Editorial: Church debt relief divine

Health and finance experts agree – medical issues and resulting debt are a leading cause of personal bankruptcies in the United States. And that was before the coronavirus pandemic, when medical debt spiked as millions of workers lost not only their jobs but also their employee-sponsored health insurance.

Fortunately, there are charitable organizations in New Mexico that are helping, like St. Bede’s Episcopal Church in Santa Fe. As part of its mission, St. Bede’s used donations and nonprofit expertise to pay off medical debt for 234 New Mexicans and 548 others in Arizona.

To magnify the amount of debt relief, the church donated $15,000 to RIP Medical Debt, a New York nonprofit that buys outstanding medical debt in bulk. RIP pays off about 1 cent of every dollar of debt purchased instead of trying to collect it. In one fell swoop, 234 New Mexicans were relieved of more than $447,000 worth of medical debt.

The Rev. M. Catherine Volland says the church recognizes medical bills can quickly become overwhelming and a barrier. According to a survey published in 2020 by Salary Finance, almost a third of working Americans have some kind of medical debt and about 28% of those owe $10,000 or more. Crippling debt is hardly the American Dream.

Volland says the aim is to stop medical debt from accumulating with affordable medical rates and insurance. “But, until we get there, we want to help people so that medical debt doesn’t follow them forever,” she told the Journal.

RIP Medical Debt spokesman Daniel Lempert says there’s “a kind of spiritual element for a lot of people” when they’re told their debt relief was a result of a church donation. The parishioners of St. Bede’s should be proud of what they’ve done to dig hundreds of people out of debt. It was divine intervention, indeed.

Well done, St. Bede’s.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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