After hearing of local families buried in medical debt, Jesse Jones and KIRO 7 set a goal: to buy as much medical debt as we could.
KIRO 7 spent $12,000 and purchased $1 million worth of medical debt owed by viewers in our region.
And we forgave every cent of it.
After our original story aired, many viewers reached out to see how they could help.
You've stepped up, donating over $20,000 dollars to the cause.
Along with KIRO 7's $12,000 donation, the community has also contributed enough to help forgive a grand total of $3 million in local medical debt.
Here are 5 things to know:
1. How medical debt is bought and sold
In some ways, medical debt can live forever. If you can't pay it down, that debt can be sold.
Collection agencies buy it for pennies on the dollar. They’ll send bill after bill. If it’s not paid, the cycle continues. Fewer pennies for them, and more interest for you.
The way medical debt is sold doesn't help consumers because it can be sold multiple times, experts say. A $1,000 bill could be sold to a collection agency for as little as $10 dollars. However, the amount you owe can grow at 12 percent interest. In six years, the debt almost doubles while the agency still pays $10 dollars.
2. Making real changes for local people
Millions of Americans face crushing medical debt every day, including Brittanie High, a mother from Yelm who is struggling to get by after her son Lincoln was born prematurely.
“I’ve had to deal with not only having a newborn, then adding on top of this medical debt, especially with a special needs son," said High. "It’s just something that I don’t think anybody should have to deal with, especially with having insurance."
3. Be on the lookout for a special yellow envelope
If you receive a yellow envelope in the mail that looks like this and has a KIRO 7 stamp, it means you might be one of the 1,000 people who will be getting help paying a medical bill.
KIRO 7 does not know specially who is getting debt relief. The only thing we know is that they live here in the Northwest.
The company we worked with is called RIP Medical Debt, a company out of New York. They purchased the debt on our behalf.
If you receive this letter, please contact us at 1-844-775-3773.
4. Some of the donors to KIRO 7's medical debt fund include familiar faces:
Mariners broadcaster Rick Rizzs watched our report and felt like he needed to do something to help.
"It gets you," Rizzs said. "It reaches you right here."
Rizzs led with his heart and his checkbook, and donated $5,000 to the medical debt forgiveness program through his charity, Toys for Kids.
Former Sonics coach and three-time hall of famer Lenny Wilkens and local restaurateur John Howie also pitched in. Each donated $1,000 to the cause.
5. How you can help
KIRO 7 created a website called DebtDonation.com where you can help us clear out local medical debt. All you need to do is fill out a form and give as much or as little as you want.
When you use the form to donate, make sure your money goes to “RIP Medical Debt."
Your donation will go toward paying off more debt in Washington State. Some of the money will also go toward administrative fees for the charity, including transaction fees and mailings.
Those mailings alert the debtors that their debt has been paid.
KIRO 7 and Jesse Jones will not get any money from your donation.
If you want more information about the RIP Medical Debt charity, click here.
KIRO 7 and Jesse Jones want to thank you for your generosity.
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