NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Living on a fixed income Dora Banks struggles most months to keep a roof over her head, paying off her mounting medical debt is typically not a priority.
She is 67-years-old and lives in Antioch. A few years ago this proud great-grandmother suddenly felt a pain in her chest. Eventually she was rushed to the hospital in Lebanon, Tennessee where doctors determined she needed tripple bypass surgery.
"It still hurts, sometimes my chest gets so tight I feel like I'm having another episode," she said sitting at her kitchen table.
That one trip to the hospital left Dora with tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. She struggles to pay even the minimum amount due on some.
"By the time you pay one bill, you have to pay another," she said.
Last week though Dora received some help in the mail. A yellow envelope arrived informing her that $4.852 owed to University Medical Center had been paid off.
"It's like a weight lifted off my shoulders," she said about the debt which had been taken care of.
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 1,000 people across Middle Tennessee. There are no strings attached.
"I’m still thanking God every day, every night before I go to bed for this gift," 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