The Miracle of Medical Debt Forgiveness on HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Click to see 4-minute clip featuring RIP, posted with permission from Last Week Tonight.

  

HBO 20-minute “Debt Buyers” segment on Last Week Tonight, originating June 5, 2016. 


by Robert Goff,
RIP Board of Directors.

Medical debt pursuit, or more precisely, the endless harassment of patients unable to pay their bills (as opposed to unwilling), has gained increasing prominence as a major social issue.

Among the more egregious practices in the collections industry is the sale of old medical debt – for pennies on the dollar – to bill collectors who will then aggressively pursue this debt at full face value for an additional two to 10 more destructive years. This happens regardless of the personal circumstances of people who clearly are still struggling with the economic consequences of illness and accidents.

Jerry Ashton and I explore this practice in our book, The Patient, The Doctor, and the Bill Collector. In one chapter, we discuss how our RIP Medical Debt charity, inspired by the debt abolishment work pioneered by the “Rolling Jubilee” of Occupy Wall Street, was created to focus specifically on locating medical debt portfolios, buying them, and then forgiving every last penny.

We know that we are not alone in our concern for those needing medical care but unable to pay the resultant bill. Many people are left with financial stress that endures longer than the physical harm done by an illness or accident. We also know it’s been difficult to raise national awareness of the medical debt crisis.

Thanks to a June 5 airing of the HBO comedy series, Last Week Tonight Show with John Oliver, far more of us now are privy to this collection industry practice, and the debt treadmill it creates. In a painfully hilarious piece at the end of the show, John Oliver triumphantly out-Oprah’s Oprah in giving away valuable gifts.

Oprah Winfrey in 2004 set a record for any TV show by giving away about $7 million worth of GM cars to everybody in her audience. John Oliver in 2016 gave away forgiveness of nearly $15 million worth of medical debt for about 9,000 people — a new record.

Oliver and his LWT staff investigated the debt buying industry, and then registered a debt-buying company in Mississippi for $50, calling it Central Asset Recovery Professionals (CARP, like the bottom-feeding fish). They located and bought for about $60,000 a medical debt portfolio worth $14.9 million, which  they donated to the RIP Medical Debt charity. John Oliver then had the debt forgiven by RIP with great fanfare before his live studio audience with millions of viewers. Almost $15 million in medical debt. Abolished. Poof!

Craig Antico, Jerry Ashton and I deeply appreciate the issue of medical debt gaining national attention. We are grateful for an opportunity to be involved with a comedian who wanted to give 9,000 people the last laugh.

Gratifying, and so very funny.

By | 2017-04-10T08:26:09+00:00 June 5th, 2016|86 Comments

86 Comments

  1. Lord Dewi June 6, 2016 at 3:01 am

    Hi there, I saw the Last Week Tonight piece and have now found you. Is there a way for someone to know if they were one of the 9000 people who’s debt was forgiven by this superbly generous gift that John Oliver, LWT and HBO have given?

    • admin June 6, 2016 at 5:50 am

      Hello Lord-

      All 9,000 people that had their debt forgiven will get a letter from RIP Medical Debt. We are hopeful your debt is among the 9,000.

      You can register for help online at our site https://www.ripmedicaldebt.org and that way may give us an opportunity to reply with an answer.

      Regards,

      Craig Antico

  2. FromageHead June 6, 2016 at 4:13 am

    Keep up the good work.

    Amazing stuff.

    -from france

  3. annie June 6, 2016 at 5:02 am

    It was a great show. Americans are lucky to have organizations like yours. I’m Canadian and up here we find it unfathomable that health care isn’t provided free to all by your government. I cannot imagine what some Americans must go through – a simple traffic accident could have devastating financial consequences. This isn’t right. It *can’t* be. IMO, access to free healthcare is part of the social contract between a citizen and his/her nation as well as being a basic human right. Nobody deserves to be hounded to death for medical bills or be forced to choose between seeking crucial medical attention and keeping a roof over their head. America is a wealthy country and this isn’t the 15th century when only the nobility had access to expert medical care. You can afford this. The consequences of ignoring the issue are obvious.

    You are doing good work here. My heart goes out to everyone affected by these predatory debt buying agencies. I hope your laws change soon.

    • Asdf June 6, 2016 at 10:30 am

      Annie, nothing is free. The government forceably takes your money and then gives it back in the form of healthcare.

      • B June 6, 2016 at 7:43 pm

        Asdf… So what??? Let them take it!! I will never pay a single cent out of my pocket for even the most expensive medical procedures. Never will I have to avoid a procedure because I don’t have insurance. I’ll never have to decide if I can afford for my wife to give birth in a hospital. I pay $85 for an ambulance. That;s the most I’ll ever have to pay out of pocket for any medical procedure. They can take from me all my life for that *gift*. Medical care is a right. Not a cash grab. The entire American system is an absolute scam.

        • Gruven June 20, 2016 at 1:00 pm

          Of course you will never have to decide on an expensive procedure. A medical board who has their finger on the financial pulse will be the deciding factor if you or that otherwise healthy younger man down the hall in room 2 gets it.. 8 times out of 10 you will be made comfortable and sent home to die. So don’t go painting a system that I know very well as peaches and cream because it’s not, there is a dark side to the Canadian Healthcare System.

        • Fran dale June 29, 2016 at 10:19 am

          Don’t say “never.” Don’t be in denial about how we can continue. Health care is anything but free in Canada, and we are in denial about how we can sustain it!

      • Justin June 6, 2016 at 8:32 pm

        You are right, of course. However, as Annie has said we all have a social contract with our government. We pay taxes, and they provide services for the good of the populous. This way, those amongst us who need healthcare aren’t directly financially responsible for that cost – it’s worn by the entire population so that our friends, family and countrymen don’t die because they can’t afford the sudden high cost of care. I’m in Australia, and it sounds like our healthcare works much like our Canadian friends. The US way of looking at health just baffles me. What exactly *do* you expect your government to do for the people they serve?

      • Jesse June 6, 2016 at 9:11 pm

        “Forcibly?” Last time I checked, I just filled out a W4 form. I don’t recall any government agents grabbing me and taking my wallet.

        You want a country where the government doesn’t “forcibly” take your money in the form of taxes? Move to North Korea.

        • Gruven June 20, 2016 at 1:09 pm

          … let me explain. A W-4 is the form that you complete and give to your EMPLOYER, not the IRS so that your employer can figure how much federal income tax to withhold from your pay.

      • Mike Wilson June 6, 2016 at 9:28 pm

        It’s a common misconception.
        But “forcibly” is bullshit. We all know the system that we are paying into, and we do it willingly instead of living under constant fear.
        One thing I am proud of, among many things, is that we have a sense of ownership over the fate of others. I do NOT want my neighbour to die because he cannot afford a visit to the doctor. I do NOT want his/her life to be over because he/’she had to battle through cancer.
        Our healthcare isn’t “free,” it is a figure of speech. But we are aware of the implications of a payment system that isn’t single payer; and we watch it with horror from across the American border.

        • admin June 6, 2016 at 9:53 pm

          You are right, that no one has a gun to their head to force them to pay; but, many of the people in hardship due to illness/accident are more “able to be forced,” with vigorous, strong and relentless collection tactics.

          • Paul June 8, 2016 at 3:45 am

            admin – he means taxes aren’t taken with force, not debt. debt collection is definitely entirely different! 🙂

        • James E June 8, 2016 at 10:49 pm

          If you don’t think our government “forcibly” takes our money for taxes, I encourage you to try not paying them and see how it goes for you. Do you know how many people are sitting in prison right now for no other crime than not paying their taxes? If your country will put you in prison if you don’t pay, that is forcing you. You can argue that there are things worth taxing people for, but you can’t argue that taxes are taken by force. We’re all here because we saw a video about people who will go after you for your debt, threaten you, and take your belongings to recoup their money. We can agree that’s wrong, but somehow many of you are arguing that when the group is “the government”, when the debt is “taxes”, and when instead of taking your possessions, they take your freedom and put you in prison, that’s totally fine with you.

          • Craig Antico June 9, 2016 at 6:46 am

            This does bring up a good point; one that we at RIP are concerned with. The federal government does have “collection powers” that do exceed anything banks or creditors have to “force” someone to pay- that is the right of “offset.” Meaning, regardless of your ability to pay or hardship, if you have a tax refund, they can use that immediately to pay any of your federal and if agreements are in place, state liabilities. This is fine; however, when it comes to our veterans and the Veteran’s Administration, the government can and will offset not only a tax refund, they can offset a medical bill for example, from their monthly benefits- regardless if that leaves them with $25 to live with per month! VA Policy on Medical Debt Collections We have secondhand accounts from a veteran’s advocate Kimberly A. Bolen of NJ – that tirelessly helps veterans, like thousands of advocates across the country, navigate the veteran medical system to get the care and benefits they so deserve. RIP Medical Debt has a veteran’s program that forgives their and their family medical debt. https://www.ripmedicaldebt.org
            We have a July 4th campaign to forgive $20 million in medical debt owed to non-VA hospitals across the country, for our active duty and veterans! Over 1 million veterans per month visit non-VA hospitals for services! Their insurance, like everyone elses only covers so much and the remaining balances can not be paid.

            Write us through our advocate, Kimberly, at [email protected] if you want to be set up as a fundraiser in this crowdsourced effort.

      • edp June 7, 2016 at 5:11 am

        Asdf, this is the kind of rationalization that keep those predatory practices legal, lack of empathy and the belief that any extra thought you have about a problem is infalible and correct, like moving an inch outside of the box means you’re thinking outside of it…

    • Mili June 6, 2016 at 7:05 pm

      Very well said. Thank you

    • Kippie June 7, 2016 at 3:46 am

      Yeah for me as a german student it seems so weird to have to pay so much for health care

      the only money ive paid for healthcare in the last 2 years or so were 15€ (17$) for 3 packages of Ritalin which i actually can get back from my insurance

      • admin June 9, 2016 at 7:39 am

        Unbelievably, the average percentage of gross income that those that have insurance pay, is 15%. We have over 60 million people in the US that are underinsured or uninsured. The Affordable Care Act, like most health care reform efforts, focuses on people without insurance. That’s fine, because those people do face significant problems obtaining health care in the United States.
        But underinsurance is a real concern, too, and it’s often ignored.

        Accornign to a NYT article, “Before the A.C.A. (Obamacare) was passed, underinsurance was prevalent. Of adults age 19-64 in 2010, 16 percent, or 29 million, met the Commonwealth Fund’s (a health care watch group) definition of being underinsured: one’s out-of-pocket health care costs exceeding 10 percent of income (5 percent when income is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty line), or one’s insurance deductible being more than 5 percent of income. The number of underinsured Americans had grown by 80 percent from 2003 to 2010.”

    • Alex June 7, 2016 at 6:32 am

      Free?

      It’s not. We pay around 800$ a year when we do our taxes for it.

      Granted, this is nowhere near what americans pay, but still, not free.

  4. OnionsAreDelicious June 6, 2016 at 7:35 am

    I wasn’t even aware that debt-buying agencies were a thing… much less that they could do all these terrible things with MEDICAL debt… I’m unbelievably grateful that there are people like you out there that seek to help people retain some sort of control over their lives. : )

  5. Chiara June 6, 2016 at 8:39 am

    What a wonderful man!!! So many people in this country are suffering from astrnomical medical expenses … and all we ever hear from some nutballs in our country is how “Hollywood is a hotbed of corruption” … well, look at who actually had the real “compassionate heart” and actually did something about it – love you, John Oliver!

  6. Ed June 6, 2016 at 9:09 am

    I’m not sure how John and his countless staff found you guys.. but they consistently hit their message out of the park. It is quite incredible and I’m glad they found your organization to help out. Well done!

  7. Karah June 6, 2016 at 9:53 am

    Heard about your group when I watched Last Week Tonight on HBO. Thank you for what you are doing! Keep up the good work!

  8. Kristen June 6, 2016 at 10:29 am

    I do hope I’m lucky enough to receive a letter forgiving my medical debt! That’d be amazing! Love John Oliver and I’m glad he brought your organization to the attention of millions.

    • Jeff June 6, 2016 at 9:19 pm

      They bought medical debt that is past the statute of limitations. The reason it is so cheap is they cannot garnish your wages or win in court (I guess they could maybe if you don’t show up). If you get the annoying phone calls you can ask that communications only be in writing or not even contact you. (I would record it if that is allowed in your state) The clock may be reset (depends on the state) on statute of limitation debt if you pay anything. Here is a good article from the FTC https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0117-time-barred-debts

      • admin June 6, 2016 at 10:01 pm

        Jeff-

        Time-barred debt or out-of-statute debt cannot be sued on in court. Collectors can not even threaten to sue. It is true that if you pay or even promise to pay the bill, in some states, the statute-of-limitations is reset.

        If you are even sued for a time-barred debt do the following, as the article states:

        What should I do if I’m sued for a time-barred debt?
        Defend yourself in court. If you’re sued to collect on a time-barred debt, pay attention, and respond. Consider talking to an attorney. You or your attorney should tell the judge that the debt is time-barred and, as proof, provide a copy of the verification from the collector or any information you have that shows the date of your last payment. The lawsuit will be dismissed if the judge decides the debt is time-barred. In any case, don’t ignore the lawsuit. If you do, the collector likely will get a court judgment against you, and possibly take money from your paycheck, bank account, or tax refund.

        Assert your FDCPA rights. It’s against the law for a collector to sue you or threaten to sue you on a time-barred debt. If you think a collector has broken the law, file a complaint with the FTC and your state Attorney General, and consider talking to an attorney about bringing your own private action against the collector for violating the FDCPA.

  9. […] more of us now privy to this collection industry practice and the debt treadmill it creates,” said Craig Antico, co-founder of RIP Medical Debt. “In a painfully hilarious (debt as funny? Somehow, yes) […]

  10. Carl June 6, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    This gesture on Oliver’s part has generated a lot of buzz, of course, but some questions were raised by a friend of mine after doing some math.

    $15,000,000 / 9,000 is about $1700 in debt per person. Is there someway of distilling the components of this debt (obviously without violating any HIPAA laws)? Was it from ER visits for indigent people? Underinsured patients? Catastrophic accidents? What was the average income of the debts forgiven? What efforts to negotiate a settlement took place? Your blog post points out that there was some effort put in to find a particular package of debt, so I’m guessing some the criteria must cross-reference these questions.

    • admin June 6, 2016 at 7:34 pm

      Carl-

      Thanks for the question.

      We are under a non-disclosure and the portfolio was donated. We are under strict privacy laws and cannot discuss any account details.

      All the factors you bring up does come into play with valuing and qualifying a portfolio.

      When we evaluate a portfolio for purchase, we do make considerable effort to purchase, append data and analyze the accounts- that enables us to qualify the accounts for debt forgiveness.

      Regards,

      Craig Antico

  11. polo June 6, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    But Oliver said he was buying out of statue debt — that means it is not collectable anyway. Is that the best use for that money?

    • admin June 6, 2016 at 7:11 pm

      Thanks for your question.

      Out of statute debt is definitely not very collectable; however, it’s relative to what a buyer pays for the debt. When you pay 1/2 of a percent you don’t need to collect much to earn a return.

      Even deceased and bankrupt accounts are sold.

      All a buyer has to do is collect about three times what they paid for it to make a modest return for the risk.

      Thus, any debt that would still be collected on is worth it to buy; as long as we do not overpay or do not do proper due diligence on the portfolio and the original creditor (hospital or doctor) or the owner/debt-seller.

      Regards,

      Craig Antico

  12. […] He instructed the debt seller to send the notes to a nonprofit called RIP Medical Debt. On its blog, the organization called Oliver’s action “Gratifying, and so very […]

  13. admin June 6, 2016 at 7:19 pm

    Not sure if I replied already.

    Oliver donated the portfolio for us to forgive.

    We buy directly from creditors, such as hospitals and doctors, but we are also interested in getting collection accounts out of the hands of the collectors and ensure that the previous owner removed the account from the account holder’s credit reports. Over 15 million people have credit reports that only have medical accounts on them!

    People should pay their medical bills; it’s the three to ten years of continuous collection attempts on people that cannot pay- and when the poor (under 2 times the federal poverty level or those in hardship (the insolvent; or those paying over 5% of their gross income on out-of-pocket medical expenses and medical debt) do pay, it is in the place of food, shelter or medication and hospital/doctor services.

    Regards,

    Craig Antico

  14. Robert Sacerich June 6, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    Do you report those debts as paid to credit reporting agencies, or as settled? How does it work on the credit end of things?

    • admin June 6, 2016 at 11:33 pm

      Often-times the account is completely removed from the credit report. It is up to the present owner of the “debt” to report to the credit bureaus that they are handling the account. We choose to not report the account after it has been removed by the previous collection company.

  15. Richard Kerhin June 6, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    An amazing coup, Johnny Olive Pants has done it again!

    Keep up the good work.

    On another note, I just came up with a great idea. Building upon the success of Al Franken, we stack the house with former funny men and women who lean a bit more left than most. First, John Oliver runs and wins, followed by Jon Stewart, then Colbert, Wilmore, etc until there’s no turning back.

  16. Michael June 6, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    Can you explain in more detail how the actual forgiveness process works? How does RIP Medical pay the original debtor? Thanks!

    • admin June 6, 2016 at 11:27 pm

      Michael-

      We settle the original debtor’s medical bill when we buy a portfolio of accounts at a steep discount from what is legally owed to the medical provider. If we had to buy one account at a time we would have to pay over 50 times (yes, 50 times!) the approximate $10-15 for each $1,000 account we pay now. That pays the provider for each account, but leaves the debtor owing the full $1,000 to the investor/collector. The medical provider does not earn $985-990 they could have, but they have cash flow they did not have before.

      Because donor gave money to RIP Medical Debt, they were able to buy the debt instead of an investor or collector. The collector would attempt to collect the full balance of $1,000. They would only have to collect about $30-45 on average for each account to make an acceptable return for the risk they assumed. The problem is that it can take an additional 3-10 years to collect. We believe and our donors/”social investors” agree: That is too long and destructive. So, instead, we forgive the debt and tell the account holder they no longer owe the bill- a gift from the donor and RIP Medical Debt to them.

      Thus, the medical debt forgiveness process is about a donor, with a compassion deep in their gut, heart or “bowels,” that knows he/she can now do something to help another person in poverty or hardship be freed from a destructive medical debt. No judgment, no pity, just a gift from a disinterested (not for you, your relative or friend), detached (no demands and looking for nothing in return) person to another.

      Our process necessitates you making a donation, a qualified portfolio of accounts owed by the poor or those in hardship, a willing hospital, doctor or debt owner to sell this portfolio of accounts instead of continuing to collect or use a collection agency to collect. A valuation and an offer of money for the portfolio so the creditor (hospital/doctor) or debt-seller (investor/collector) is compelled to sell or donate their portfolio to RIP Medical Debt for forgiveness.

      Does this make sense to you?

      RIP: Medical Debt!

  17. Jennifer M June 6, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    Hi Mr. Antico. Thank you for the amazing work you have done. It must be a great feeling every time you abolish more medical debt! I read that your goal was to raise $14 million in hopes of wiping away $1 billion of debt. I was wondering how much debt have you effectively wiped away since your first fundraiser?

    Thank you,
    Jennifer

    • admin June 6, 2016 at 9:48 pm

      Yes, and much better than collecting from people that can not afford, to forgo life’s necessities, to pay a medical bill.

  18. James E June 6, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    I think this is great. I found your site through this story. I’m confused by the term “out of statute.” If we donate to your organization, does most of the money go toward paying debt for people who would likely have to pay otherwise, or does it mainly go to pay debt for those who would likely never end up paying? I’m very interested in helping pay against debt that is pulling people under financially, especially for those in your veterans program. I’m all for, but a little less enthusiastic about the concept of buying debt that would likely never have to be paid by the debtor even if it were not paid. I also noticed that your “Stories” section has people feeling the weight of debt, but I didn’t see any that were from people whose debt had been forgiven and it helped them move forward in life. I hope this doesn’t seem like a “gotcha” question, I’m just legitimately interested and would like to get involved, but want to do so in a way that helps people who will feel the freedom of losing the weight of their debt. Thanks!

    • admin June 7, 2016 at 12:00 am

      James E.-

      Thanks for the thoughtful questions.

      Out-of-statute or time-barred debt, at least in the United States (and each state legislates their own time frame and “contract”/agreement type), is the period of time an entity owed by another entity can bring a legal action to collect money owed.

      What’s interesting about your comment: “does most of the money go toward paying debt for people who would likely have to pay otherwise, or does it mainly go to pay debt for those who would likely never end up paying is the two categories:

      Likely have to pay:
      If a person or family gross income is above 2 times the federal poverty level, is not insolvent (negative net-worth), is not in hardship (spending more than 5% of their gross income on medical expenses or debt) RIP Medical Debt would not qualify these debts to be purchased.

      Likely never end up paying:
      We can’t tell who these people are until collectors attempt to collect from them vigorously for 3-10 years, depending on the balance and other factors. Ironically, most of the debt we purchase would likely never end up paying! If a portfolio is purchased for 1% the investor would be ecstatic if over the next 5 years 3-4% of the account balance was collected. I’d say 97% -that’s most likely “never end up paying.” However, the damage is done to the whole 100% of the accounts while only 3% end up paying. The others pay with stress and stigma and lost productivity- and that hurts all of us.

      It is this 3 to 5 to even 10 years of collecting- the long tail of abuse and harassment- that our “social investors” are getting their return on. There are almost 100,000 collectors with collection and debt-buying companies in this country and they are calling over 100 million medical debtors each year, to damaging result. Over 15 million people have only medical debt on their credit reports! But we can now stop the damage. That’s why you, and others, should spread the word, invest your valuable time and resources, to support us to support people by removing the weight of debt through RIP: Medical Debt.

      Regards,

      Craig Antico

      • James E June 8, 2016 at 10:59 pm

        That’s very helpful, thank you for the reply.

  19. Carson dickens June 7, 2016 at 12:19 am

    Our medical system is more than unfair. My son was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 5 weeks old. I hadnt paid my hospital bills which were over 8,000 when I found out my son had cf. The first thing I though was how the hell are we ever going to afford it. It felt like everything I ever worked for didnt matter because for the rest of my life, im going to have to pay huge medical bills so my son van LIVE. Me nor anyone else should have to worry about money when it comes to a life.

    • admin June 7, 2016 at 12:43 am

      I feel for you.

      The system is broken- the least we can do is try to ease the burden- together.

      Godspeed.

  20. erik v. June 7, 2016 at 2:59 am

    I thought debt forgiveness was taxable? How is John Oliver claiming that there won’t be tax consequences for the debtors?

    • admin June 9, 2016 at 7:46 am

      It is not in this case: it is a gift from a detached and disinterested party (our donors/social investors).

  21. Ryan June 7, 2016 at 3:45 am

    Thank you for all you are doing to help fight and combat this broken system. I know this pain all to well. I had my first seizure within a year of losing coverage under my parents insurance plan. I had just got married and I was excited to start a family. Plans changed. Due to the seizures I couldn’t work or drive and on top of that was the incessant calling of debt collectors saying I owed them money. This happened in 2012. My last seizure was 2013, but I had incurred around $30,000 in debt in a year. It remains the only thing on my credit report that’s derogatory. I get at least 5 calls a day from debt collectors and it is impossible to keep track of who has purchased what debt. My wife and I just purchased our first home and we had to use her credit for financing due to this debt. 2 years ago I decided to help out others and prevent this from happening to them. I now sell insurance. It was the best avenue to help others I could find. Once again, thank you for this. It gives me hope that one day my phone might stop ringing, displaying numbers I don’t know.

    • admin June 9, 2016 at 7:44 am

      ouch.

      15 million people in this country have only one mark on their credit report- a medical debt collection account. It is costing each of them in ways they don’t even know. Everyone in this country should get their credit reports (3 major ones) for free, once per year. Call (877)322-8228 or go online to the CFPB website to find information.

  22. Michael J Trout June 7, 2016 at 3:52 am

    Why not turn $15m to $1bn? Oliver exposed a way for Americans to help other Americans next week I will start on an app to make this possible https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aRlC0BwzCc

    • admin June 9, 2016 at 7:33 am

      Le’s talk. Call me. 212-913-9788. Craig Antico.

  23. guero June 7, 2016 at 5:15 am

    I once worked for a man as a ditch digger for about a week. The trench where I was digging was inaccessible to heavy machinery and had sensitive buried utilities in the area. I worked with a shovel all day long and was just glad to have a job for those few days.
    One evening, while camping with some friends, a frantic parent approached for help in finding a lost child. Fortunately, the young boy was found in good health, but in my efforts to search for the missing child I suffered an accident in which I tripped over some uneven ground. I had broken my leg which swelled up and bruised in an ugly manner. Being without health insurance, I went home with my girlfriend who loving cared for my injury with bandages and ice. I awoke the next morning and drove to work to dig a trench for eight hours being careful to avoid appearing injured for fear that I would lose the modest income I depended on.

    • admin June 9, 2016 at 7:32 am

      We live in a broken health care system- and we at RIP are only a resolution to a small portion, until donations allow, of the symptom- medical debt. I feel for you. Thanks for sharing your situation with us.

  24. Rui Ning Wang June 7, 2016 at 8:02 am

    Hey I was not aware of charities that supported endebted people until that segment with John Oliver! Keep up the good work you guys are amazing! This is like the most efficient charity in the world! 10’000% of the money donated is used to help the people!

    • admin June 9, 2016 at 7:29 am

      Not exactly all the money goes to locate, analyze, negotiate, contract to buy the debt and then fulfill the process. In the early stages much of the money raised was used for startup costs, insurance, technology, fund raising and administrative “stuff.” No-one makes a salary! (Don’t quit your day job) We have done this with my board of directors and my money, even now, and then through donations. However, as we get larger, 70% of our donations will go directly to the debt and its forgiveness.

  25. […] a nonprofit that raises money to buy and forgive debt for those in need. RIP Medical Debt said the attention both to the problem and the organization is welcome indeed. Craig Antico, CEO of RIP Medical Debt, said that on Monday they were already seeing a boost in […]

  26. Jacob June 7, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    First off I would like to say that you guys are my heroes. I really want to get involved in this movement and need more information. Ideally I would like to start a similar charity but I have no idea where to start. I would appreciate any help I can get. Thank you for making America a better place one portfolio at a time.

    • admin June 9, 2016 at 7:21 am

      This debt forgiveness business looks easy, just like it looks easy to buy medical debt like John Oliver did. However, it is fraught with high regulatory and compliance issues- such as protecting the security and privacy of the personal health information, and federal, state and local laws, significant insurance, huge legal expenses, a 501(c)(3) federal tax exemption status (takes over a year to aply for and receive). Then the technology and expertise you need to value the portfolio and vet the sellers. Can you imagine having to print and buy the postage for over 9,000 letters? And then the hard part- raising the money!

      I suggest you join us as a fundraiser to get an experience of the process.

      Write us through our advocate, Kimberly, at [email protected] if you want to be set up as a fundraiser in this crowdsourced effort to buy and forgive medical debtfor our active duty and veterans. (There are millions of them that unbeknownst to many of us, have to pay out-of-pocket, even to the VA for inpatient, outpatient, extended care services,
      medication, and per diem fees.) This is regardless if the service is done in a VA facility or not.

  27. Joakim June 7, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    HI,
    I just saw this clip now.. it’s so disturbing to see. Iam from Sweden for me that make it even more difficult to understand..

    So if give you $100 now, how sure can i be that this money dont pay of the medical bill for someone that have the money and just dont want to pay the medical bill?

    Thanks
    Joakim

    ps you should ask this 9000 for voluntary donation -pay it forward..

    • admin June 9, 2016 at 7:10 am

      If the debt wasn’t so old, out-of-statute, and donated to us prior to us doing our qualification process, we might have asked; we will not ask any of these 9,000+ to pay-it-forward.

      For some accounts we might send out a letter that does ask them to “pay-it-forward.” Our system is not perfect, and there will be times when we find out we purchased an account and the account owner has a change of fortune- we may reach out to them and ask them to “pay-it-forward.” But this is rare, unfortunately.

  28. Bill C June 7, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    It is encouraging to see the comments of Craig Antico and other members of the RIP team responding to questions. Thanks for such a great discussion. I’ve numbered my questions to help you answer them.

    1a. As Carl mentioned on 6/6/16 at 1:07 pm, the Oliver portfolio averages less than $1,700 in debt per person. This seems to be a relatively small amount, since about $20 per month retires this in about a decade. In trying to understand the system better, about how many people are forced to choose between paying off this sort of debt and providing for other personal needs?

    1b. Under the APA, people are required to purchase health insurance. Do you check that beneficiaries have current health insurance as required by law? If not, how does your program protect beneficiaries from a treadmill of repeated assumption of debt that becomes unmanageable?

    2a. How big is the market for medical debt portfolio of the kind you seek to purchase and forgive? You state that 15 million people only have medical debt on their credit reports. If these all have the $1,667 average amount from the Oliver forgiveness, this suggests $25 billion. Of course, there must be people who have more than medical debt on their credit reports.

    2b. How do you avoid inflating the medical debt portfolio market with your forgiveness purchases? You are to be commended for putting a new spin on an old idea. However, when abolitionists went to slave markets to purchase slaves to set them free, this raised the price of purchasing slaves since the sellers knew there was a “buyer of last resort.”

    3. What happens to the credit report of the beneficiaries of your debt forgiveness? You responded to Robert Sacherich on 6/6/16 at 11:33 pm that RIP does not report to the credit reporting agencies. How do they know the debt has been forgiven, thus improving the credit report of your beneficiaries?

    4. What is the impact on the credit report of a person who has medical debt when the statute of limitations on collecting that debt expires? Does it remain on their credit report?

    Thanks for generating an innovative idea and hope that you can continue to help people manage their personal lives productively.

    • admin June 9, 2016 at 7:05 am

      Good questions. I am doing research and will get back with you this week.

      • Bill C June 9, 2016 at 6:32 pm

        Thanks!

    • admin June 14, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      It is encouraging to see the comments of Craig Antico and other members of the RIP team responding to questions. Thanks for such a great discussion. I’ve numbered my questions to help you answer them.
      1a. As Carl mentioned on 6/6/16 at 1:07 pm, the Oliver portfolio averages less than $1,700 in debt per person. This seems to be a relatively small amount, since about $20 per month retires this in about a decade. In trying to understand the system better, about how many people are forced to choose between paying off this sort of debt and providing for other personal needs?

      RIP: According to Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey, 2014, here are some sobering statistics from their survey for individuals 19 years to 64 years old:

      There are 183.9 million individuals in our country and 76 million (42%) had problems paying their medical bills or had medical debt they could not pay.
      Of these 42%, the following occurred during the past year:
      42% 76.3 million people had medical bill problems this yr. or medical debt

      25% 19.1 million were unable to pay for basic food, heat or rent
      37% 28.2 million used all savings
      7% 5.3 million took out mortgage or loan
      27% 20.6 million took on credit card debt
      6% 4.6 million had to declare bankruptcy (I’d adjust this number to 1.5 million – almost the number of college graduates each yr!)
      42% 32.1 million received a lower credit rating

      1b. Under the APA, people are required to purchase health insurance. Do you check that beneficiaries have current health insurance as required by law? If not, how does your program protect beneficiaries from a treadmill of repeated assumption of debt that becomes unmanageable?

      RIP: We can check, but people are not forced to use their insurance, even if they do have it. There is a maximum ceiling percentage of income that limits paying too much of a person’s income toward insurance, that is supposed to kick in, but it is not followed. Texas- the highest insurance cost as a percentage of gross income is at 15%- the country averages 12%. New York is at 6%.
      If we get hospitals to go under contract with us this could happen, but we would need significant donations/funding to provide that safety net.
      Many people do not know about Medicaid insurance, (almost half of the states offer this coverage at 138% of the Federal Poverty Level guidelines.) and over 30% of the people that get placed for collection are below 200% of the poverty level- which 90% of hospitals in the country have policy declaring that that person should get charity care- no charge, no bill. They still do and then can’t pay! This is a big percentage of the accounts we forgive.

      2a. How big is the market for medical debt portfolio of the kind you seek to purchase and forgive? You state that 15 million people only have medical debt on their credit reports. If these all have the $1,667 average amount from the Oliver forgiveness, this suggests $25 billion. Of course, there must be people who have more than medical debt on their credit reports.

      RIP: Over 70 million people have medical debt (medical collections) on their credit report. As the above states, if another 25.9 million took out a mortgage, loan or credit card to pay the medical expenses, that number might be as high as 90 million people. The amount outstanding, amounts to over $70 billion per year that goes uncollected after attempts are made. Add up the last 10 years and it could be over $500 billion outstanding medical bills.

      2b. How do you avoid inflating the medical debt portfolio market with your forgiveness purchases? You are to be commended for putting a new spin on an old idea. However, when abolitionists went to slave markets to purchase slaves to set them free, this raised the price of purchasing slaves since the sellers knew there was a “buyer of last resort.”

      RIP: Not sure.

      3. What happens to the credit report of the beneficiaries of your debt forgiveness? You responded to Robert Sacherich on 6/6/16 at 11:33 pm that RIP does not report to the credit reporting agencies. How do they know the debt has been forgiven, thus improving the credit report of your beneficiaries?

      RIP: We have the last collector or medical provider take the account off of the credit report. The account holders get a letter from us declaring that the debt is forgiven as a gift.

      4. What is the impact on the credit report of a person who has medical debt when the statute of limitations on collecting that debt expires? Does it remain on their credit report?

      RIP: Almost all agencies or collectors that get a new account, in -stat or out, place that account on the person’s credit report. “Parking” an account on a credit report is commonplace- because the account holder might just need to buy a car or get a job and they might just pay, regardless of their situation or hardship. One derogatory medical account can lower a credit score by over 100 points!

      Thanks for generating an innovative idea and hope that you can continue to help people manage their personal lives productively.

      RIP: You’re welcome! This is what we love to do.

      • Bill C June 19, 2016 at 3:31 pm

        Thank you so much for this informative reply. Indeed, the statistics you present are sobering.

  29. Charles June 7, 2016 at 6:41 pm

    Suppose a church decided to start a project to collect donations from the congregation, buy medical debt and then send it to you to be forgiven? How complicated a process is that?

    • admin June 12, 2016 at 11:38 pm

      Dear Charles,

      This would be a relatively easy process to set up. Write me at [email protected] to explain your thoughts and we can then set up a call with the person or committee in charge of mission and outreach at your church.

      Regards,

      Craig Antico

  30. Michael June 9, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    I am very eager to find out if i was one of the lucky 9000 in Texas to have their medical debt forgiven. how long should it take for the letters to get out?

    • admin June 12, 2016 at 11:34 pm

      Please see my reply to tgrant on 6/12/16 at 11:35 PM EDT

  31. tgrant June 9, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    All want to know is how to find out if I’m on the list.

    • admin June 12, 2016 at 11:31 pm

      Due to privacy and security issues, we will not be able to confirm if you are indeed on the list. If you are, you will receive a letter from RIP Medical Debt. If you have medical debt or bills that you are unable to pay or unwilling due to hardship or you choose to pay for basic necessities instead of the debt, please go to our website and register for help. Thus, with your information, if we get enough donations we may be able to place your debt in a portfolio we purchase. We cannot help individuals with their personal medical debt- the debt has to be in a portfolio we purchase and forgive.

      Regards,

      Craig Antico

  32. Bill C June 19, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Craig & the RIP team:
    Thanks again for your engaging conversation.
    I just read an article in the Atlantic that reinforces some of your points about the state of personal finances for Americans : http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/05/my-secret-shame/476415/

    Your idea seems to be a market-driven approach to aid people in dire financial straits.
    Have you faced any criticism for your efforts?
    If so, what kinds of arguments against your program have been made?

    Thanks,
    Bill C.

    • admin June 25, 2016 at 7:20 am

      Bill C.

      Yes Bill, over 65 million Americans are one illness or accident away from financial ruin.

      The constructive criticism we have received focuses on us making sure we are not causing an IRS cancellation of debt, taxable event (1099-C income), for those that receive the gift of having their debt forgiven/abolished.

      See these two articles that address this issue head on: one published in one of the oldest law journals:

      Tax Consequences of John Oliver’s $15 million Debt Forgiveness

      And one published in Forbes Magazine:

      “John Oliver did you a solid: he not only wiped your medical debt clean, but he did it without costing you any tax dollars.”

      John Oliver Buys And Forgives $15 Million In Medical Debt: But Is The Forgiveness Taxable?

      We accept criticism, because “Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions,” and it makes us a better charity.

      Regards, Craig Antico

      • Bill C June 26, 2016 at 5:14 pm

        Thanks Again Craig!
        The article in Forbes brings up some interesting points, but at an average of ~$1,600 per debtor in the John Oliver debt forgiveness, It is unlikely that many of those debtors itemize or have the $1,600 exceed 10% of income (I think $16,000 is well below the established poverty line).

        The National Law Review article brings up a great point that would benefit from real-life examples. Can you imagine the tax man standing at the exit to the food bank and charging people for their groceries? In a higher stakes example, what if the tax man started to add taxes to the zero-interest mortgages paid by Habitat for Humanity beneficiaries. This could apply to many other examples and would cripple the ability of charities to operate.

        Thanks again for the great conversation.

        Bill C.

  33. Lindy June 28, 2016 at 1:33 am

    ONE MORE reason I love John Oliver. His show LAST WEEK TONIGHT (HBO) … Very smart show, delivers useful info with facts and humor.
    Thanks You, John!!!!

  34. […] would make Pope Francis very happy in this Year of Mercy, he forgave the debt.  It’s gone.  For 9,000 people a burden caused by medical issues has been erased. […]

  35. Megan July 20, 2016 at 1:42 am

    Umm…this happened a month ago? I stumbled on this post because I had medical collections vanish in the past week, and now I’m wondering if I’m going to get a letter soon….?

  36. […] RIP Medical Debt’s feature by John Oliver on Last Week Tonight […]

  37. Willie Ricks August 29, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    I was hospitalized last year. After being in the hospital for 6 months from my kidney transplant, I started receiving medical bills from what my insurance didn’t cover. I owed about 312 thousand with all the specialists and surgeons and doctors etc. My husbands company had a benefit that looks at, audits, reviews medical bills and negotiates them down for you. They even find funding that can help you pay what you owe. I won’t lie, it wasn’t a fast and simple process but, the medical debt help company (Alton Advocacy Group) helped me. They collected all of my bills and started working on my behalf. They were able to lower my bills to 17 thousand dollars. I know 17 thousand dollars sounds like a lot and I am not a common case but not only did they stop there, they applied for a medical grant and I was given 9 thousand dollars that went towards my balance. I was able to make 75.00 payments a month. If you need help look them up. They don’t have a market for one off cases like myself listed online but they do take individual cases. The website is http://www.altonadvocacygroup.com if you email [email protected] they can tell you how to sign up. Good luck to everyone!

  38. 4 Creative Crowdfunding Ideas | CauseVox August 30, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    […] this year, talk show history was made when TV personality, John Oliver, purchased nearly $15 million worth of medical debt of over 9000 individuals, and then forgave […]

  39. Brian Linnekens September 28, 2016 at 7:51 am

    Dealing with debt settlement agency can be risky. Many agencies do promises more than they can deliver. If your debt is forgiven by the creditor, it could be counted as taxable income on your federal income taxes. You must consult from tax attorney to learn how forgiven debt affects your federal income tax.

  40. Youtube John Oliver Irs | god December 28, 2016 at 12:48 am

    […] John Oliver Gave RIP Almost $15 … – ripmedicaldebt.org – Medical debt pursuit, or more precisely the endless harassment of patients unable (as opposed to unwilling) to pay their bills has gained increasing prominence as a … […]

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