CHHSM Joins UCC Effort to Abolish Medical Debt for Low-Income Families

In order to support United Church of Christ efforts to relieve thousands of low-income families of medical debt, the UCC’s Council for Health and Human Service Ministries has instituted a matching gift of $15,000. The donation will be contributed to the UCC Giving Tuesday campaign to relieve medical debt. Giving Tuesday takes place Dec. 3 across the United States.

“This contribution represents a gift from 100 percent of the 74 corporate members who own and operate 435 communities across the United States,” says Michael J. Readinger, CHHSM president and CEO. “It is designed as a matching gift — we are encouraging CHHSM organizations and employees, along with UCC churches, to help match our donation.”

Readinger adds that because the gift is going to the UCC’s Giving Tuesday efforts, he is leaving it up to the UCC to decide where it will be used to forgive medical debt.

The UCC’s campaign to forgive medical debt began in Chicago Oct. 20, when a collaboration between the UCC, its regional Illinois Conference, and several local churches announced that a $38,000 buy in Chicago would abolish some $5.3 million in debt, affecting 5,888 families at or below poverty level. During that announcement, the Rev. Traci Blackmon, associate general minister of the UCC’s Justice and Local Church Ministries, said that the denomination would continue debt forgiveness in partnership with a New York-based nonprofit, RIP Medical Debt.

Through funds collected on Giving Tuesday — along with gifts from UCC conferences, associations, congregations and other organizations — the UCC will make quarterly buys to abolish medical debt for at least the next year and a half.

CHHSM’s decision to make the donation was approved by its Board of Directors at a Nov. 5 meeting in Cleveland. Readinger says he originally asked for $7,500 from the Board but the reaction was so positive that the Board doubled the amount.

“Hearing Michael Readinger and Traci Blackmon describe the dramatic effect that a relatively small amount of money could have to relieve the medical debt of thousands of low-income families was so compelling that the CHHSM Board could not help but to immediately take action to help with this amazing effort,” says David Waltemeyer, CHHSM Board chair.

RIP Medical Debt identifies and purchases medical debt for pennies on the dollar, which abolishes unpaid and unpayable medical debt as a benefit to recipients and the larger community. The UCC’s Giving Tuesday goal of $50,000 will erase approximately $5 million in medical debt. Almost one-third of that will come from CHHSM’s initial gift.

“This is #LoveOfNeighbor and #LoveOfChildren in action again,” Readinger adds. “We encourage all CHHSM employees and members to join us in forgiving medical debt, thereby helping to create a just, caring, and compassionate world.”

CHHSM members and others wishing to donate as part of the matching gift should contact Jacqueline Owen or Cindy in the UCC’s communication office, or 1-800-846-6822.

Learn more about the UCC’s Giving Tuesday efforts.

Read more about the CHHSM matching gift and the UCC’s campaign to relieve medical debt.

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