Credit union industry veteran George Hofheimer has embarked on a cross-country bicycle tour to raise funds to write off medical debt incurred by U.S. consumers.
Hofheimer, former executive vice president/chief research development officer for Filene Research Institute, has partnered with RIP Medical Debt, which uses donations to purchase bundled medical debt portfolios that have gone to collection.
Hofheimer will ride from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla., over the course of about two months, advancing about 60 miles a day, with a single rest day each week and occasional stopovers with friends and family along the way.
He has already achieved his pledge goal of $15,000.
Hofheimer says he was inspired to take up his cause by his work at Filene, particularly the i3 program, which develops innovative solutions to financial challenges.
“We did a lot of good work, but what we were really striving for was to find the root cause of people’s financial problems,” Hofheimer says. “Medical debt is the No. 1 reason people file for bankruptcy in this country.”
The partnership with RIP Medical Debt addresses that root cause. For every $1 the organization receives in donations, it can write off roughly $100 in medical debt. (All donations Hofheimer receives go to RIP Medical Debt, not toward trip expenses.)
This effort ties into credit unions’ emphasis on financial well-being. “The last thing a credit union wants is one of its members to go bankrupt,” Hofheimer says.
He views this project as proof of concept for future conversations on the topic.