Mounting medical debt: How unpaid bills can have a lasting impact on your credit

Medical debt can destroy a family’s future. Lingering bills contribute to 60% of all bankruptcies in the U.S. – including people who have health insurance.

FOX13 is taking drastic action to help local famlies clear medical debt.  We collected $1.4 million in medical debt owed by Mid-South families and paid every penny.

READ: $1.4 million in medical debt forgiven in Mid-South by FOX13

Debra Stansberry knows the issues with lingering medical bills all too well. She battled an aggressive form of breast cancer and won – but bills from the lifesaving treatment remain tied up and unpaid.

10 years have passed since the diagnosis. Debra has now lost track of the original amount owed, but it was in the thousands.

Countless others have similar situations. Payments seem to be never ending.

FOX13’s Mearl Purvis spoke to Attorney Craig Barnes with Memphis Area Legal Services about the cycle.


“Usually they say ‘I want to get chapter 7 or something… I want to wipe this out… I need to make this go away,’” he explained.

Memphis Area Legal Services helps as many families as possible avoid bankruptcy. It can ruin credit and leaves families unable to buy a car, get a loan, or get a job.

“$100 of bad debt that goes into a person’s credit report can knock credit down by 72 to 100 points,” Craig Antico with RIP Medical Debt explained to FOX13.

Debra Stansberry’s has avoided bankruptcy, but she’s still facing steep, lingering medical debt. It’s even made her have second thoughts about the treatment that saved her life.


“If I knew it was gonna cost that much, I'm not sure I would've had it done just to be honest,” she told FOX13.

To help people facing similar problems in the Mid-South, FOX13 took drastic action.

We bought $1.4 million of medical debt. 501 people will get a yellow envelop from RIP Medical Debt.

The letter will say your debt is forgiven. FOX13 has paid every single penny.

The families receiving the letters are in the Mid-South. They live in four states – Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Missouri – and 27 counties within those states.

The top five counties are Shelby, Pemiscot, Poinsett, Panola and Coahoma. Because of HIPAA laws, we could not pick the families.

If you received a yellow envelope, the number to call is 901-535-1313. Leave a message that includes your name, city and phone number.

You can also email

TONIGHT, FOX13 continues the million-dollar medical payoff series with more information on who go the yellow envelopes, help for those in need who didn’t receive one, and a LIVE phone bank staffed with debt experts who will answer your questions.