Ballad, RIP Medical reach deal to erase $278M of patient medical debt

Ballad Health, a 21-hospital network based in Johnson City, Tenn., reached a deal with RIP Medical Debt to wipe out $278 million worth of medical debt owed by its patients, according to a June 15 news release. 

RIP Medical, a nonprofit organization that forgives unpaid medical bills, will buy the debt owed by 82,000 low-income patients at the health system. Many likely qualified for free care under Ballad Health's policy, but didn't get it, according to the news release. 

"Nearly everyone who will receive their debt abolishment through this collaboration with RIP Medical Debt qualifies for our updated charity care policy, but for various reasons they either did not qualify at the time or did not take advantage of it in prior years. By removing this burden of old debt, we hope to better engage with our patients, so they access care and other services when they need them without the fear of unmanageable expenses," said Anthony Keck, chief population health officer for Ballad Health.  

RIP Medical said it will erase the $278 million worth of unpaid debt and send out notices of the relief to patients this month. Some of the outstanding bills affected are 10 years old.

This is the first time RIP Medical has purchased debt directly from a hospital, according to the news release. RIP Medical said it is looking for more hospital partners to help erase debt. 

Last year, HHS' Office of Inspector General issued an advisory opinion that allowed RIP Medical to buy the debt directly from health systems and large physician groups.

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