A Seattle Local News Channel Bought $1,000,000 in Medical Debt and Forgave It All
“It’s something we felt that needed to be done.”
It’s an affliction that more than one in four Americans suffers from — but it only happens after you see the doctor.
That affliction would be medical debt.
More than just an inconvenience, medical debt is a serious burden that can force sick people to forego necessary treatment and can even lead to bankruptcy — and it affects 25% of the US population, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation/New York Times Medical Bills Survey.
But one Seattle newscaster is on a mission to forgive medical debt in his home state.
Jesse Jones, a reporter for the local news channel KIRO 7, worked with a charity called RIP Medical Debt to forgive more than $1,000,000 in medical debt for Washington state residents. Jones contacted the organization, which bought the medical debt from loan collection agencies, using $12,000 in funds that had been provided by the station.
In all, Jones’ activism helped 1,000 people say goodbye to some or all of their medical debt for good.
Jones said in a broadcast that he was inspired to forgive these medical debts after doing an investigative report on the phenomenon. In it, he spoke with Joelle Craft, a Seattle resident who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and had to go thousands of dollars in debt to receive treatment.
Craft was forced to file for bankruptcy, the most common reason for which nationwide is medical debt, according to CNBC.
“After hearing stories like Joelle’s we at KIRO decided to make a difference,” Jones said. “KIRO spent 12,000 dollars to buy 1,000,000 of medical debt. So, what will we do next? We are forgiving every single cent of that debt”
“It’s something we felt that needed to be done,” he added. “Our management stepped up and did the right thing.”
Medical debt is most likely to affect low-income Americans, according to the Kaiser/New York Times poll. Some 37% of Americans who make less than $50,000 per year either have medical debt or have someone in their family with it. According to that same study, roughly half of the 27 million Americans without health insurance had outstanding medical debt in 2016.
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Jones isn’t the first television host to buy large amounts of medical debt and subsequently pay all of it off.
In June of 2016, John Oliver bought $15 million in medical debt for $60,000, and forgave all of it, after spending just $50 to create his own debt collection agency called Central Asset Recovery Professionals, or CARP.
This is possible because medical debt is bundled into portfolios, which collection agencies can buy for pennies on the dollar.
Jones, for his part, hopes to continue working to relieve medical debt for Seattle residents.
“This is unbelievably awesome,” he said, referring to KIRO’s initial debt firesale. “The emails are coming in and we’re coming up with more ideas and we hope to do more.”