BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — A number of United Church of Christ congregations across New England have teamed up with a New York based nonprofit to erase medical debt for local families.
The churches that participated include ones in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, along with four church associations and more than 100 households.
They joined with the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt, to erase a total of $26.2 million in medical debt for thousands of families across the Northeast and more than 12 thousand first responders and medical workers across the country.
According to Craig Antico, the co-founder of RIP Medical Debt, the money was able to eliminate debt for 4,969 people in Worcester County, totaling $3.81 million. The funds also went towards erasing debt for low income families in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.
The nonprofit purchased the debt for pennies on the dollar and negotiated with hospitals and medical care facilities to have the balances forgiven.
Antico, who used to work as a debt collector, said that the efforts to alleviate the debt for struggling families is "the greatest thing [he's] ever done."
"In the past I wouldn’t try to force a person that cant pay to pay, I was trying to help them pay," Antico said. "But I didn’t realize how stressful it was on them until I started forgiving debt."
In a statement, Rev. Jocelyn Gardner Spencer, senior pastor of the United Church on the Green in New Haven, Connecticut, said the fundraising efforts from the church are especially important during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In the midst of a pandemic that is disproportionately impacting communities of color and with widespread unemployment causing people to lose their insurance just when they may need it most, eliminating medical debt for vulnerable individuals and families is a tangible way in which we are responding to our call to make God’s love and justice real," Spencer said.
WBZ NewsRadio's Kim Tunnicliffe (@KimWBZ) reports.