Here’s a feel-good story from the files of “things that shouldn’t have to happen.” KIRO-TV, a CBS affiliate in Seattle was able to buy up $1,000,000 worth of medical debt for $12,000. The debt was that of some of their viewers. According to Poynter, after one of their reporters had done a story on medical debt being accrued by local citizens, the station decided to do something about it.
KIRO-TV made a decision to do what debt collectors do, spend $12,000 to purchase $1 million worth of debt for 1,000 viewers around the Seattle area. Only the TV station won't be collecting those debts. Beginning this week, those people will open envelopes telling them the TV station helped pay some of their overdue medical bills.
The station does not know the names of the debtors or the medical issues they faced. The TV station contracted with a 501c(3) charity called RIP Medical Debt in New York, which says it "locates, buys and forgives medical debt across America." The charity screens the information that it gets from the doctor's office or hospital it bought the bad debt from to find the neediest patients.
The reporter who filed the original story, Jesse Jones ended up doing the same thing that comedian John Oliver did a couple of years ago, by pretending to be a debt collecting agency, buying the debt and then forgiving the debt. Good job.