June 7, 2016

John Oliver Buys $15M In Medical Debt, Then Forgives It

“With little more to go on than that website,” says Oliver, “we were soon offered a portfolio of nearly $15 million of out-of-statute medical debt from Texas.” The asking price was less than $60,000 for $14,922,261.76 in this zombie debt — or around $.004 for every dollar of debt owed.

Purchasing the debt would give CARP the names, current addresses, Social Security numbers, and amount owed (or previously owed, as the statute of limitations had expired) for nearly 9,000 individuals.
“So, we bought it, which is absolutely terrifying,” admits Oliver. “Because it means if I wanted to, I could legally have CARP take possession of that list and have employees start calling people, turning their lives upside down over medical debt they no longer had to pay. There would be absolutely nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that absolutely everything is wrong with that.”

Thus, rather than try to collect on the debt, Oliver decided to stage the “largest one-time giveaway in television history,” nearly doubling the estimated value of that time Oprah gave everyone in her audience a new Pontiac G6, a moment that has been a gift for meme-makers, but didn’t do much to save the Pontiac brand. – Consumerist

Posted by gerardvanderleun at June 7, 2016 10:13 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

There is a charity that is facilitating this: RIP Medical Debt. For every dollar donated, approximately $100 of medical debt is forgiven. According to their website, the idea goes all the way back to the Jewish concept of the Jubilee.

Posted by: Julie at June 7, 2016 1:20 PM

I cancelled HBO years ago, but every time I go to you tube (which is daily) I see this owl or some video from NBC upfront. No matter that I never visit either channel, ever. They're trying desperately to tell me something. I'm not listening.

Posted by: Will at June 7, 2016 5:55 PM

Nice going smartass.

Did you know that debt forgiven is taxable income to the forgivees?

Posted by: JamesG at June 8, 2016 6:58 AM

Apparently, the way this works that is not the case. From the RIP Medical Debt website:

"The forgiveness of the debt does not result in income to the debtor if that forgiveness is a gift that comes from a detached and disinterested generosity. We will not file a Form 1099-C with the IRS."

Posted by: Julie at June 8, 2016 2:45 PM

If you have worked hard to pay off your mortgage, save a few dollars for retirement and possibly hope to have a few assets to live out your sunset years with (or pass on to family) you need to have decent health and long term care coverage. No it is not cheap, but the responsible thing to do.

No, I don't sell insurance.

Posted by: Snakepit Kansas at June 9, 2016 4:10 AM

Thanks for the link, Julie!

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at June 9, 2016 5:35 AM