NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — For a woman stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills there is a cruel kind of irony to the fact that Marcella Windrow works for a health insurance billing company and has health insurance for her entire family.
This 50-year-old mother of three lives in Rutherford County. Ten years ago she was involved in a car accident which left her needing surgery and therapy for a bulged disk in her neck.
"It all comes with bills, you have to have follow ups after that and it just doesn’t heal over night," Marcella said.
Marcella has insurance through her job but the deductible is $2,500. Meaning she's on the hook for most medical expenses her family incurs up to a certain point.
Last week though, Marcella received a letter in the mail informing her that $125 of that debt had been paid off.
"I don't care how much it was for, it was a blessing," she said holding the yellow envelope in her hand.
With a total of $35,000 in donations, $15,000 from NewsChannel 5 and another $20,000 from viewers, NewsChannel 5 has wiped out $4 million in medical debt for more than 2,000 people across Middle Tennessee. There are no strings attached.
" I opened it and this was a very, very nice surprise and I feel really blessed to have this," she said about the donation.
It’s part of NewsChannel 5’s community initiative known as “Medical Debt Rescue." The goal of the project is to shed light on an unbalanced medical debt system that has left thousands of Tennesseans with crippling debt and forced many into foreclosure.
NewsChannel 5 had no control over whose debt was paid off. Because of HIPPA laws NewsChannel 5 is not allowed to know the names of those impacted. RIP Medical Debt took our donation and purchased debt from debt buyers. The only stipulation is that those people must live in Middle Tennessee.
Over time, if you can't pay a hospital they will send that bill to a collection agency. This is happening so often most hospitals and collection agencies are just happy to get any kind of money. But then something else happens. Collection agencies will try to make money off your debt.
In order to do that, those debt collection agencies will then sell your debt for pennies on the dollar to other debt collectors. To make a profit off the debt, a collection agency only has to collect about 1.5% of the debt. If a collection agency collects $1.5 million for $100 million in debt, that company would essentially come out on top.
If you receive a yellow enveloped in the mail you can contact Chris Conte directly: 615-945-5350