From The New Yorker Radio Hour.  LISTEN NOW

“Nearly one in ten Americans owe significant medical debt, a burden that can become crippling as living costs and interest rates rise. Over the past decade, a nonprofit called RIP Medical Debt has designed a novel approach to chip away at this problem. The organization solicits donations to purchase portfolios of medical debt on the debt market, where the debt trades at steeply discounted prices. Then, instead of attempting to collect on it as a normal buyer would, they forgive the debt. The staff writer Sheelah Kolhatkar reports on one North Carolina church that partnered with RIP Medical Debt as part of its charitable mission. Trinity Moravian Church collected around fifteen thousand dollars in contributions to acquire and forgive over four million dollars of debt in their community. “We have undertaken a number of projects in the past but there’s never been anything quite like this,” the Reverend John Jackman tells Kolhatkar. “For families that we know cannot deal with these things, we’re taking the weight off of them.” Kolhatkar also speaks with Allison Sesso, the C.E.O. of RIP Medical Debt, about the strange economics of debt that make this possible.”