It’s hard for us Canadians, in our cozy free-health-care-protected lives, to comprehend the crazy amount of money Americans have to put just into getting a check-up, let alone seeking treatment when something goes wrong. Seriously, as if being sick isn’t enough, it can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars!
Yeah, John Oliver thinks that’s pretty ridiculous too. And something even more ridiculous? The entire industry based off buying and collecting on unpaid debts.
Now, here’s the technical stuff: Oliver explained the process whereby companies like banks can sell unpaid debt at a fraction of the value to debt-buying companies who can then take measures to collect that debt in full. To keep it simple: if you owe the bank $5 and the bank is having trouble collecting from you, they can sell that debt to a company for, say, 50 cents on the dollar (so $2.50), who can then come after you, with whatever legal means necessary, for the full $5. Decidedly not cool, especially when that $5 is actually closer to $80,000.
One of the worst things about all this debt switching hands (debt can be bought and sold multiple times) is that companies have your personal information, but not the real personal information. They don’t know why you’re in debt (like, hello, I was just trying to stay alive), if it’s reached the statute of limitations or even if you’ve paid it already. It’s all just numbers in a spreadsheet.
Basically, just think of any of those Wall Street movies you’ve seen where the main characters wear suits in different shades of grey and live for the purpose of making money and hiring… um, paid companions. Are you picturing Michael Douglas or Leo DiCaprio? Then you get the idea.
Well, John Oliver to the rescue! He spent $50 to start his own debt-buying agency online, Central Asset Recovery Professionals Inc., or CARP, ‘after the bottom-feeding fish’ as he says. Shortly after starting the company they were offered $14,922,261.76 in unpaid debt for only $60,000. We think we can all agree that’s a CRAZY amount of money. Like, an incomprehensible amount of money.
So, Oliver could’ve decided to collect on that debt and make over $14 million. Instead, he chose to officially forgive that debt on Last Week Tonight yesterday. Cue the applause. Yes, we’ll say that again: this angel of a man changed the lives of 9000 people by FORGIVING ALMOST $15 MILLION OF MEDICAL DEBT. He made television history with that move, surpassing the record of $8 million which was the previously held by Oprah for the largest one-time giveaway on television. Yeah, you know the time…
Wow. Human of the Year Award (and all the other awards) goes to John Oliver. He once again has made the public aware of a gross injustice and done his part to help. We salute you, sir.
(We’ll just ignore his ulterior motive of out-Oprahing Oprah on international television).