructure to pursue the debt they have on the books,” RIP Medical Debt’s Communications Director Daniel Lempert told the local newspaper. “More and more they’re outsourcing it. Sometimes it gets sold several times before it comes to us. We only buy debt for those who are the least likely to be able to pay.”
RIP Medical Bills uses charitable donations to cover the purchased debt. Lempert said the $72,000 donated by the Stetson Baptist Church eliminated $7.2 million in actual medical debt.
While congregants of the DeLand church will likely never know who benefited from their gifts because of privacy rights, they will receive a report of the largest debt, the average debt per family, and how many families they helped, the article stated.
“I can’t even begin to imagine the impact this will have for people,” a proud Pastor Glenn concluded. “I don’t know what the rest of their life might be like. But what I do know is that, in this one area of significant burden, they’re going to be able to say: ‘I’m free.’”
Read more about the program at the Orlando Sentinel.
Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for the Breitbart Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Face