Read

Search form

Strike Debt Abolishes $1 million in Emergency Room Debt

Strike Debt Abolishes $1 million in Emergency Room Debt
Fri, 3/15/2013 - by Strike Debt

We are very happy to announce that we have completed our second purchase of medical debt. This time, we bought and abolished over $1 million in debt from emergency rooms in Kentucky and Indiana. The average debtor owed around $900 and we will be abolishing the debt of over 1,000 people! We are sending the letters to the debtors as we type this. We are very concerned with the privacy of debtors, but if any of them come forward and want to share their stories, we will make them public.

This will be the second in a series of purchases of medical debt. For each one, we will announce it on this blog with extended details.

We’ve also been working long and hard to make sure our finances and operations are as transparent as possible. The all-volunteer Board of Directors, along with the RJ sub-committees (tech, messaging & debt buying) and countless activists throughout the Strike Debt and Occupy Wall Street networks have been working diligently to ensure the Rolling Jubilee accomplishes its mission with dignity, transparency and political effectiveness.

From the beginning of the project over six months ago we have been very clear about three things we want from this project: (1) to provide some real relief for those around the country who are struggling under the crushing burden of debt; (2) to change the conversation around debt and austerity; and (3) to help advance debt resistance as part of a larger movement capable of bringing about a profound transformation of our economic system.

When we launched in November we expected to raise $50,000. Instead we raised over $500,000. We expected to get some press and attention, but we didn’t expect to get hundreds of interview requests and thousands of emails from debtors around the country describing their plight. This outpouring of support has moved and inspired us.

With a focus on transparency and a policy of humble indebtedness to our donors, supporters and the public, we decided to release the following on our newly launched transparency page:

  • FY12 CPA audit (in process, will be forthcoming ASAP)
  • Quarterly financial reports (in process, will be forthcoming ASAP)
  • Names of Board of Directors
  • Board of Directors meeting minutes
  • Financial Policy
  • Redacted purchase agreements
  • Debt buy summaries

It is our hope that these documents offer some insight into the very complicated operations of Rolling Jubilee. (In case you haven’t seen it yet, please check out the interview our lawyers did with Tax Analysts in February.)

Our financial documents will show our transactions over the past few months. We decided to put aside 10% of our donations in reserve, and have spent some initial money on start-up costs: CPA fees, consulting fees, insurance fees, registration paperwork, etc. Going forward, we expect these costs to be significantly minimized; most of the remaining money will go directly to buying and abolishing debt. We still expect to abolish around 20x what we raised: which would be nearly $12 million.

If you are wondering why we have not spent all of the funds we raised on debt yet, fear not. We are proceeding with care and caution, and more announcements will be made and actions planned in the coming months. A significant amount of due diligence must be done on each portfolio and we are weighing our options carefully. We think it’s more important to spend donations well–on debts that will actually help people–than spend them quickly. Each portfolio of debt we buy also provides an opportunity for public education and political momentum, and we hope to use these opportunities as wisely as possible.

When starting Rolling Jubilee we committed to buying medical debt first and foremost, wanting to call attention to the profound inhumanity and inequity of our for-profit healthcare system. We have spent a great deal of time learning about the medical debt market, and the healthcare industry at large. It is an industry designed to confuse, overwhelm, and exploit. Though one in three people have medical debt, very few know that their debts are for sale on the secondary market, nor do they realize that old medical bills can negatively impact their credit scores, often with disastrous consequences for their financial well being. Even some people in the industry agree that medical debt should not exist (and of course it doesn’t in most industrialized countries). It’s also hard to purchase. Unlike credit card or payday loan debt, it is usually sold by hospitals and practitioners to local debt collectors, sometimes in bundles or by physicians groups. Because we don’t want our purchases limited to New York, we have to work locally and regionally rather than in the national market. This means building relationships, one at a time.

We are thrilled to be helping so many people. But we are not naive. We know this won’t fix a broken and unjust system. Our health care industry reflects all that is wrong with the world today: a basic right (the right to take care and be taken care of) has become a commodity. People are made to suffer twice, first from injury or illness and then financial extortion. We are all forced into debt while private insurance companies, banks and real estate moguls profit off of our misery. We refuse to accept this. We want to use the attention these buys will generate to have an impact on the struggle for real, free, accessible healthcare for the 99%. There are real solutions being proposed as alternatives to Obama’s Affordable Care Act: a single-payer healthcare system would save the U.S. $400 billion dollars every year; even just expanding Medicare to all would save $68 billion by 2020. Creating a public alternative or single-payer system are some of the many ways to strike debt.

We have been working for months with allies and activists in the healthcare industry, and we are calling for a week of education, organizing and action to declare a Healthcare Emergency: It’s a Matter of “Life or Debt”, culminating in two days of action in New York City on March 21 and March 23, with solidarity actions happening in cities across the country.

If you’ll be in New York, join us! If you won’t be in New York, join us in bringing this action everywhere! Wherever you are,

  • Protest a closed community hospital
  • Support a struggling community hospital
  • Protest a private insurance company
  • Protest a pharmaceutical company
  • Do a creative direct action!
  • Organize a healthcare or debt speak out
  • Organize a free health screening or health fair
  • Organize free legal advice and debt/financial guidance
  • Provide free education about debt and/or healthcare
  • Wear a red square; or just wear red!
  • Call or email an insurance company – demand justice, share your outrage, tell them your story
  • Document yourself taking action and put it on our Tumblr!

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

carbon emissions, Pakistan coal plants, Pakistan coal generation, Pakistan energy policy

On its projected track, Pakistan will generate a total capacity of over 23,000 megawatts of electricity from coal in the next few years to overcome its steep energy requirements.

student loans, student debt, college debt, Student Loan Asset Backed Securities, subprime mortgage securities, collateralized debt, Federal Family Education Loan Program, Student Income Loans, Student Income Loans

A crucial difference between the subprime debt bubble and the student debt bubble is that the properties that comprised subprime mortgage securities served as collateral to the mortgage debt.

DiEM25, austerity policies, Brexit, Lexit, Democracy in Europe Movement, Grexit

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis responds to his critics and lays out DiEM25’s plan for resisting within the European Union.

Five Star Movement, Beppe Grillo, anti-corruption movement, populist politics, Euro-skeptic party, Italian political corruption, Silvio Berlusconi, Virginia Raggi, Chiara Appendino

The transparency and political openness that helped the 5 Star Movement rise to power must now bring the party's current and future proposals to the forefront if it hopes to achieve any lasting change.

Occupy Wall Street, rising inequality, park occupations, financialization, debt, David Graeber, Occupy legacy, social protests, economic justice, Jeremy Corbyn

Five years after Occupy, organizer and anthropologist David Graeber speaks to ROAR about the power of finance, the history of inequality and the legacy of the movement.

Wells Fargo crimes, Wells Fargo accounts scam, Wells Fargo foreclosures, mortgage-backed securities, subprime loans, Wall Street crimes, John Stumpf

Despite all of the fines paid to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Wells Fargo continues to deny any allegations of wrongdoing. Now a former employee is disputing that claim.

Posted 4 days 9 hours ago
blockchain currencies, blockchain technologies, crypto currencies, Bitcoin, Federal Reserve, Bank of England, fractional reserve lending, Central Bank Digital Currency, bank bailouts, bail-ins

Central Bank Digital Currencies could supplant the money now created by private banks.

Posted 5 days 11 hours ago
occupy, activism, creative activism, alt-right, white supremacy, neo-nazi, bigotry, racism, sexism, white nationalism, white genocide, Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Bertrand Spencer, Gabriella Coleman, hacktivism, Anonymous, hacker, whistleblower, digital ac

We're introducing a new segment for all those times you think to yourself, "Wow, that's fucked up." First topic: white supremacists.

Posted 3 days 15 hours ago
carbon emissions, Pakistan coal plants, Pakistan coal generation, Pakistan energy policy

On its projected track, Pakistan will generate a total capacity of over 23,000 megawatts of electricity from coal in the next few years to overcome its steep energy requirements.

Posted 1 day 15 hours ago
Five Star Movement, Beppe Grillo, anti-corruption movement, populist politics, Euro-skeptic party, Italian political corruption, Silvio Berlusconi, Virginia Raggi, Chiara Appendino

The transparency and political openness that helped the 5 Star Movement rise to power must now bring the party's current and future proposals to the forefront if it hopes to achieve any lasting change.

Posted 2 days 14 hours ago
Mylan, EpiPen, pharmaceutical industry, Big Pharma, National Institutes of Health, Daraprim, Martin Shkreli, pharmaceutical greed, pharmaceutical lobbying

“Somewhere, right now, a cash-strapped parent or budget-limited patient will skip acquiring an EpiPen. And someday they will need it in a life-threatening situation, and they won’t have it, and they will die.”

AFL-CIO, union organizing, Keystone XL pipeline, jobs versus environment, Dakota Access Pipeline, Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Standing Rock protests, Communications Workers of America, National Nurses United

In sharp contrast to Richard Trumka and the AFL-CIO, some unions really want to restrain climate change and are now vocally opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline.

blockchain currencies, blockchain technologies, crypto currencies, Bitcoin, Federal Reserve, Bank of England, fractional reserve lending, Central Bank Digital Currency, bank bailouts, bail-ins

Central Bank Digital Currencies could supplant the money now created by private banks.

student loans, student debt, college debt, Student Loan Asset Backed Securities, subprime mortgage securities, collateralized debt, Federal Family Education Loan Program, Student Income Loans, Student Income Loans

A crucial difference between the subprime debt bubble and the student debt bubble is that the properties that comprised subprime mortgage securities served as collateral to the mortgage debt.

occupy, activism, creative activism, alt-right, white supremacy, neo-nazi, bigotry, racism, sexism, white nationalism, white genocide, Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Bertrand Spencer, Gabriella Coleman, hacktivism, Anonymous, hacker, whistleblower, digital ac

We're introducing a new segment for all those times you think to yourself, "Wow, that's fucked up." First topic: white supremacists.