John Oliver v. Medical debt vultures

08.06.2016 - London, Uk - Silvia Swinden

This post is also available in: Spanish, Italian

John Oliver v. Medical debt vultures
(Image by TechCrunch on Wikimedia Commons (l) and Dmitri Markine www.dmitrimarkine.com (r))

We know vulture funds, those that buy bad debt from bankrupt countries for pennies and then pursue them through international courts to recover the full amount making obscene profits and damaging any possibility of economic recovery for the countries in question. Argentina, Greece, and many other are still struggling in this never ending black hole.

The same mechanism is used by smaller “investors”, e.g., those that buy bad debt from loan sharks – who lend money at outrageously high interest – and then harass the borrowers through courts and direct threats.

John Oliver, British comedian working on US TV, has dedicated one of his “Last week tonight” programmes to the same happening to debt due to unpaid medical bills.

“Debt-buying is a grimy business and badly needs more oversight, because as it stands any idiot can get into it. And I can prove that to you because I am an idiot and we started a debt-buying company,”…“And it was disturbingly easy”, said Oliver. The Guardian reports “Last Week Tonight spent about $50 to create a debt-acquisition company in Mississippi. The corporation’s name is Central Asset Recovery Professionals Inc – also known as Carp. According to Oliver, soon after its creation, Carp was offered a portfolio of medical debt worth $14,922,261.76 at a cost of “less than half a cent on a dollar, which is less than $60,000”.,,”Instead of collecting the debt, however, Last Week Tonight partnered with RIP Medical Debt charity and decided to forgive that debt.”…” this type of debt-buying for charity was pioneered by Rolling Jubilee, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement. In 2013, Rolling Jubilee spent $400,000 to purchase $14,734,569.87 worth of personal debt – about $13.5m of it was medical debt – before abolishing it.”

Bravo for John and Rolling Jubilee, but as they themselves point out, this does not solve the problem of speculation around an inhuman and cruel system that forces people to get into huge debt out of medical needs.

At the time that the present government is doing its very best to destroy the British National Health Service and Europe is negotiating the TTIP that will further create conditions of privatisation of healthcare, these actions by John Oliver and Rolling Jubilee are much more that simple charity: they are bright red warning lights about a system that advances towards more inequality and dehumanisation. Thank you guys for raising the issue!

The alternatives to austerity, inequality and concentration of wealth are on the table. These are not times for complacency.

Categories: Economics, Human Rights, North America
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