Researchers Plan Economic Impact Study of Medical Debt Forgiveness
NEW YORK, June 22, 2017 -- Economics researchers from four major universities met today in New York City for a “mini-summit” with representatives from the charity RIP Medical Debt, credit reporting agency Trans Union, 1/0 Capital, and others to finalize plans for studying the economic impact of forgiving medical debt.
“The pending changes in national health care policy can only vastly increase medical debt in America,” said RIP Medical Debt cofounder and Executive VP Jerry Ashton, “so this economic impact study of medical debt forgiveness is urgent and important.”
The event was attended by nearly 30 people from the New York area and from across the country by teleconferencing.
Using funds provided by private donors, RIP Medical Debt purchases unpaid and unpayable medical debt in the debt-buying marketplace, forgives it, and then see that the debt is removed from the beneficiaries’ credit records. The debt to buy is identified by TheNumber, a financial data service of 1/0 Capital, which lent its New York office for the mini-summit.
“About 64 million Americans struggle with unpaid and unpayable medical debt annually, including those with health insurance,” said RIP cofounder and CEO Craig Antico. “About 15 million people annually become insolvent from medical bills. They use up all of their savings and go into more debt for their health care. They often go without care because of costs.”
The University Study Value
“Nearly 40 percent American households with annual incomes below $50,000 report problems paying medical bills,” said Wes Yin, Associate Professor of Public Policy at UCLA. To understand its impact, the team will use “a randomized control methodology to study the impacts of medical debt abolishment.”
According to Neale Mahoney, Assistant Professor of Economics at University of Chicago, “We are hoping to identify which types of household benefit the most from medical debt relief, so medical debt forgiveness can get the highest bang-for-the-buck.”
“Our research hopes to bring the issue of consumer medical debt into the spotlight by precisely measuring its consequences for debtors,” said Francis Wong, a PhD candidate at the University of California Berkeley. “We hope our work will eventually inform policy to improve the way the healthcare system manages patient financial care.”
“By studying how the relief of the medical debt burden affect people’s finances, include their ability to pay off student and auto loans and credit card and mortgage debt”, said Ray Kluender, a PhD candidate at MIT, “we hope to better understand whether the forgiveness of debt (medical debt in particular) can help spring people out of debt traps and avoid bankruptcy.”
The morning session of the summit featured short reports by the researchers and study supporters, including callers in Colorado, California and Hawaii. The afternoon session featured working sessions with the “University Team” and breakout sessions for special interest groups in the banking, collections, insurance, philanthropic, medical, and technology industries.
The Charity Behind This Study
Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton are veterans of the collections industry upset by industry abuses. Inspired by the medical debt forgiveness campaign of Occupy Wall Street, in 2014 they founded RIP Medical Debt (ripmedicaldebt.org) as a 501(c)(3) charity, based in New York.
RIP Medical Debt was featured in June 2016 on HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver when the host used the charity to forgive almost $15 million in medical debt for about 9,000 American.
Fast forward to today, on June 19 of this week, RIP was employed by the Minnesota Nurses Association to forgive $2.6 million in medical debt for Minnesota citizens as a thank-you for their support when the union was on strike last year.
In the previous week, RIP forgave another $5 million in medical debt identified by TheNumber, including $2 million in debt owed by veterans and active-duty military -- a special focus for the charity.
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RIP Medical Debt is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) charity, based in Rye, New York, established in 2014 to abolish unpaid and unpayable medical debt. Funded by donations from individuals and organizations, RIP locates and buys “portfolios” of medical debt (for pennies on the dollar) and forgives the debt, removing it from credit reports, no strings attached -- a random act of kindness.