Thousands of low-income patients will see all or a portion of their medical debt erased thanks to a national charity that is buying unpaid health care bills.
According to the Wall Street Journal, RIP Medical Debt, a 501 charity based out of New York, is buying $278 million of debt. The group recently reached a deal with Ballad Health, which operates hospitals throughout Tennessee and Virginia, and the relief will free an estimated 82,000 people from medical debt.
The Journal reported that many of those who owed money should have qualified for free care under Ballad's policy but did not apply for it. Some of the bills are a decade old.
"It's a weight on them," RIP Medical Debt executive director Allison Sesso told the outlet of the burden of bills on patients.
The group's executives hope to come to similar agreements with other medical facilities. Terms of RIP Medical Debt's deal with Ballad were not disclosed.
According to the group, RIP Medical Debt has relieved more than $4.5 billion in outstanding bills since its founding in 2014. Their efforts have benefitted more than 2.6 million families so far, they said on their website.
The organization was started by former debt collections executives Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton.
"Personally, it feels incredible. To the industry itself, [it] felt like I was a traitor. They wouldn't talk to me for two or three years … until they realized that we've got to help these people that can't pay and will never pay," Antico told ABC News in a December interview.
"I love it," he added. "I'm the happiest guy in the world. I can't even imagine; the collection industry is a very hard industry to be in. So, thank goodness for the shift to this debt forgiveness world."
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Allison Sesso said RIP Medical Debt does not individually select which patients get their debt forgiven. But in order to qualify, recipients must be at the 200 percent mark of the poverty line or below.
"It's blind," she told ABC News. "There's no judgment here on our part."
The group uses donations to purchase medical debt at a discount in bulk, the outlet said.