A sudden medical emergency doesn’t just wreak chaos on a person’s life. For many people, it takes a dangerous toll on their financial security. One in five U.S. residents have delinquent medical debt on their credit reports, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
In the Philadelphia region, more than 1.1 million people owe a total of $631 million in delinquent medical debt, data from credit agencies and the federal government shows. And that's just the amount reported to credit agencies. The total amount could be much higher.
Unpaid medical debt can lead a family to bankruptcy as debt collectors attempt to squeeze out all the assets they can to settle the bill. Often debt collectors buy the right to demand your money at a steep discount. And using that same system, there’s a way to clear a person's debt for pennies on the dollar.
That’s why NBC10 and Telemundo62 are teaming up with a national not-for-profit agency to erase medical debt.
You also have the chance to pay it forward and help a neighbor erase their debt with a small donation. So far, viewers like yourself have erased $2.03 million in medical debt for people in our area. Small donations really can go a long way!
HELP PAY IT FORWARD >> TAP HERE
NBC10 Responds reporter Harry Hairston spoke with several people across our region about the ease at which a medical emergency can put you into financial peril. Watch their stories:
HOW IS NBC10 ERASING PEOPLE'S MEDICAL DEBT?
Health systems often sell uncollected medical debt to collectors at a heavy discount in an effort to recoup at least some revenue from an unpaid bill. That debt collector will then demand that the patient pay the full bill plus interest and fees. A single person's bill could be sold several times to different debt collectors until the statute of limitations runs out.
But those unpaid medical bills can leave behind a financial disaster — destroying a person's credit and driving many into bankruptcy.
Medical debt can be forgiven immediately, however.
So NBC10 and Telemundo62 has teamed up with the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt to purchase and forgive delinquent medical payments on behalf of people living in southeastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and Delaware.
We have pledged to forgive up to $2 million in medical debt. We're also encouraging viewers to donate as well to make an even greater impact.
Donations from our viewers are already helping people get out from under medical debt. Glendon Pettus had a nearly $500 bill abolished through this program. Hear his story:
HOW DO I KNOW THIS IS LEGIT?
We're working with RIP Medical Debt, a national 501(c)(3) charity, which has purchased and forgiven nearly $50 million in personal medical debt since the organization's inception in 2014.
THIS SOUNDS GREAT! HOW CAN I SIGN UP TO HAVE MY DEBT ERASED?
Currently, RIP Medical Debt doesn't have a database or waiting list to request help. The organization focuses its everyday efforts nationally on people living on average two-times below the poverty line. You can read more about their processes here.
If you are one of the 1.1 million people in the Philadelphia area who have medical debt in collections, there are resources available to help you navigate the stormy waters. These organizations do not erase debt, but can provide better financial planning to help you navigate to a healthy financial future. Here's a list:
- Clarifi - Financial Literacy Counseling Offices in Pa., N.J., and Del. - Pennsylvania Insurance Department - City of Philadelphia Financial Empowerment Centers - Pennsylvania Legal Help Network - Philadelphia Legal Assistance - Federal Trade Commission
HOW YOU CAN HELP ERASE SOMEONE'S DEBT RIGHT NOW
A small donation can help remove thousands of dollars of medical debt for a person in need. Below you can sign up to make a donation to RIP Medical Debt.
Simply fill out the form below and hit Enter Payment. A secure dialog box will appear for you to provide credit card information.
RIP Medical Debt is the organization collecting donations, identifying those in need, and forgiving the debt. NBC is not collecting or receiving any information provided in the fields below. This goes directly to the charity.
If you don’t see the form, go here.