‘RIP Medical Debt’: Richmond organization raising money to help eliminate medical debt

A Richmond nonprofit is working to ensure millions of dollars in medical debt will be eliminated for people in more than a dozen counties.
Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 11:01 AM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A Richmond nonprofit is working to ensure millions of dollars in medical debt will be eliminated for people in more than a dozen counties.

“Our motto is that we are all connected,” said Executive Director of the Neighborhood Resource Center Breanne Armbrust. “We don’t believe that individuals should have to go into debt to get medical care. It is a system in the country that is broken. So we cannot fix that piece here at Neighborhood Resource Center. (NRC) can’t address it on a large scale, the systemic problems with health care. What we can do is help individuals with harm mitigation or harm reduction.”

The Neighborhood Resource Center on Williamsburg Road is an arts and cultural education center. It provides support in the areas of nutrition, education and community organizing.

Armbrust says it has the oldest financial opportunity center in the state of Virginia.

“We provide financial coaching, income support coaching and employment coaching to 100 members of that program and that includes one on one coaching and workshops,” Armbrust explained. “Of the 100 participants in our Financial Opportunity Center in the NRC Works Program, 98 of those individuals have medical debt.”

Medical debt is an issue that experts say can lead to emotional and financial distress for those dealing with it.

According to the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization, as of June 2022, the median medical debt in collections in the United States is $703.

NRC is working to fundraise to help the efforts of the non profit RIP Medical Debt. The goal of NRC’s fundraiser is $19,000. RIP Medical Debt has eliminated more than 8 billion dollars of medical debt for more than 5 million families, but says it has a long way to go.

“Kudos to the staff at Neighborhood Resource Center we love working with partners on the ground in the communities most effected,” said Scott Patton, VP of Development of RIP Medical Debt. “We are working primarily on behalf of patients. RIP Medical Debt acknowledges widely we are not the solution to a systemic problem--a systemic problem will require a systemic adjustment.”

NRC says through RIP Medical Debt, $3.4 million in debt has been identified throughout Central and Eastern Virginia.

“What I think everyone can acknowledge is medical debt is a debt of necessity. People don’t irresponsibly choose to go into debt for medical debt, it is something they have to face. The other option is unacceptable. Live in extreme pain or die,” explained Patton. “This can happen to anyone at almost any income level because of the you know the trend of the insurance industry to share more and more the burden of paying for any kind of treatment--it has frankly shifted more of the responsibility of paying on to the patient.”

NRC statement about the partnership:

“The Neighborhood Resource Center (NRC) is partnering with RIP Medical Debt to abolish medical debt. NRC will need to raise over $19,000 by March to cancel the $3.4 million in debt that RIP Medical Debt has identified in the Richmond-Petersburg Designated Media Market Area that covers the City of Richmond, City of Petersburg, the entire counties of Amelia, Charles City, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Goochland, Henrico, Hanover, King William, New Kent, Nottoway, Powhatan, Prince George, and Sussex, and part of the counties of Brunswick, Buckingham, Caroline, Cumberland, Essex, Fluvanna, Greensville, Isle of Wight, James-City, King and Queen, Louisa, Lunenburg, Prince Edward, Southampton, Surry, and York.”

According to RIP Medical Debt, every day, 1 in 2 Americans choose between paying medical bills and covering basic needs.

“I think it’s important because we’re dealing with unprecedented economic situations for so many Virginians and people around the country, especially with the price of housing, with real estate taxes and prices of homes jumping over the course of the last year. We can look at inflation related to the price of groceries,” Armbrust explained. “All of those things really are bearing down on community members in a way that they just can’t get level footing.”

RIP Medical Debt says it works in three ways:

  1. We use data analytics to pinpoint the debt of those most in need: households that earn less than 4x the federal poverty level (varies by state, family size) or whose debts are 5% or more of annual income.
  2. We buy debt in bundles, millions of dollars at a time at a fraction of the original cost. This means your donation relieves about 100x its value in medical debt.
  3. People across the country receive letters that their debt has been erased. They have no tax consequences or penalties to consider. Just like that, they’re free of medical debt.

NRC’s campaign is one of dozens happening across the country. NRC will not be notified if the debt of someone in Virginia is canceled, but Armbrust says the work of RIP Medical Debt aligns with the mission of their organization.

“This is a thing that would just make me feel really proud of the work that we do here at Neighborhood Resource Center. We’re doing it because it’s the right thing, which is really how I try to live my life,” Armbrust explained.

If you want to donate to NRC’s efforts, you can click here.