Grand Rapids Church Pays Off Nearly $2 Million in Medical Debt for Almost 2,000 Michigan Families

Grand Rapids First church in Wyoming on Monday, July 1, 2019. Pastor Sam Rijfkogel said the church will help forgive $1.8M in medical debt for almost 2,000 random families.
Cory Morse |

Nearly 2,000 western Michigan families will get letters this week announcing that all of their medical debt has been paid off by a local church.

Grand Rapids First, a Wyoming, Michigan, congregation, is covering 1,899 families’ medical debts — almost $2 million in total — across four Michigan counties.

Through RIP Medical Debt, a New York-based debt purchasing nonprofit, Grand Rapids First paid pennies on the dollar to purchase $1.8 million in debt for about $15,000, according to the church’s executive pastor and CFO Doug Tuttle.

Grand Rapids First is now one of more than one dozen churches throughout the nation that have worked with RIP Medical Debt to tackle medical debt, an issue that contributes to two-thirds of U.S. bankruptcies.

The Michigan debt repayments cover families in Kent, Ottawa, Allegan and Ionia counties that will be notified of the gift via letter from RIP Medical Debt some time this week. Tuttle said the largest single debt the church paid off was more than $75,000 in medical charges that were spread over three debt accounts belonging to one person.

The gift is covered by Grand Rapids First’s missions fund, so Tuttle said no church-wide fund-raising was necessary.

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SOURCE: Detroit Free Press, Emma Keith