A healthcare provider has agreed to sell $278 million in medical debt, affecting 82,000 patients, as part of an agreement with the charity RIP Medical Debt. This is the first time the charity has purchased debt directly from a healthcare provider.
Ballad Health made the announcement yesterday. It operates 21 hospitals in Tennessee and Virginia. Many of the 82,000 individuals who are impacted by the agreement met the cutoff for the provider’s charity care policy, but only recently became qualified, either because of recent updates to the policy or because they did not seek out the support on their own, according to the company.
RIP Medical Debt made the news back in June 2016 when it helped HBO’s John Oliver purchase and forgive $15 million of unpaid medical debt. The organization has also worked with nurses in Minnesota and a start-up healthcare company in California to purchase and forgive unpaid medical debts. A number of television stations across the country have also made headlines for donating to RIP Medical Debt to help purchase portfolios and then have those debts forgiven. Since its inception, the organization has abolished more than $4.5 billion in unpaid healthcare bills.
“By removing this burden of old debt, we hope to better engage with our patients, so they access care and other services when they need them without the fear of unmanageable expenses,” said Anthony Keck, chief population health officer at Ballad Health, said in a statement.
RIP and Ballad have been working on this agreement since last year, after the Department of Health and Human Services issued an Advisory Opinion allowing healthcare providers to sell their debts directly to RIP Medical Debt.
“Collaborating directly with healthcare providers allows us to abolish burdensome medical debts earlier in their life cycles and we encourage other community-minded doctors and hospitals to explore partnering with us so that together we can continue to relieve the debt burden on individuals, and families, so they can have a fresh start,” Allison Sesso, executive director of RIP Medical Debt, said in a statement.