A church in Florida says it will pay off $7.2 million worth of medical debts for nearly 6,500 low-income people in the state, the Orlando Sentinel reported Wednesday. 

According to the newspaper, the congregation at Stetson Baptist Church in DeLand donated enough to pay off medical debts for those in Volusia, Lake, Putnam, Marion and Flagler counties.

Dan Glenn, a senior pastor at the church, told the newspaper that the congregation had initially set a goal of raising $48,000 to divide between faith-based nonprofit One More Child, which provides foster homes for children, and RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that buys selected medical debt from health-care providers and debt collectors.


But Glenn said the congregation ended up raising $153,867.19 overall.

With the money, the senior pastor told the paper that the church would not only be able to provide a years-worth of funding for three separate foster homes, but would also be able to use half of the money to cover $7.2 million worth of medical debt. 

“For the most part, hospitals don’t have the infrastructure to pursue the debt they have on the books,” Daniel Lempert, the director of communications for RIP Medical Debt, told the paper. “More and more they’re outsourcing it. Sometimes it gets sold several times before it comes to us. We only buy debt for those who are the least likely to be able to pay.” 

RIP Medical Debt buys medical debt, usually at one penny on the dollar, and uses donations to pay off the bill.

“The concept is deceptively simple,” he continued. “But sometimes people think it’s not real. They think it’s too good to be true.”

According to Glenn, Stetson Baptist leaders got the idea to pay off low-income residents' medical debt following a hearing about a Kansas church that had done the same thing. Comedian John Oliver also paid off medical debts during a televised sketch on his show, "Last Week Tonight," about medical debt collectors, the paper noted.

A church in Michigan earlier this month also said it has purchased more than $1.8 million in medical debts to help almost 2,000 families.

“It’s one thing for us to say, ‘God loves you,’” he told the paper. “It’s another for us to show that.” 

“I can’t wait for some of those families to receive a letter that says: ‘Your debt has been forgiven,’” he added.

A study published early this year in the American Journal of Public Health found that medical debt is one of the leading causes of financial ruin for Americans. The study reported that two-thirds of those who file bankruptcy cite medical issues as a key contributor, including those who are insured.