For most Americans, medical debt is an unfortunate part of life. Due to many citizens living without health insurance, an ordinary visit to the doctor may cost hundreds of dollars which they are unable to pay.
A FAMILIAR AMERICAN STORY
13-year-old Katie was first diagnosed with leukemia at the beginning of 2015. Her parents, desperate to keep her alive, have spent thousands of dollars to provide her with the intense chemotherapy treatments she needs. After three years and over $10,000 in medical bills, the family was forced to sell their home to pay off the debt they had accumulated.
They purchased a piece of land and decided to build a new house from scratch. But after a few months, Katie relapsed. The exhausted family has been forced to move in with relatives. Their new home has been placed on hold due to a lack of funds.
Several miles away, Joelle Craft has been avoiding debt collectors since she was a teenager. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when she was just 16 and the illness has forced her to spend thousands of dollars on treatment since then. "I will constantly have medical debt," she says.
As an adult with three children, Joelle suspected she had cancer, but put off going to the doctor because she did not want to incur more debt. When she finally did, doctors discovered she did indeed have cancer and Joelle underwent uterine surgery, which she says saved her life.
"I couldn't say no to that surgery," she says, "I've got three kids. I can't say no to healthcare. That's like saying no to them." Although she is grateful to be alive, she is now saddled with thousands of dollars in debt which has gone to collection.
Two television stations who had been reporting on these stories and the larger debt crisis decided to be a part of the solution they were advocating for in an incredible way.
AN ACT OF INCREDIBLE KINDNESS
Both stations, on different sides of the country, partnered with an organization called RIP Medical Debt. It is a charity which purchases people's debt from collectors. During the process of debt collection, collectors purchase outstanding bills from hospitals for a fraction of what they are worth. Despite this, the patients are still forced to pay the original amount, in addition to interest the collection agencies attach to the bills.
RIP Medical Debt operates like a collection agency. However, instead of forcing patients to pay their huge medical bills, the charity buys them, with the help of donors, and writes them off.
The stations, KIRO 7 in Washington and NBC 5 in Northern Texas purchased $1 million and $2 million in medical debt respectfully. In all, they purchased the debt of 3,000 people in the United States for $32,000.
Afterwards, they sent out letters from the charity, informing them of their luck. Although the television stations admit they could not erase all the debt of the 3,000 people, they deserve commendation for doing their part to help their American viewers.
"It's so exciting and it's meaningful because it will actually help people," one television host says.
"It's so many people but it's just a drop in the bucket," another says.
The two stations are encouraging people to donate to RIP Medical Debt to help pay off bills of other Americans. You can find out how to help here.