We’re all grateful to those amazing heroes who work in healthcare. Doctors and nurses work all hours of the day to give needed care to patients with every kind of condition and illness. But what a lot of people don’t see is what happens after treatment is received. Patients are discharged, often with residual pain and continuing symptoms, just to find a seemingly harmless little envelope with a long list of digits they owe the hospital.
While most couldn’t be more grateful for their hospital treatment, that doesn’t erase the bills stacking up on their counter. It’s this kind of heartbreaking story that inspired two New Yorkers to take action.
Judith Jones and Carolyn Kenyon are 80 and 70 years old respectively, both from Ithaca New York. These two women had heard about the New York Health Act, an upcoming healthcare bill for their state that would help many patients in need of financial assistance, but refused to simply wait around for the bill to solve the problem.
Over the course of a summer, Jones and Kenyon emailed friends and family, campaigning and fundraising until they collected a sum of $12,500. With this generous number on their side, they looked to R.I.P Medical Dept, a non-profit organization that buys people’s medical bills and forgives them.
Together with R.I.P. Medical Dept, Jones and Kenyon were able to buy $1.5 million in medical debt and help over 1,000 people struggling with hospital bills. What better gift for someone who had experienced a serious illness or accident than to receive a simple yellow envelope in the mail informing them that their medical bills had been completely erased?
The Inspiration And The Aftermath
What would cause two women to go to such lengths to help out complete strangers? For both women, it was almost personal.
Kenyon was a psychotherapist herself, and she had seen one of her clients forced to declare bankruptcy in an attempt to keep up with medical bills. “That touched my heart and was part of my motivation to raise the money for the debt relief,” she said. Kenyon understood that medical debt not only affects a person’s credit record but also their chances of employment, ability to get a mortgage, and their whole lives really. “No one in this country should experience medical debt.”
For Jones, a lot of her motivation was in helping young adults who are just starting out in life. She found that many young people would come off their parent’s insurance and choose to not buy a policy of their own in an attempt to first tackle their student loans. When an illness or accident then comes out of the blue, their medical bills are just another impossible debt stacked on top of everything else. “That’s just no way to start a life,” Jones believes.
Both Kenyon and Jones have their reasons for helping those in need of medical bill assistance. But their efforts didn’t stop there. The two women are now turning their attention to a new fundraising campaign for veterans.
“We think that a lot of people don’t understand that veterans accumulate a great deal of serious debt and that that also is a detriment to establishing a new life,” Jones says. Jones and Kenyon’s new project is called Cure Vet Debt, and if all goes well, more little yellow envelopes will be sent out next year to those veterans in need.
Do Your Part
It’s incredible that two women would take so much time out of their daily lives to look after the needs of complete strangers. In the busyness of today, that alone is a miracle. But you don’t have to organize a campaign or raise thousands of dollars in order to make an impact on the world. The simple act of donating a couple dollars to charity, inviting a friend who’s having a hard time over for dinner, or spending a quick minute to take the neighbor’s trash out can really make all the difference.