Michigan church erases medical debt for nearly 2,000 families, pastor says

Nearly 2,000 families in western Michigan are set to learn next week that all their medical debts have been paid off by a church in the area.

Grand Rapids First, a church in Wyoming, Mich., announced Sunday that the church will be paying off the medical debt of 1,899 families in four counties, an amount that totals nearly $2 million, the church's Executive Pastor and CFO Doug Tuttle said.  

He added that Grand Rapids First purchased the debt for about $15,000 through the nonprofit debt purchasing organization RIP Medical Debt.

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“As a church one of our main values is to really find a need in our community and fill it and we were happy to work with RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit organization based in New York, to help purchase over $1.8 million dollars in medical debt for pennies on the dollar,” Tuttle told Fox News.

He said a church in Texas inspired Grand Rapids First to help those with medical debt.

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“We became aware of a church that has done something similar in Texas back around Easter of 2018 and started to do some research after we heard what they did and that’s where we were connected with RIP Medical Debt,” Tuttle told Fox News.

The families in Kent, Ottawa, Allegan and Ionia counties will be notified about the gift sometime next week through a letter from RIP Medical Debt, Tuttle said, adding that the recipient’s identities are unknown, even to the church, because of medical privacy laws.

Tuttle said RIP Medical Debt chose recipients who will benefit the most, including those whose debt is disproportionate to their income or those who already live in poverty.

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He said that the gift was covered by Grand Rapids First’s missions fund and therefore, fundraising was not needed.

“Even though the numbers are significant in one sense of what we were able to purchase [$1.8 million of medical debt], in the broader scope the need that people have who are suffering with medical debt is much greater.," Tuttle told Fox News. "In Michigan alone there is over $180 million in medical debt and so we would like to inspire other churches, corporation or individuals to do the same thing.”