Americans owe an estimated $195 billion in medical debt and that number only continues to grow by the day. It’s a unique disparity among Americans, mainly plaguing the lower class and minorities. Medical debt prevents many Americans from getting the medical treatment they need.
“Medical debt is a huge burden on Americans,” said Daniel Lempert, VP of Communications at RIP Medical Debt, a non-profit organization that helps alleviate medical debt for patients with outstanding medical debt. “People are choosing to pay rent or put food on the table. There’s also a mental health anguish that comes along with it. The stress of all that can actually make people sicker. We are also seeing people avoid going to the doctor, especially if they already owe medical debt, even though they might need to go back. People will seriously reconsider getting the healthcare they need for fear of having more debt.”
RIP Medical Debt has partnered with Wellgreens and Pacific Stone to help medical patients around California with medical debt. The partnership’s goal is to abolish $3 million of medical debt for people in California. “When I think of cannabis having started on the medical side, this is a really interesting way to go full circle and tie it all together with this collaboration,” said Skip Motsenbocker, CEO of Pacific Stone.
This partnership between these brands was an almost-natural collaboration.. Motsenbocker said Wellgreens was Pacific Stone’s number one vendor in San Diego leading to the eventual store takeover with all three companies involved. RIP Medical debt fit right in when Wellgreens and Pacific Stone decided they wanted to collaborate with a nonprofit to help their communities.
“It’s a great way to say to the rest of the world ‘hey, cannabis isn’t a bad thing,” Motsenbocker said are out trying to do good things, not trying to say buy more drugs. Everybody should have some sort of an affiliation with an organization that figures out unique ways to give back to the community.”
Because RIP Medical Debt buys medical debt at a discount in bulk, this, in turn, makes a donation 100x its value in medical debt, the company says. “What’s really amazing about it is the 100x multiplier,” Motsenbocker said. “For instance, we’ve kicked off the initial program to raise $30,000, but in that essence that $30,000 eradicates $3 million in medical debt.”
Since RIP Medical Debt buys patients debt in bulk from hospitals, they are able to pinpoint who really needs the help. They are able to scrub the data and get the perfect candidates for the letter in the mail telling them their medical debt has been paid off. “We are a HIPPA-compliant organization, ”Lempert said. “We have proprietary software we use to identify, either with a hospital or a partner with the secondary debt market, we’ll scan the bulk debt they possess and scan the ones that meet our criteria.”
So far, RIP Medical Debt has erased more than $6 billion in medical debt across the country. According to their 2021-year end report, “In 2021 RIP Medical Debt: Abolished $2.7 billion of medical debt for 1.3 million people.”
With cannabis still being criminalized in many states and stigmatized among many, this partnership brings light to what the cannabis industry is about, said Luis Itarte, director of licensing for Wellgreens. “Cannabis still gets such a bad rep,” Ituarte said. “Not a lot of non-profits open their doors for us. We aren’t the only dispensary that wants to give back to the community. We all want to give back. There are many philanthropists in the cannabis community. It’s helpful to have organizations like [RIP Medical Debt] who are spearheading the movement.