KIRO, Cox’s CBS affiliate in Seattle, and the station’s consumer advocate, Jesse Jones, have relieved the burden of more than $1 million in medical debt owed by 1,000 people in Western Washington. “This story is personal to me,” said Jones. “I am a cancer survivor who has survived medical debt. I’ve been on payment plans. I […]
KIRO, Cox’s CBS affiliate in Seattle, and the station’s consumer advocate, Jesse Jones, have relieved the burden of more than $1 million in medical debt owed by 1,000 people in Western Washington.
“This story is personal to me,” said Jones. “I am a cancer survivor who has survived medical debt. I’ve been on payment plans. I also have a job and insurance, but there are others out there not as fortunate as I am. It’s important to me to share their stories … and make a difference.”
“Journalists are not looking to become a part of the story when covering important issues,” said Jake Milstein, KIRO’s news director, “but Jesse’s unique perspective on this issue and passion to help the people of our community rallied us all at KIRO 7 to do something more than produce a news segment.”
Millions of Americans face crushing medical debt every day. It’s the leading cause of bankruptcy in the country and 19% of all Americans are in collections over medical debt.
KIRO and Jones have been digging in to this important story for several months to uncover the complicated system under which medical debt can be sold to collection agencies.
The debt is often sold multiple times and for pennies on the dollar, but the balance owed can grow at 12% interest. Under that scenario the debt almost doubles in just six years, which forces some people into extreme hardship.
After speaking with several members of the community dealing with the crippling impact of medical debt, KIRO and Jones decided to do something about it.
The station and Jones contacted RIP Medical Debt, a New York-based company that works with philanthropists and organizations to provide financial relief for people burdened by unpaid and unpayable medical bills, and were able to purchase $1 million of medical debt for $12,000.
The purchase will wipe clean the debt of more than 1,000 viewers in the region. Those individuals — whose identity remains anonymous to KIRO — will receive a letter in the mail this week informing them that their debt has been paid.
Since the story aired, there has been an extraordinary response by viewers wanting to follow Jesse’s lead and assist neighbors in need.
As a result, KIRO is working to provide a platform that will let members of the community make donations toward paying off medical debt for individuals across the state of Washington.
“We are proud to support Jesse’s commitment to consumer advocacy,” said Greg Bilte, KIRO’s general manager, “and our entire news staff will continue to deliver in-depth and investigative reporting to help our viewers stay informed about major stories that impact their lives.”