How ordinary citizens are wiping out millions of dollars in medical debt for others -- and how you can, too

Updated 2:17 PM ET, Fri March 6, 2020

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(CNN)For many people who feel crushed under the weight of their medical bills, trips to the mailbox can be anxiety-inducing. A reminder of that you're in a hole that feels impossible to get out of. A reminder that someone is still after you for money that you don't have.

In the coming weeks, opening up the mailbox for some people might yield a welcome surprise instead: a yellow envelope with the words "RIP Medical Debt."
At first, it might look like a scam, perhaps a scheme that might ultimately leave the recipient worse off than they started. But when they open the letter, they'll learn that the words are, in fact, real. Their medical debt has been forgiven -- thanks to someone, somewhere who cared.

A church wiped out $46 million in medical debt

That's the message that Crossroads Church, based in Cincinnati, wanted to send. Crossroads Church recently eliminated more than $46 million in medical debt for about 45,000 people in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee and other parts of the country.
"It just seemed like a good thing to do," Brian Tome, senior pastor at Crossroads Church, told CNN.
    The megachurch called on its congregation of about 50,000 people to give to the cause if they had any extra money to spare. And the churchgoers delivered.
    When someone's medical debt is forgiven thanks to the kindness of strangers, they get a letter looks like this.
    "That's really when churches are at their best: When they notice something that needs to be done, and they have the ability to do it and they then do it," Tome said.
    For Rebecca Alcorn, one of the campaign's recipients, the letter came at the perfect time.
    She and her husband had been working on