CHICAGO (CBS) — It sounds too good to be true, kind of like Willie Wonka’s golden ticket. More than $1 million of medical debt burdening Chicago area families is set to disappear, like magic; if, that is, you get a special envelope in the mail.
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When times are tough, the littlest bit of color can brighten your day. In the Auburn Gresham neighborhood next week, a pop of yellow will land in some mailboxes; a golden ticket of sorts.
“It’s real! It’s real! There really are people out there,” a very enthusiastic Allison Sesso said, echoing the message inside those envelopes.
“Our forgiveness of this debt is a no-strings-attached gift,” says the letter announcing a past due bill from ambulances, hospital stays, medications, and more is now forgiven.
Sesso’s non-profit, RIP Medical Debt, buys unpaid bills that are likely years old in bulk from collectors.
“They’d rather take something than have something that’s essentially worthless to them,” Sesso said. “We have a 100 to 1 ratio for the buying of debt; and so $100 alleviates $10,000 worth of medical debt.”
It’s complicated to explain, but simply put, nearly 1,300 Chicagoans will be playing a happy tune by the end of May; each discovering an average $1,027 in medical debt wiped away.
That’s only a fraction of what’s owed to medical providers. In just a 12-block stretch of Bronzeville, unpaid medical bills top $4 million.
“We take that burden off of people who are overwhelmed,” Sesso said.READ MORE: Man, Woman Shot In Vehicle On Kedzie Avenue In East Garfield Park, Go On To Crash In Humboldt Park With Child In Car
Helping damaged credit scores and beyond, RIP Medical Debt has made headlines before, including ours.
In February, we talked to Dianna Western, of Belleville, learning the power behind these debt forgiving letters.
“You’re, like, in shock and you’re happy,” Western said.
Now a Chicago entrepreneur is pledging to match $75,000 in donations to RIP in an attempt to make a dent in Chicago’s $78 million of medical debt. He kept his identity hidden over the phone, but his passion wasn’t. Because of COVID-19, he said now, more than ever, people will need help keeping up with their bills.
The non-partisan Economic Policy Institute estimated 12.7 million people lost health insurance coverage since coronavirus hit the U.S.
“You know, the sooner you have this debt lifted off you, the better,” Sesso said.
RIP can’t immediately eliminate debt – there’s a lag time – but taking care of just one old bill might take the world off someone’s shoulders.
The anonymous donor said he was looking for the best way to stretch his donation dollars right now, and he hopes the crazy math helps incentivize other people to give.MORE NEWS: Riggs, Kenosha County Sheriff's K-9 Shot By Chicago Homicide Suspect, Is Released From Veterinary Hospital To Applause
Again, one dollar donated equals roughly $100 dollars of debt forgiven. You can donate to the effort to wipe out the $78 million of medical debt in Chicago by clicking here.