Nearly 9,000 consumers were relieved of their medical bills courtesy of HBO host John Oliver. As part of a segment examining the unscrupulous practices of debt purchasers on his show, “Last Week Tonight,” he forgave nearly $15 million in medical debt for consumers.
Oliver’s show engages in a form of investigative comedy, this time 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 abusive collection practices to intimidate people into paying.
The show set up its own company to acquire $15 million worth of debt owed to hospitals in Texas, paying only $60,000 for the debt. Oliver described how “disturbingly easy” it was to set up the company; they called it Central Asset Recovery Professionals, and incorporated it in Mississippi to make the purchase.
The consumer’s medical debts ranged from $50 to more than $250,000. Since the debts were incurred in Texas hospitals, most of the people who owe money are from the state, Oliver said.
Oliver went on to say, people who owe bills should pay them but 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.
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