How 2 former debt collectors helped erase $1B in medical bills

Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton had decades of experience as medical debt collectors when they founded RIP Medical Debt in 2014. Since then, the nonprofit organization has helped eliminate medical debt for more than 500,000 people across the U.S.

RIP raises funds from individual donors, philanthropists and organizations to purchase medical debt in bulk for pennies on the dollar. Once RIP buys debt, it is forgiven. Over the past five years, the organization has erased $1 billion in medical debt, including $65 million in debt owed by veterans.

RIP works with credit data provider TransUnion to search bundled debt portfolios to find accounts for insolvent individuals who either have a household income that is two times or more below the federal poverty level or have medical debts of 5 percent or more of their gross annual income. When RIP buys and forgives debt, the person receives a yellow envelope in the mail stating there are no tax consequences for the relief.

A few years after Mr. Antico and Mr. Ashton launched RIP, the nonprofit gained national attention for working with Last Week Tonight and its host John Oliver to forgive $15 million in medical debt. With the help of RIP, the show bought the debt for $60,000, or less than half a cent on the dollar.

Mr. Antico and Mr. Ashton set the goal of erasing $1 billion in medical debt years ago when they were first dreaming up RIP. Though they're pleased to have hit that goal, they say there is a lot more work to do.

"To have reached that summit is an incredible accomplishment, but we also now see a much greater peak from this vantage point: billions more of un-payable medical debt burdening everyday Americans," the co-founders said in a press release. "Our work has just begun."

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