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Two Dioceses, One Mission: Erasing $3 million in medical debt

Churches in two Pennsylvania dioceses have raised $30,000 to eliminate $3 million in medical debt, celebrating the achievement with a symbolic burning of medical bills.

The initiative, supported by the Help, Healing and Hope initiative and RIP Medical Debt, assists Pennsylvanians burdened by medical expenses. It was inspired by a personal medical crisis within a clergy family, highlighting the challenge of medical debt in the U.S., where it comprises half of all bills in collection.

The effort reflects a commitment to alleviate suffering and promote community well-being.

Episcopal News Service:

During an Evensong service at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, the two bishops joined the congregation as sheets of paper representing medical bills were set aflame in a metal bucket.

“Things like taking care of medical debts … is not merely social work, it’s the work of God,” the Rev. David Zwifka, St. Luke’s rector, said in his sermon. People are liberated when the crush of medical debt is removed from their lives, he said, calling this “the very work of Jesus.”

The dioceses were able to alleviate the burden of medical debt in their communities through RIP Medical Debt, a charity that has partnered with numerous Episcopal churches in recent years. It buys outstanding medical debts from collection agencies for pennies on the dollar and helps people and organizations pay off the debts through donations.

Read the full article.

Key Points

  • Two Pennsylvania dioceses raised $30,000 to eliminate $3 million in medical debt.
  • The effort was inspired by a clergy family’s medical crisis and the broader issue of medical debt in the U.S.
  • The initiative collaborates with RIP Medical Debt, focusing on aiding low-income individuals with medical bills.
Theme Pros Cons
Community Support Demonstrates the church’s role in addressing societal issues beyond spiritual guidance. Requires significant fundraising efforts and resources.
Debt Relief Alleviates financial and emotional stress for individuals. It may not address the systemic issues causing medical debt.
Collaboration Encourages partnerships between dioceses and charities. Limited impact relative to the scale of national debt.

Questions to Consider

  1. What systemic changes could further alleviate the burden of medical debt?
  2. How can other communities replicate this initiative’s success?
  3. What role should religious organizations play in addressing economic inequalities?

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