How Bad Are Things? Debt Relief Has Become A Cause

Although physical debtors’ prisons were outlawed in the United States in the 1830’s, figurative debtors’ prisons in which people are trapped under piles of student loan, medical or other debt are very much alive in this country today.    

This is so much the case that a growing number of companies, nonprofits and individuals are paying off debt as a way of helping people out of hardship – and a way of bringing attention to this problem.

An early, high-profile example of this was the 2016 initiative in which TV-host John Oliver wiped out nearly $15 million in medical debt for 9,000 people by purchasing the highly-discounted delinquent debt for $60,000.  At that time it was estimated that 43 million Americans had medical debt that was hurting their credit. 

That episode of Oliver’s show about the medical debt crisis is still very much worth watching.  The website of RIP Medical Debt, the group that Last Week Tonight worked with on the relief effort, estimates that it has helped retired over $1.3 billion since it was started in 2014.

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