Tuesday, May 8

Trying To Understand RIP Medical Debt

I totally understand why we'd want to forgive medical debt for veterans and others in need. In Jacksonville, it's all about vets, but the company RIP Medical Debt technically can do the same thing for all debtors. What the company does is good, I guess, but it's a weird good that shouldn't exist.

Just answer this question: should veterans HAVE medical debt in the first place? I wonder how many Americans, no matter their political leaning, believe those in the military should have medical debt, particularly for anything sustained while in the service of our country. I'd extend the question to ask whether ANYONE should have medical debt, but that's because I believe we should be a civilized country.

Back to RIP Medical Debt. The non-profit buys the debt and then pays it off.
Outstanding medical debt often is bundled into portfolios for sale on the secondary debt market (similar to mortgages).
This debt can be bought at the ratio of 1:100. Someone donates $50 and wipes out $5,000 of medical debt.

Like I said, I'm all for helping others out, but I kind of feel like there's a missed opportunity here to fix the bigger problems at work. Generally, unless RIP Medical Debt gets its hands on your debt, some other bill collector agency will buy it for the same rate, and then they'll send the dogs out for you. Before RIP Medical Debt, this included everyone who could not pay for medical bills. All kinds of debt being bought for pennies on the dollar by companies willing to harass until paid. The news is all butterflies and unicorns when it comes to RIP as a non-profit, but there are still plenty of for-profit debt collection agencies looking out for the bottom line.

There's also the problem that medical debt can ruin non-veterans and veterans who don't qualify for debt relief because they've actually paid off the debt. I've worked hard in my life to pay off debt. It was frustrating when people who bought houses or college degrees they couldn't afford and got bailed out, so I'm sure there will be some vets who are hoping to get that debt-forgiveness letter, but that won't happen if it's already paid off or if that veteran is making payments on time.

It is ironic to me that RIP Medical Debt was "established by two former collection industry executives," meaning people who used to by the debt for the 1/100th of the cost and then work over the debtors. If only all those who make millions off of the disadvantaged would become (volunteer?) founders of charitable organizations that help those out who would have been targets for them just a few years ago. 

Let's just say it's complicated. My own view is that no veteran and no citizen of the United States of America should have medical debt. I don't want local people to think that just because they gave $50 that all medical debt is gone. And I don't really believe that every veteran deserves debt forgiveness more than every other American. There are good people who have hit hard times and never served our country.

And why oh why can't these people just buy their own damn medical debt in the first place? If the medical facilities are selling them for 1/100th the value, why don't they offer the debtors (not just those helped by RIP) the chance to pay it off at a similar rate? I guess it's so collection industry executives can get rich.

I hope people who help others or are helped by this program can see why the debt should never have existed in the first place. Not for our country's heroes and not for all the zeros, either. Me, you, your veteran neighbor, and even that semi-employed shirtless guy casing your neighborhood in a pickup truck.

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