Nonprofit abolishes medical debt in Appalachia, says Fayette County has need double the national average

FAYETTE COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – Skyrocketing medical debt is increasingly a problem for people nationwide, and it is hitting especially hard in Appalachia. For example, Fayette County’s percentage of people carrying medical debt is double the nationwide average.

As medical debt becomes more of a problem, one organization is stepping up to do something about it.

RIP Medical Debt is a nationwide nonprofit committed to purchasing medical debt and canceling it. Based out of New York, it is funded by donors who want to do something about the medical debt crisis.

The nonprofit targets areas like southern West Virginia based on the need there.

“According to the Urban Institute, 24% of the citizens in Fayette County are dealing with medical debt, and the national average is 13%, which is already quite high,” Patton said. “That’s really, to varying extents, what it looks like throughout the Appalachian counties and why we decided to really focus on this region for mission fulfillment because we can have such a deep impact there.”

According to Vice President of Development Scott Patton, RIP Medical Debt began back in 2014. Since then, it has cleared the debt of 7 million people, totaling more than ten billion dollars.

“We’re really happy to be making a deep impact for individuals and families who actually owe medical debt, but also to raise awareness about this issue and hopefully create some disruption on how medical debt is created in this country,” Patton said.

In Appalachia specifically, RIP Medical Debt has cleared a billion dollars and continues to target the area based on the need.

Nearly one out of every four people living in Appalachia has medical debt in collections right now. RIP Medical Debt has cleared the debt for almost 800,000 people living throughout the region and plans to continue expanding its operation.

“The first thing that we can do is purchase more and more of our medical debt directly from care providers,” Patton said. “Of course, we will continue to relieve that from all sources that are vetted and we can get the debt from, and we’re going to keep the campaign open.”

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