by Jerry Ashton
RIP Co-Founder and EVP
Billions of unpaid and unpayable medical debt are owed by American citizens. What if we could take it all and deposit it in a very deep grave, putting to rest forever the debt and its killing credit reports?
“We at RIP have been at the forefront of searching for solutions to eliminate what the collections industry calls ‘Zombie Debt” – debt which goes from collection agency to collection agency for years until the unfortunate debtor either pays…or dies. This is the debt we were created to forgive, and we want that forgiveness to become an official record,” CEO Craig Antico states.
“These accounts are pursued relentlessly, regardless of the financial capabilities of the patient and the heavy emotional impact this has on their lives,” he explains. “With GDR at our side, and our donors providing the funding to help us buy the destructive debt, this practice of never-ended collections will itself come to an end.”>
Neither RIP nor GDR are newcomers to this problem of addressing debt, and putting it to rest.
Antico was a pioneer in the debt buying as well as the collections industry and has long lobbied against the practice of pursuing debt beyond the statute of limitations.
“Creditors have the right to collect on an account for as long as they wish, even when it doesn’t make economic or ethical sense and causes great stress,” Antico says. “This is the point where we step in. Those who are resource challenged or in hardship cannot fight the system; we fight for them by using the economic muscle of our donors and partners – purchasing their medical accounts at the same price a collection agency might pay. Pennies on the dollar!”
Mark Parsells, Executive Chairman and CEO of GDR. has lot to say in this matter. He was chief compliance officer of American Express merchant division, chief privacy officer of Bank One, president of Citibank Online, and chairman and CEO of Regulatory DataCorp, an “anti-money-laundering/know-your-customer technology and services company,”
Self-described as a “recovering banker,” Mark is focusing his company’s efforts on solving systemic problems in the much-maligned debt buying and selling industry, in which accounts are often sold to collection agencies without proper documentation. All too often, there is not even a ‘chain of title’ back to the original creditor.
“Consider us the ‘DMV’ of the industry, in that we offer debtor as well as the debt owner (and potential debt buyer) a chain of title that is fully transparent and authentic,” Mark describes.
“In the past, such a tracking system was not in existence – and in collection matters today, judges take note of this. An agency cannot say that a bill is simply “owed.” The court will demand of an agency proof that they likely will be unable to provide.”
Mark’s firm has made a strong pledge: to create a debt extinguishment record that a debtor can go to and prove that his debt is no longer subject to collection activity. This will be a way of expunging, as well as instituting electronic documentation, of non-performing accounts “in a process that will lead to better outcomes for all involved.”
What attracted RIP to GDR is its commitment to transparency and a willingness to work just as hard for the consumer as for the lender.
GDR serves organizations ranging from some of the world’s largest banks, online platforms, regional lenders, debt buyers, and collection services. GDR recognizes its responsibility to be open in its process. Their free DebtLookup website gives people a previously unavailable tool for understanding what debts they owe and to whom.
At this site, a person owing a debt can make sure that any individual or entity attempting to collect on a bill presumably owed – whether it be a credit card, past-due payment or even medical debt – is doing so legitimately and legally.
Even more powerfully, the site allows people to look up information about a collection agency, view their account to independently validate that the collector has the correct information being used in their contact, and then act. DebtLookup allows you to create a dispute letter, provides “verification” request forms, and links to connect with government or non-profit organizations for assistance.
Applying this to medical bad debt
What especially intrigues Mark about RIP is our approach to medical bills owed by veterans and active-duty service people. When he reviewed the RIP Veterans Program to locate, buy and then abolish unpaid military medical debt, he signed on immediately.
(If you didn’t know such debt existed, read The Parades are Over. Where Are Your Vets?)
“I strongly support and have a great appreciation for the military, people we should all honor and thank for their services every day for their defense of our freedoms. Until RIP came along, there was nobody defending veterans insofar as their medical debt problems were concerned. That RIP has embarked on a program to help deserving members of our forces – whether veteran or active – deserved our attention,” Mark declares.
“The key to be able to provide useful extinguishment reports is to have an independent and indisputable chain of title,” he adds. “Right now, GDR does not have clients in the medical space. By working with RIP to persuade medical providers to use our service, GDR will ultimately be able to provide consumers the same protection we have provided in the credit market.”
He stops to firmly make the case. “We always say that we track accounts from ‘cradle to grave.’ When we say grave, we mean it.”
Antico completes the thought. “Purchasing medical debt owed by our military and first-responders (now adding up to over 50,000,000 people) sends an important message. ‘We, the people, stand by you. We appreciate the sacrifice made by you and your families.’”
One such example of enthusiastic support is Larry Rivkin, a 95-year-old WWII decorated bomber navigator who, when he learned that such debt existed and that a charity was there to abolish it, proclaimed “I’ll donate to that!”
Antico emphasizes the importance of GDR devoting time and technology to support its efforts.
“Not only will Mark and his company provide irrefutable proof that our forgiveness process has put an end to that debt, but they will help us put a headstone firmly in place.” He emphasizes:
“Civilian or military medical debt, we bid a glad Rest In Peace to this unwelcome scourge as we salute our donors and technology partners for making debt forgiveness possible.”