Two Women Erased $1.5 Million Of Strangers' Medical Debt

by Thea Glassman
Image via Sean Russell/Getty

Two women helped over a thousand New Yorkers get out of medical debt

Judith Jones and Carolyn Kenyon didn’t want to wait around for the passage of the New York Health Act, which would provide universal health care statewide. Instead, they took matters into their own hands. Jones, 80, and Kenyon, 70, helped erase $1.5 million worth of medical debt for strangers across the state, according to a report from The New York Times.

So, that’s pretty amazing in and of itself. Another added bonus? You can help do the exact same thing.

Last Spring, Jones and Kenyon discovered R.I.P. Medical Debt, a New York debt-forgiveness program that buys out old medical bills. The women rolled up their sleeves and got to work, raising $12,500 to hand over to the non-profit. In turn, R.I.P. Medical Debt paid off a staggering $1.5 million in medical debts. That means that 1,284 New Yorkers will get to finally say goodbye to their past due medical bills.

And Jones and Kenyon didn’t stop there. They also made it their mission to educate New Yorkers on the importance of universal health care.

“We tried to get people interested in the seriousness of medical debt,” Jones told Jezebel, “and lead them to understand that when the New York Health Act passes, that will be the end of medical debt because everyone will be covered.”

In total, R.I.P. Medical has paid back $434 million in medical debt, which has helped around 250,000 people. Unfortunately, that only scratches the surface of the horrifying amount that still needs to be paid (the non-profit reported that there’s still about $750 billion owed in past due medical bills).

“It is a drop in the bucket,” Craig Antico, co-founder of the R.I.P. Medical, told The New York Times. Still, every donation provides much-needed relief to someone in debt. Antico noted that the non-profit allows New Yorkers to get assistance without having to do any additional legwork.

“I do like the idea that people do not have to ask for help,” he said. “The random act of kindness is kind of a cool thing.”

And these two enterprising New York ladies aren’t the first ones to utilize R.I.P. Medical Debt to forgive exorbitant bills and change lives — talk show host John Oliver did it in 2016 to the tune of almost $15 million dollars, forgiving the medical debts of 9,000 Americans.

As Oliver points out, buying up the debt is disturbingly easy to do, and of course, in the wrong hands, the buyer could make the lives of people in medical debt a living hell — or, they can just forgive it, as Oliver was sure to do by working with the organization.

Okay, so, how can you lend a helping hand? Head to R.I.P Medical Debt’s website to make a donation and help out the 64 million (!) Americans who are currently struggling to get out of debt.