Goal reached: Organization pays off $1.5 million in medical debt for Oklahomans

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Medical debt can be overwhelming for the millions of Americans struggling to pay their bills.

“In the state of Oklahoma, about 26 percent of our population has medical debt, and it is over $1.2 billion. It’s worth that much money,” said Dr. Krista Schwarz, physician at Primary Health Partners and member of the Oklahoma chapter of the Free Medical Market Association.

Organizers told News 4 last month that they were trying to help with that debt by teaming up with RIP Medical Debt.

“RIP Medical can go buy it at a really low rate but pay off the whole amount,” Dr. Schwarz said.

The FMMA members worked to raise thousands in donations so RIP Medical Debt could buy people’s medical debt at a penny on the dollar and pay it off.

“It’s a lot of money so if we can help them, help just some people do this, it can make a big difference to get them out from underneath that and they can go back to doing what they need to do for their families,” she said.

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Medical debt is a growing problem across the country that is affecting the lives of families who simply can't afford bills in the thousands. In the end, many of those patients don't go back for the care they need.

"People who put off a procedure, or put off a preventative test because they know their copay will be very large, or they know they may already owe money to a facility and they know they cannot go back there, or they just don’t want to make more debt," she said.

Once the debt is paid, the debtor will be surprised by a letter in the mail letting them know they're off the hook.

"The cool thing is anybody can do this. There have been many churches around the country who have done it, other doctors groups around the country who have done it," Dr. Schwarz said. "It’s a great way to help those in need."

A month after they started their quest to relieve Oklahomans' medical debt, the organizers say they accomplished their goal.

Officials told News 4 that RIP Medical Debt was able to pay off $1,595,000 of medical debt for Oklahomans.

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