Doctors pledge help to erase patients’ debts

Standing in front of Cardinal Family Medicine is Dr. Janelle Pflieger. Cardinal Family Medicine has partnered with Shumacher Family Medicine, in Plymouth, and RIP Medical Debt, to raise funds that will clear medical debt for select families in eight surrounding counties. To donate to the fund-raiser, go online to www.secure.qgiv.
com/event/indrs.
Standing in front of Cardinal Family Medicine is Dr. Janelle Pflieger. Cardinal Family Medicine has partnered with Shumacher Family Medicine, in Plymouth, and RIP Medical Debt, to raise funds that will clear medical debt for select families in eight surrounding counties. To donate to the fund-raiser, go online to www.secure.qgiv. com/event/indrs. Photo by Katelynn Farley.

Three doctors in northern Indiana, Drs. Janelle and Matt Pflieger of Cardinal Family Medicine, in Huntington, and Dr. Joel Schumacher of Schumacher Family Medicine, in Plymouth, have pledged to erase $1.7 million in medical debt for their eight surrounding counties by partnering with RIP Medical Debt, a non-profit organization that allows generous donors to clear the medical debt that cripples families and individuals.

With each donated dollar purchasing $100 of debt, their goal is to raise $17,000 by this August to purchase and forgive the $1.7 million medical debt represented by these counties. As of July 23, the family medicine groups have managed to raise approximately 25 percent of their goal.

“We launched our fund-raising campaign in early March, and then the coronavirus hit,” explained Schumacher. “That wasn’t something we planned on, and our efforts needed to take a temporary back seat. The initial response was so positive though and people have been so generous that we are well on our way to our goal. We are committed to reaching our goal by the end of August.”

Schumacher originally spearheaded the partnership for the fund-raiser, reaching out to the Pfliegers to join the cause. Combined, the two medical groups are raising funds for eight counties, one of which being Huntington County. The other counties included are Wells, Whitley, Wabash, Marshall, Starke, Fulton and Kosciusko.

Due to COVID-19 putting a temporary halt to their fund-raising efforts, the deadline for the $17,000 goal has been extended through September. For Dr. Janelle Pflieger, of Cardinal Family Medicine, “the original timing felt weird for donations. Now, we’re going to be resuming our efforts.”

“This is a really big deal for those in our community,” Pflieger added. “We’re doing what we can to help out the people in our community and the people in surrounding areas.”

Once their goal has been met, the community will receive notification of when medical debt relief letters are being sent out so those relieved can keep their eyes peeled for a branded, yellow RIP envelope.

If the goal of $17,000 is not reached, there is a chance that the funds that were raised will not be used specifically for the eight counties that Schumacher and the Pfliegers designated.

Donations of any size can have a large impact on forgiving debt. To join this northern Indiana campaign, or to get more information, visit the secure website at secure.qgiv.com/events/indrs.

As direct primary care doctors, the Pfliegers and Schumacher are passionate about finding innovative solutions that reduce health care costs while improving access and transparency. They are also passionate about finding community-based ways to help their neighbors.

Two thirds of all personal bankruptcies in America are tied to a medical event, either because of high costs of care or because it caused the person to be out of work. Families turn to bankruptcy because of medical issues and bills, ruining credit scores and crippling their families’ future hopes to purchase a home or secure a loan. Too often, medical events become financial catastrophes.

RIP Medical Debt is a 501(C)(3) non-profit whose sole purpose is to locate, purchase and then
abolish unpaid and unpayable medical debt as a benefit to society as well as the recipient.

Working with third-party credit data providers, RIP searches bundled debt portfolios to locate accounts meeting criteria for financial relief. RIP then negotiates to purchase the portfolios at a steep discount from the collection agencies that have been pursuing the debtors. The humanitarian difference is that once RIP buys this debt, it is forgiven on behalf of the donors.

Those who qualify for RIP Debt Forgiveness are those who are earning less than 2 times the federal poverty level (varies by state and family size); those in financial hardship (out of pocket expenses 5 percent or more of their annual income); and those facing insolvency (debts are greater than assets). Medical debt relief is based on those debts available and unfortunately the non-profit cannot relieve debts by request.

Using these criteria, RIP Medical Debt identified $1.7 million of medical debt in the eight counties of Northern Indiana
that are included in this campaign.  Cardinal Family Medicine and Schumacher Family Medicine created their campaign to relieve debt in these eight counties.Cardinal Family Medicine is a direct primary care family practice founded in 2016 by Drs. Matt and Janelle Pflieger, and is located in Huntington. For more information, visit cardinalfamilymedicine.com.

Schumacher Family Medicine was founded in 2017 by Dr. Joel Schumacher in downtown Plymouth. More information about SFM can be found at schumacherfamilymedicine.com.