Why You Should Join the Great Ozarks Forgiveathon

Editorial by Jeff Houghton

Hey, this is Jeff. So, why are we doing this? Why are we leading the Great Ozarks Forgiveathon, a fundraiser to abolish $2.7 million in medical debt in the Ozarks by raising $27,000? I host a TV show, a comedy show — well, a “comedy” show. Why would we want to take this on as well? I suppose the answer is really made up of a few different answers.

First, I’ve lived in Springfield since 2003, and at some point early on I learned that Springfield’s poverty rate is high. In fact, 25.7% of people in Springfield live in poverty. 1 out of 4! Need context? The national poverty rate is 11.8%. We have more than double the poverty rate in Springfield alone. I became really passionate about it. Like, what are we doing about it? We shouldn’t be okay with it. I’ve brought it up in conversation a lot, and wanted to make people more aware.

Then at a certain point a couple years ago I was like, “What am I doing about it?”

The answer was, nothing.

Nothing.

Nothing!

All I’ve done is talk about it.


In September, we had put the kids down and I was reading an article about this church in Columbia partnering with RIP Medical Debt and I sat on the edge of my bed, teary-eyed reading about how they were doing it, and how they were designating it for Missouri counties. I quickly fired off an email to RIP Medical Debt to let them know that I wanted information about starting a campaign here.


I have a few chronic health issues. I’ve been on medicine since I was five, and go to the doctor more than most, so I feel on an experiential gut level what it’s like to wince as you open a bill. I can only imagine that feeling when you have no margin. The fact that you can go bankrupt because of medical bills is a real ethical blindspot in our country, and I’ve always felt paralyzed by what you can do to help, the amounts are too high for anyone to make a dent…

…until RIP Medical Debt


We now have an opportunity to help with medical bills in a way we didn’t before and we have a way to help those in need right here in the Ozarks. This campaign will make a life changing difference to a lot of people, specifically those that make less than 2 times the federal poverty limit. But, these aren’t numbers. It’s a family that need some relief. It’s a child with an inhaler. It’s a mom’s hands reaching for the mail and opening an envelope from an organization she hasn’t heard of. It’s the letter in that envelope and the weight falling from her face, her hand covering her mouth in shock. You get to be in that moment.

My hope is not that we have a handful of very large donations. I’m often struck by the fact that economically comfortable people can easily just not interact with low-income people here (probably true other places as well). Easily. We’re here in this same place, but we’re a valley apart. That valley has always bothered me on some level. I’m drawn to bridges, bridges connecting our economic realities. This is certainly not a complete answer, but it’s a way to connect. My hope is that we have thousands of people donate a little bit and those of us that have can help those that have need, blurring lines.

I feel like in a lot of ways we’re in the midst of a time of rapid othering — finding differences and assigning teams. But I don’t believe in other, and I don’t believe in them. People in need aren’t different, they’re us.

I guess what I’m saying is, the reason why I’m doing this is because, like everyone, I’ve been both. I’ve felt need in my bones, and I’ve felt generosity in my fingers. Right now they need it, and right now I have something to give.

Call it optimistic, but I hope you consider giving, not for big reasons and big numbers, but for small reasons. So that you can be the person that acts, so that they get they help they need and they know they’re not alone. Please consider walking across the bridge where them meets us — consider being a part of the moment as that mom drops into a chair, letter landing on the table, an exhale.


CLICK HERE TO DONATE


RIP Medical Debt

The Mystery Hour is partnering with RIP Medical Debt to eradicate $2.7 million in medical debt in 20counties in the Ozarks by raising just $27,000.
1) We raise the money and it goes to RIP Medical Debt.
2) RIP Medical Debt purchases the medical debt from a collections agency at a cost of a penny on the dollar.
3) They forgive the entirety of the debt immediately. Poof. Gone.
4) The recipients receive a letter in the mail saying that their debt is forgiven.

Facts about Medical Debt

  • 42.9 million Americans have unpaid medical bills, which creates an adverse impact on debtor patients, physicians, and hospitals (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau)
  • Six in 10 of both insured and uninsured people say they have difficulty in paying other bills as a result of medical debt. Over a third were unable to pay for food, heat or housing because of medical bills. (Kaiser Family Foundation & New York Times)
  • Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults under age 65, or 116 million people, had medical bill problems or debt, went without needed care because of cost, were uninsured for a time or were underinsured — insured but had high out-of-pocket medical expenses or deductibles relative to income. (Kaiser Family Foundation & New York Times)
  • Medical debt contributes to more than 60 percent of the bankruptcies in the U.S. Until satisfied, debt lingers on a person’s credit report to negatively impact their ability to buy a home, get a loan or even gain employment. (The American Journal of Medicine)

Whose unpayable medical bills does RIP forgive?

  • Individuals who make less than 2 times the federal poverty level
  • Individuals with financial hardship — 5% or more of their annual income goes to out-of-pocket medical expenses
  • Individuals who are insolvent (debts greater to their assets)

RIP Medical Debt

The Mystery Hour is partnering with RIP Medical Debt to eradicate $2.7 million in medical debt in 20counties in the Ozarks by raising just $27,000.
1) We raise the money and it goes to RIP Medical Debt.
2) RIP Medical Debt purchases the medical debt from a collections agency at a cost of a penny on the dollar.
3) They forgive the entirety of the debt immediately. Poof. Gone.
4) The recipients receive a letter in the mail saying that their debt is forgiven.

We will eliminate debt in these counties:
Counties:
Greene $ 121,817.77
Polk $ 61,779.91
Dallas $ 105,105.30
Webster $ 60,897.42
Christian $ 139,094.45
Dade $ 949.95
Lawrence $ 76,806.30
Barry $ 119,144.36
McDonald $ 733,869.54
Newton $ 124,237.69
Jasper $ 606,251.12
Barton $ 40,558.78
Vernon $ 56,340.37
Stone $ 53,763.51
Taney $ 192,793.37
Cedar County $ 29,099.86
Wright $ 28,870.71
Douglas $ 11,342.39
Ozark $ 25,653.39
Laclede $ 181,290.34

Reader Comments