Medical debt is leaving people feeling like they're out of options, and it’s even forcing more people to file for bankruptcy.
Kahea Kuao keeps her mail in a kitchen cabinet, because lately, it’s been a lot of bills.
“You can’t pay it off! It’s so high. You can’t pay it off from the one visit,” she says. “So that's why you’re like, ‘OK this month I can pay rent, but you have no extra to even pay towards the medical bills.’”
They are medical bills she racked up after a visit to the emergency room, without insurance.
“I had an ovarian cyst that burst, so it’s very, very, very painful,” she explains.
Then the bills started coming. But buried in that stack of mail was a gift that went unopened for months.
“Just because I was scared that it was another bill,” she says.
It wasn’t a bill. It was a letter, saying her debt was being paid for by an anonymous donor.
“Yeah, I just thought it was a scam,” she says.
“We tell them, ‘Google RIPmedicaldebt.org and see if we're for real,’” says Craig Antico with RIP Medical Debt.
Antico is one of the co-founders of the New York-based nonprofit, that buys medical debt from a hospital. It’s debt that would very likely never be paid for, and they buy it at a fraction of the total cost.
“Fifteen million people have just one bad mark on their credit report, and it's a medical debt. It’s nuts!” says Antico.
So far, the non-profit has gotten rid of over $400 million worth of debt.
For people like Kuao, having a $1,000 bill erased can be a lifesaver for a family like hers on a limited income.
"Just having one more thing gone and paid off, I’d say hopeful is the best thing because it kind of kicks you off seeing better days,” she says.