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Tennesseans still struggling with medical debt

Posted at 8:34 PM, Feb 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-03 21:34:35-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Of all the ways Jimmy Glasscock imagined spending his retirement working was perhaps the last idea that came to mind.

This 64-year-old was once a sales representative who began his golden years a while back and then one day ended up in the hospital.

"I had an issue with an artery fusing to a vein in my brain," he explains.

Jimmy spent a week at Vanderbilt. He had insurance and yet when he got out of the hospital ended up with nearly $50,000 in medical bills.

"These bills right here they’re ridiculous! It’s just crazy," he said.

Jimmy is not alone in his struggle to pay medical bills, Americans currently owe more than $1 trillion in uncollected bills associated with medical costs.

"There are two things people don’t talk about, being broke and being sick. If you’re broke and sick and being chased by bill collectors that’s not cocktail party conversation," said Jerry Ashton who founded the group RIP Medical Debt.

Jerry and his non-profit have helped NewsChannel 5 eliminate more than $3 million in overdue medical bills for Tennesseans.

Over time, if you can't pay a hospital they will send that bill to a collection agency. This is happening so often that 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.

The system is so lopsided that through RIP Medical Debt, NewsChannel 5 was able to help hundreds of Tennesseans eliminate some or all of their medical debt.

"Medical debt should not ever be inflicted on a fellow human being, ever," Ashton said.

Click here: To learn more about Chris' Medical Debt Rescue reporting