Occupy Wall Street offshoot, Strike Debt, announced Friday that it has abolished $1.1 million in medical debt for more than 1,000 people.
The protest group did this by buying emergency room debts for pennies on the dollar and then simply forgiving them rather than trying to collect the money, Strike Debt said in a statement.
When a bank, lender or other company, like a hospital, is unable to collect on a debt, it typically sells it to debt buyers or collectors — often at a much lower price than the original amount owed since the odds of collecting the money are low. Whoever buys the debt then attempts to get the money from the debtor.
Citing the large number of bankruptcies that stem from medical bills, Strike Debt’s mission is to stop this collection cycle and abolish the debt altogether.
“Our privatized health care system buries ordinary people in debt all to enrich the 1%,” the group said.
The more than $1 million in debt the group eliminated belonged to 1,064 people, amounting to an average of about $900 in debt per person. These randomly-selected people will receive notices explaining that their debt has been forgiven.
The organization spent about $21,000 to purchase the debt, using money raised from supporters.
To rally the troops around its debt-busting initiative, Occupy’s Strike Debt is planning protests later this month against private insurance companies and other events to raise awareness about hospital closings due to excessive amounts of debt.
Strike Debt originally launched its campaign and fundraising efforts in November, abolishing more than $100,000 in consumer debt before the end of 2012.