Americans owe an estimated $195 billion in medical debt, according to RIP Medical Debt, and that number is only growing by the day. Medical debt, or the fear of exorbitant bills, prevents many people across the country from getting the medical care they need.
“Medical debt is a huge burden on Americans,” says Daniel Lempert, vice president of communications at RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit organization that helps provide medical debt relief for patients with unpaid medical debt. “People choose to pay rent or put food on the table. There is also an accompanying mental health angst. The stress of it all can actually make people sicker. We also see people avoiding going to the doctor, especially if they already have medical debt, even though they might need to go back. People will seriously reconsider getting the health care they need for fear of taking on more debt.
To help medical patients in California with crippling medical debt, RIP Medical Debt has partnered with cannabis companies Wellgreens and Pacific Stone. Wellgreens is a San Diego-based cannabis dispensary that aims to destigmatize cannabis use. Pacific Stone is a flower sourcing cannabis grower company. The goal of the partnership is to eliminate $3 million in medical debt for the people of California. “When I think cannabis started on the medical side, it’s a really interesting way to come full circle and tie everything together with this collaboration,” says Skip Motsenbocker, CEO of Pacific Stone.
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This partnership between the brands evolved organically, says Mostenbocker. Wellgreens was Pacific Stone’s number one supplier in San Diego, leading to the store takeover, where RIP Medical Debt and Pacific Stone advertise their campaign in Wellgreens stores. RIP’s medical debt fit right in when Wellgreens and Pacific Stone decided to partner with a nonprofit organization to help their communities. “It’s a great way to tell the rest of the world ‘hey, cannabis isn’t a bad thing,'” Motsenbocker says. “We try to do good things… Everyone should have some sort of affiliation with an organization that finds unique ways to give back to the community.”
RIP Medical Debt buys discounted medical debt in bulk, giving the organization the ability to convert every donated dollar into $100 in medical debt relief, according to a press release about the partnership.
“What’s really amazing is the 100x multiplier,” says Motsenbocker. “For example, we started the initial program to raise $30,000, but with that in mind, that $30,000 eliminates $3 million in medical debt. »
RIP Medical Debt buys patient debt in bulk from hospitals, connecting anonymously with people who need financial support. The hospital or partner organization then contacts the patients to tell them that their medical debt has been paid off. “We are a HIPPA-compliant organization,” says Lempert. “So we have proprietary software that we use to identify, either with a hospital or with a secondary debt market partner, we will scan the overall debt that they have and scan those that meet our criteria. Households earning less than four times the poverty line are the most needy.
So far, RIP Medical Debt has cleared over $6 billion in medical debt across the country. According to their 2021 year-end report, “In 2021, RIP Medical Debt eliminated $2.7 billion in medical debt for 1.3 million people.” RIP Medical Debt hopes to increase that number even further with its latest cannabis industry partnership.
While cannabis is still criminalized and stigmatized, Luis Ituarte, licensing director for Wellgreens, says this partnership shines a light on what the cannabis industry is all about. “Cannabis still has such a bad reputation,” Ituarte says. “Few non-profit organizations open their doors to us. We’re not the only dispensary willing to give back to the community. We all want to give back. There are many philanthropists in the cannabis community. It helps to have organizations like [RIP Medical Debt] who are leading the movement. »