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Church News

The United Church of Christ has paid over $3.9 million in medical debt for families across Tennessee and Arkansas

by Alex Collett

More than $3.9 million has been paid to families in medical debt across Tennessee and Arkansas by The United Church of Christ.

The payments have helped a staggering 2,950 families, according to the UCC.

Each of the families received a letter telling them their medical debt has been forgiven.

Rev. Mary Nelson, transitional Conference Minister at UCC told Premier: “This is the second time in three years that we have held a major campaign to address the issue of medical debt relief, and we exceeded our goal.”

”This is a campaign for liberation.

“Medical debt is one of the significant factors contributing to ongoing poverty in this country.

“Liberating families from medical debt brings them out from under the weight of guilt and shame, but also from under the weight of a credit report that keeps them from accessing better housing, or from under the weight of the multiple jobs they are working to pay off their debt, or from under the weight of the trade-offs like choosing between paying off debt or feeding their families.”

Rev. Rob Van Ess, Senior pastor of Holy Trinity Community Church UCC in Memphis described receiving the money as an ‘act of Mercy.’

Rev. Rob Van Ess said: “When I was diagnosed with cancer I was afraid my inability to pay for treatment would cost me my life.”

“After I received my first medical bill for $97,000 I was afraid my inability to pay for the treatment I needed would ruin my life.

“Medical debt relief and ultimately health care for all is an act of mercy and a basic human right.

“We shouldn’t have to choose between our medical debt and our groceries.”

The Rev. Sekinah Hamlin, UCC minister for economic justice told Premier 'that’s why the denomination is also working to change the system.'

She said: “Simply put … we know health care is a human right, and no one should be penalized because they are too poor to be well.”

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