Do Something: Relieve Debt

A third of Americans have medical bills they cannot pay. A New York nonprofit has helped eliminate $2 billion of that debt for the poorest of them.

Over decades of working low-paying jobs, with no health insurance benefits, Dreama Shaeffer—like thousands of other Americans—found herself early this year with thousands of dollars of medical bills she was unable to pay.

A 54-year-old single mom, Shaeffer had bills that stemmed from injuries her now grown son suffered as a child; from doctors appointments to treat her early-onset osteoporosis; from a three-year-old emergency in which she stopped breathing and had to get an ambulance to the hospital. 

Every month for years, bills arrived; she paid a few dollars here and there, but mostly, she glanced at them anxiously and put them aside. “I’m paycheck to paycheck, and don’t have money for extra bills,” Shaeffer says. “It’s not like I’m a bad person. I just don’t make a lot.”

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