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Comedian John Oliver exposes America's flawed medical debt system; buys $15M of debt assets for less than $60K


Medical debt

(NaturalNews) It's the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in America today – and no, we're not about to discuss irresponsible folks leasing fancy cars they can't afford, or buying overpriced houses with sleazy, negative interest rate mortgages. Believe it or not, the biggest cause of financial ruin in the good ol' U.S.-of-A. is medical debt, a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme that John Oliver exposed in a uniquely powerful way during a recent episode of his HBO show, Last Week Tonight.

As most of our readers are probably well aware, the American medical system is utterly broken. Medical costs far – and I mean far – exceed what the average person would ever be able to pay out of pocket, the consequence of a runaway insurance system that's basically paved the way for medical providers to charge whatever they want, under the assumption that insurance companies will cover the costs from their pooled resources. But what happens when insurance companies don't pay?

The answer is an enormous collective of medical debt to the tune of sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars per patient, an amount that only folks from the highest echelons of society could ever even dream of paying out of pocket. So naturally this collective medical debt continues to increase because, quite frankly, the average patient simply can't cover his portion, which means it ends up getting traded around and sold to the highest bidder willing to pursue the laborious debt collection process, which is a racket in and of itself.

If you're a medical debtor, are you fully informed about your rights?

To illustrate both the complexity and criminality of this medical debt collection process in an intriguing way, John Oliver decided to produce a segment on his show entitled "Debt Buyers," in which a debt collection company he created for just $50 called Central Asset Recovery Professionals, or CARP – named quite cleverly after the bottom-feeding fish – purchased $14.9 million worth of medical debt for just under $60,000.

The portfolio contained the names, addresses and Social Security numbers of 9,000 medical debtors, that Oliver's company would be free to pursue for the $14.9 million that these individuals supposedly owed. But instead of going after these folks, Oliver instead forgave their debt, explaining to his audience that many, if not all, of the names on the list were probably not even legally liable for their supposed debt – assuming, of course, that they knew their rights under the law.

The reality is that many medical debtors don't know their rights because they haven't properly read, or simply don't understand, the terms thereof. Debt notices tend to be replete with disclaimers affording debtors certain rights under the law, particularly when medical debts are sold to third parties like the kind John Oliver created as part of his show, which means they're no longer liable to pay.

But when consumers fail to exercise these rights, they often fall victim to predatory debt-collection schemes that leave them financially devastated. According to the latest figures, between 20 and 53 percent of people (depending on whether or not they have health insurance), are struggling to pay crushing medical bills.

And the debt-buying process used to extract these funds, Oliver explains during the segment, is "absolutely terrifying because it means if I wanted to, I could legally have CARP take possession of that list and have employees start calling people, turning their lives upside down over medical debt they no longer had to pay."

"There would be absolutely nothing wrong with that," he added, "except for the fact that absolutely everything is wrong with that."

You can watch the roughly 20-minute segment on John Oliver's Last Week Tonight show here.

Sources for this article include:

NYTimes.com

TheAtlantic.com

NYTimes.com

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