LEBANON, Tenn. (WTVF) — When a drunk driver hit Wawieece Palmer in April of 1991, she had no idea it would lead to a lifetime of surgeries and medical bills she couldn't pay.
The now 58-year-old lives in Lebanon and because of the crash is unable to work. She relies on her husbands insurance to healthcare coverage but even with health insurance, this single income family is often left with more than $8,000 in medical bills.
"The bills come and I pay for what I can. It's hard, it's just really hard," she said.
On Friday though Wawieece received a yellow envelope in the mailing from NewsChannel 5, letting her know the remaining $153 she owed had been paid off. It was all possible because of a lopsided medical debt system.
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.
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