Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

'Last Week Tonight' host John Oliver buys and forgives $15 million in delinquent medical bill debt (w/video)

John Oliver, the host of HBO's "Last Week With John Oliver," illustrated a story about an industry that purchases the records of people delinquent in bills and attempts to collect. He acquired $15 million worth of unpaid medical bills for only $60,000, and immediately forgave the debts. [Greg Allen | Invision via AP (2015)]

John Oliver, the host of HBO's "Last Week With John Oliver," illustrated a story about an industry that purchases the records of people delinquent in bills and attempts to collect. He acquired $15 million worth of unpaid medical bills for only $60,000, and immediately forgave the debts. [Greg Allen | Invision via AP (2015)]

NEW YORK — Some 9,000 people stuck with delinquent medical bills had their debts forgiven courtesy of HBO host John Oliver.

Oliver, on his Last Week Tonight program Sunday, took the action to illustrate a story about the practices of companies that purchase the records of debtors and attempt to collect on them. The show set up its own company to acquire $15 million worth of debt owed to hospitals in Texas, paying $60,000.

Oliver added a little show-biz flair, pressing a big red button to symbolize the debt forgiveness. He claimed it eclipsed the $8 million giveaway by talk-show host Oprah Winfrey when she gave a car to each member of her studio audience one day, making it the biggest ever.

"Are you ready to make television history?" Oliver said. "Let's do this!"

Oliver said it was "disturbingly easy" for his show to set up a company, which it called Central Asset Recovery Professionals, and incorporate it in Mississippi to make the purchase.

Oliver's show engages in a form of investigative comedy, this week examining an overlooked industry. Institutions often sell their debt for pennies on the dollar to companies who then attempt to collect on the bills. These companies operate with little regulation, and sometimes employ shady and abusive collectors who try to intimidate people into paying, he said.

RIPMedicaldebt.org, a nonprofit that raises money to buy debt and forgive the bills owed by people who can least afford to pay them, welcomed the attention.

"It's absolutely fabulous," said Craig Antico, CEO of RIPMedicaldebt.org. "It puts a light on a problem that few people know exists."

Antico's organization was already seeing a boost in donations Monday. RIPMedicaldebt.org has been concentrating lately on buying debt owed by U.S. military veterans.

He said people who owe bills should pay them, but they should not be forced to choose between paying medical debts and paying for food and shelter. He said people should never use credit cards to pay off medical debts.

"If people paid attention to (Oliver's show) and it got them upset, they should realize that we can eradicate much of this debt if we all banded together to help each other," Antico said. "People can make a donation of $50 and wipe out a $10,000 debt."

Within a few hours of Oliver's show airing, people were writing to Antico's blog to see if their debt was included in what Oliver purchased. "Last Week Tonight" is working with RIPMedicaldebt.org to notify people that their debt has been wiped out, and those affected will be getting letters from the organization within the next few weeks, he said.

The individual debts range from $50 to more than $250,000, he said. All are outside the statute of limitations, meaning the people who owe the money cannot be sued. Since the debts were incurred at Texas hospitals, most of the people who owe money are from that state, he said.

'Last Week Tonight' host John Oliver buys and forgives $15 million in delinquent medical bill debt (w/video) 06/06/16 [Last modified: Monday, June 6, 2016 4:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas sheriff's corporal had racist, sexist, pornographic content on his cell phone

    Public Safety

    LARGO — A Pinellas County sheriff's corporal resigned recently after an investigation into an alleged extramarital affair revealed a trove of racist, sexist and pornographic images on his personal cell phone.

    Shawn Pappas, 46, resigned as a training division corporal from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office after an investigation revealed a trove of offensive images and videos on his phone. This photo was taken as a screenshot from one of the videos released by the Sheriff's Office that Pappas filmed while on duty. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  2. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine reflects on the news from the Congressional Budget Office analysis that could imperil GOP leaders' hopes of pushing their health care the plan through the chamber this week, Tuesday, on Capitol Hill in Washington. [AP photo]
  3. Review: Dan Auerbach, Benjamin Booker plumb the past for inspiration on new albums

    Music & Concerts

    It didn't take Benjamin Booker long to get lumped in with the greats. The Tampa-raised singer-songwriter's 2014 self-titled blues-punk debut brought widespread acclaim, not to mention an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, a tour with Jack White and sessions with Mavis Staples.

    The cover of Benjamin Booker's new album "Witness." Credit: ATO Records
  4. Fourth of July in Tampa Bay: parades, hot dog parties, concerts and more things to do

    Events

    Looking for things to do on the Fourth of July in Tampa Bay? There is no shortage of patriotic events, from the Hot Dog Party concerts and eating contest in Tampa, to the parades in Land O' Lakes and Safety Harbor, to the swinging dance party at St. Petersburg's Museum of Fine arts, there's an abundance of things to do …

    The annual Independence Day parade in Brandon kicks off at 10 a.m. on July 4 at 101 E Lumsden Road. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times (2015)]
  5. Pasco deputies investigate vandalism at Crystal Springs Cemetery (w/video)

    Crime

    CRYSTAL SPRINGS — Pasco County deputies are looking for one or more suspects linked to vandalism of two grave sites in this community's small cemetery.

    An above-ground tomb disturbed by one or more suspects, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.