RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (CBS Local) — A church in central Arkansas has just paid off more than $3 million of medical debt for 1,589 of its neighbors.
“It’s one thing to communicate to you ‘we love you’ to a community. It’s another to demonstrate,” Chris Abington, senior pastor at City Church in Russellville, told CBS affiliate KTHV on Monday. “And Jesus always demonstrated it first.”
The City Church pastors say they borrowed an idea from a church in Kansas that paid off medical debts for those least able to afford their bills.
They worked with RIP Medical Debt, a non-profit based in Rye, New York, that specializes in finding people who need the most help and paying collection agencies to forgive their debt.
On average, RIP Medical Debt buys its debt for one percent of its value because the collection agencies are willing to take whatever compensation they can get.
An Arkansas church paid off $3 million in medical debt for people in its communityhttps://t.co/qFc2hArfru
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To cover the 1,398 people in Pope County who met its criteria, RIP Medical Debt said City Church would need to pay $26,000.
“I think medical debt is different than any other debt, let’s say, like credit card debt I’ve accumulated,” Abington explained. “Medical debt, you don’t ask for that. It’s not like I decided, oh, great, I’m gonna go to the ER. Like, I’d love a trip to the ER!”
In addition to those 1,398 debtors in Pope County, the medical debt was erased for 133 people in Johnson County and 58 in Conway County. In total, $3,014,966 in debt was eliminated.
Due to patient privacy laws, the pastors have no idea which families they helped.
“I think It’s great, because I don’t want to know,”church paid off $3 million in medical debt for people in its community Abington stated. “It’s impacting people in this city, which we live in, we work in, we love. So, if it’s impacting people in our city, I’m for it.”