Peace United UMC Forgives $3 Million in Medical Debt for Wisconsinites

United Methodist churches in the Milwaukee area gave peace of mind to local families this fall by abolishing over $3 million worth of medical debt for 1,798 families and individuals throughout Wisconsin.

"This is an incredible gift to bring to our community right before the holidays," said Rev. Allie Scott, pastor at Peace United Methodist Church in Brookfield, the church that started this fundraiser. "Especially this year, when the threat of medical emergencies linger over us as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dominate our communities, to be able to forgive medical debt for thousands of families is a chance to work miracles."

The idea for this came to the people of Peace UMC in Brookfield earlier this spring, as churches all over the community closed their doors at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The mission team began to brainstorm socially distant ways to live into a faith that lives on hope, thrives on justice, and practices resurrection. They set a goal of raising $13,000 - but ended up raising $28,946 with the help of other area Methodists at Wauwatosa Ave. UMC in Wauwatosa; Zao MKE Church in Milwaukee; Our Lord’s UMC in New Berlin; Whitefish Bay UMC in Whitefish Bay; Brown Deer UMC in Brown Deer, and the Wisconsin United Methodist Foundation in Sun Prairie. So far, they have used $13,380 to clear the over $3 million in medical debt. The remaining $15,566 will be used for another debt purchase in the future, even further increasing the scope of this gift for Wisconsin families.

The church said the debt was paid off by RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit group that has abolished more than $2.6 billion in medical debt since its creation in 2014, according to its website. The group specializes in helping organizations purchase debt from medical providers and debt sellers for pennies on the dollar.
Because of privacy laws, no one but the billing company knows who is on the list, but Scott said that the payoff will benefit low-income families throughout Wisconsin, including 378 families in Milwaukee County, 203 families in Kenosha county, 153 families in Dane County, 108 in Racine County, and 55 in Waukesha county. Those whose medical debt has been retired are currently being notified by mail, with notices enclosed in bright yellow envelopes.

"Every week in worship, we pray the Lord’s Prayer, which - in some versions - include the line 'forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors'" said Rev. Scott. "Foundational to Christianity is the chance to bear one another’s burdens and to work with God to bring good news to those who are struggling. This has been an incredible opportunity to see that good news in very real, tangible ways."