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Presbytery of Milwaukee extinguishes $1.9 million in medical debt

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Add the Presbytery of Milwaukee to the list of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mid councils and churches to help heal people by wiping away their medical debt.

The presbytery, a governing body for 41 churches in southeastern Wisconsin, launched a campaign to pay off $1 million in medical debt just a few weeks ago.

“We sent out the challenge in late September,” said Rachel Yates, Milwaukee Presbytery executive.  “Within weeks, we had enough donations from our congregations and members to wipe out about $1.9 million in debt, through RIP Medical Debt.  Though we will never know the names of those we helped, we are certain this will be a Thanksgiving to remember.”

The Presbytery of Milwaukee coordinated with the nonprofit organization RIP Medical Debt to make the dollars raised stretch as far as possible. RIP Medical Debt locates unpaid medical debt and then uses charitable donations to forgive old, outstanding debts for pennies on the dollar.

As the Rev. Michelle Henrichs explained, “Heritage [Presbyterian Church] had no idea something like this existed.  It was interesting to explain to [our members] how it works and why it can be settled at 10 cents on the dollar [or less].”

RIP Medical Debt was founded in 2014 by Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton, both former medical debt collectors. By drawing on funds from donors, such as the Presbytery of Milwaukee, RIP Medical Debt can purchase medical debt in bulk for pennies on the dollar.  RIP Medical Debt then amplifies donations in such a way that $1 given, on average, relieves $100 of medical debt.

Presbytery of Milwaukee is among the mid councils to have accepted the Matthew 25 invitation. Yates explained that, “this fall, Milwaukee Presbytery committed to explore the deep intersections of systemic poverty and structural racism and to take action for change. Wisconsin statistics show the devastating impacts of that disparity in access to quality, affordable health care for many who are poor or for people of color. By extinguishing this medical debt, we are trying to interrupt the cycle.”

The presbytery received individual and organization donations totaling over $19,000 from individual donors and Apostle Presbyterian Church (West Allis), Apostle Presbyterian Women (West Allis), Covenant Presbyterian Church (Racine), Heritage Presbyterian Church (Muskego), Faith Presbyterian Church (Franklin), Faith Springs Presbyterian Church(Pewaukee), First Presbyterian Church (Waukesha), Forest Park Presbyterian Church (New Berlin), Immanuel Presbyterian Church (Milwaukee), Jerusalem Presbyterian Church (Wales), Presbytery of Milwaukee Council, United Church of Beloit, and West Granville Presbyterian Church (Milwaukee). With help from the expertise provided by RIP Medical Debt, these donors will eradicate more than $1.9 million in medical debt.

by Presbytery of Milwaukee, special to Presbyterian News Service