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Nonprofit targets Hartford for erasing medical debt

BY John Stearns

3/7/2018
NBC and Telemundo-owned Television Stations Group said they've donated $150,000 to a nonprofit that will locate, buy and forgive $15 million of medical debt owed by people in Hartford and 10 other U.S. markets.

RIP Medical Debt, which helps struggling families and individuals erase medical debt, said it can alleviate $100 of medical debt for every $1 donated. The debt is removed from credit reports and can no longer be collected on, it said.

Comedian and HBO host John Oliver used the New York-based nonprofit to forgive nearly $15 million in debt in 2016.

Founded by two former collections industry executives, RIP buys debt from medical providers and debt sellers on the debt market for pennies on the dollar and forgives it. It says it can forgive about $1 billion in debt for every $14.4 million it raises.

RIP said it has abolished $50 million in medical debt since its founding in 2014.

When identifying whose debt to abolish, RIP says it looks for individuals who either: make less than two times the federal poverty level; have medical debt that is 5 percent or more of their annual gross income; or those who are insolvent, with debts greater than their assets.

Using credit data, RIP said it determined the Hartford-New Haven area has 343,000 people who owe a combined $258 million in medical debt that's in collections, co-founder and CEO Craig Antico said in an email.

That's despite the area having one of the lowest uninsured rates in the country, he added.

About 13 percent of the 2.6 million people living in the two markets have medical debt on their credit report, versus 20 percent nationwide.

"It is still debilitating to those that do have the debt burden," Antico said. "One such account on their credit report for at least $100 can lower their credit rating by 30-100 points."

NBC and Telemundo-owned stations said they are preparing to report on medical debt, and will promote donations to RIP in the process.

Medical debt contributes to 60 percent of all bankruptcies in the U.S., RIP said.

Besides Hartford, the nonprofit will also target debt in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas/Fort Worth, the San Francisco Bay area, Washington D.C., Boston, Miami-Fort Lauderdale and San Diego.