$1.5 million in SW Michigan medical debt will be bought and forgiven

More than 1,000 families in southwest Michigan owe a debt of gratitude.

Their medical debt will be wiped out by community do-gooders.

The Harbor Country Mission in Bridgman mainly provides basic necessities to cover the pressing needs of the present, but it recently launched a side campaign to deal with some oppressive problems from the past.

“Two thirds of bankruptcies are related to medical debt,” said HCM Executive Director David Heyn. “It keeps them from purchasing a car, it keeps them from purchasing a home, and sometimes it even keeps them from getting into rentals.”

Community donations of $15,000 were raised and will be used to buy more than $1.5 million in medical debt.

“Debt collectors is who is normally buying debt,” said Heyn. “They're usually buying it and then coming after the person to get at least double or triple what they paid.”

In this case, the debt that is purchased will simply be forgiven for good.

“This was Bob's brain child, Bob believed in it deeply,” said Heyn.

Unfortunately mission volunteer Bob Klint is not around to see his medical debt mission accomplished. In August outside of Buchanan, Bob and three family members were killed after Bob’s car was struck by another when the other driver ignored a stop sign.

“In lieu of flowers the family identified that (the debt purchase fund) was one of the ways that his legacy could live on, and in a very short amount of time funds were raised,” Heyn explained.

Soon more than 1,000 families in Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren Counties that meet income guidelines will see their medical debt disappear.

Those families must earn less than two times the federal poverty level and their debts much be five percent or more of annual income.

“Without Bob we would have never done it. One of his kids wrote yesterday after we presented the check that Bob would be beaming, Bob or Bob is beaming.”

Harbor Country Mission partnered with Lake Street Community Church and I Can Café to raise the funds.

The debt buying details are being handled by a New York based charity that specializes in the field called RIP Medical Debt.