More Americans are drowning in medical debt; a July 2018 report from Health Affairs shows one in six Americans has past-due health care bills on their credit reports.
In a FOX13 Investigation, news anchor Mearl Purvis found one in three adults faces medical debt collections.
WHAT WE DID
After hearing the horror stories of so many people who are dealing with mounting medical debt, FOX13 decided to take dramatic action.
FOX13 collected $1.4 MILLION worth of lingering medical debt – and WE PAID IT OFF.
Letters went out to 501 families across the FOX13 viewing area – across four states. If you are one of the families, you received a yellow envelope that looks like this.
It will identify the bill(s) for which every penny is forgiven.
IF YOU RECEIVE A LETTER
Because of HIPAA laws, we can’t know who gets forgiven until you tell us – and FOX13’s Mearl Purvis wants to hear your story.
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 MedicalDebt@FOX13Memphis.com.
WHY WE DID IT
The impact of medical debt is real. 43 million Americans have lingering medical bills – and locally lives are being ruined by it.
For Memphian Debra Stansberry, it started with a diagnosis of breast cancer.
She faced chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It took a cancer clinic, two hospitals and several surgeries to stop the cancer in its tracks.
Stansberry told FOX13's Mearl Purvis she didn’t think about the costs because the treatments were necessary for her to survive.
“It’s a lot more expensive than I’d ever imagined,” Stansberry explained.
Stansberry had to have a lumpectomy, a Port-a-Cath, and even reconstructive surgery – all to save her life. The bills are still showing up 10 years later.
“Because I wasn’t paying them fast enough, it was going to collections,” she said.
IF YOU WANT TO HELP
If you want to help people with mounting medical debt in the Mid-South, you can donate below. Your donations will be used locally.
UNDERSTANDING COLLECTIONS AND MEDICAL DEBT
The collections company is the real financial winner in many cases. They can take over your $1,000 consolidated bill for as little as $10 – which is just pennies on the dollar.
The second they own the debt, the consumer gets another punch in the form of added interest. In some cases, the rate is so high your bill can double over several years.
Medical debt contributes to more than 60% of all U.S. bankruptcies.
“I think it leaves (people) in a state of panic,” Craig Barnes of Legal Services told FOX13.
Attorneys like Barnes help clients find alternatives to walking away from debt. Bankruptcy can destroy your credit – keeping you from buying a house or a car… or even getting a job.
“It could be the one thing that breaks the camel’s back, because it comes in very large and thousands of dollars at a time,” Barnes said of medical debt.
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