FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. - A church in Cumming is helping thousands of people in Forsyth and Fulton counties pay off their medical debt.
Adult pastor for Cross Church, Cornelius Fisher, says they’re planning to celebrate the donation on Sunday.
"This Sunday, we get the opportunity to come back and show [the congregation] how we've shredded the debt for over 2,400 families, right here in the community. And I know, they're going to be extremely excited," he said.
Cross Church recently donated $15,000 to a group called RIP Medical Debt.
It’s a nonprofit that uses donations to wipe out people’s medical debt.
Vice President of Communications Daniel Lampert explains how.
"So, you can buy medical debt for pennies on the dollar if you are a debt buyer in this country…and if you instead take a nonprofit mindset, and you use donor dollars, you can actually buy medical debts. And then instead of trying to collect on them for a profit, you can just send letters to individuals and let them know that their debts have been erased," Lampert said.
According to the US Census Bureau, 19% of American households carry some medical debt. With the median amount owed at $2,000.
So, they’re able to stretch donor dollars to pay for a lot of debt. Often, Lampert says for every $1 donated, they’re able to erase $100 of debt.
However, in this case, they were able to leverage Cross Church’s donation to even greater effect.
"We were able to stretch that $15,000 to a very impressive $2.6 million in face value medical debt," Lampert said.
That was enough to erase medical debt for around 2,500 people in Forsyth and Fulton counties, just as Cross Church had requested.
"We wanted to do something that impacts people personally. We can do a lot of things for the community as a whole, but we felt when we saw this opportunity that we can actually touch the lives of individuals in our community, just like Christ would do right here in the community of Forsyth and Fulton County," Fisher said.
Dona Cucich lives in Decatur and got her debt relieved through a similar donation several years ago when she was going through a really tough time.
"My husband died shortly before that. And I was working all kinds of jobs, taking anything I could get just to get by and, you know, keep a roof over my head and so it really came in handy then," Cucich said.
She said she probably knows how these people are going to feel about receiving a surprise letter in the mail saying their medical debt has been erased.
"What a blessing. You know, it was like it was totally unexpected, wasn't anything I had asked for, like a gift from God. I mean, it really was," she said.
It’s the kind of gift Fisher says they’re hoping to inspire other churches to give as well.
"We’re hoping other churches will do exactly what we’ve done…to be able to forgive other debt and continue to spread this throughout not only our community but other communities across the city," Fisher said.
In fact Fisher explained that they got the idea from one of their members who saw another church do the same thing.
And he says they’ll likely do this again next year.