St. Louis churches buy up $12.9 million in medical debt, then give it away
By: Jesse Bogan
Saint Louis Post Dispatch
January 20, 2020
FLORISSANT — In a broader effort to push for Medicaid expansion in Missouri, United Church of Christ congregations and the Deaconess Foundation on Saturday announced they’d paid pennies on the dollar for $12.9 million in medical debt that they are giving away.
More than 11,000 families from across dozens of ZIP codes in St. Louis and St. Louis County will receive yellow envelopes in the mail this week notifying them that lingering medical bills have been paid. The average reimbursement is $1,166.
“Please note that we only addressed those who are living at or below poverty — people who should not have to worry about the cost of health care anyway,” the Rev. Traci Blackmon told a gathering at Christ the King United Church of Christ in north St. Louis County.
Blackmon challenged Gov. Mike Parson’s recent assertion that the economy is good. She alluded to a Good Samaritan theme that Martin Luther King Jr. often employed in speeches, saying the charitable campaign should “sound the alarm about our Jericho Road in health care.”
“In St. Louis, as we celebrate new sports teams and new businesses and new entertainment venues and new tourist attractions, we do so as our governor and elected officials avoid addressing our Jericho Road and declare that our region is strong,” she said.
“Well, Mr. Governor, our region is not strong as long as we ignore more than 100,000 families who have been dropped from Medicaid rolls over the past three years. Our region is not strong as long as health care costs spiral out of control.”
It Looks Like Health Insurance, but It’s Not. ‘Just Trust God,’ Buyers Are Told.
By: Reed Abelson
New York Times
January 2, 2020
Some state regulators are scrutinizing nonprofit Christian cost-sharing ministries that enroll Americans struggling to pay for medical care, but aren’t legally bound to cover their members’ claims.