This week, Occupy's Strike Debt! working group "Rolling Jubilee" will be mailing out over 1,000 letters to individuals, mostly in Kentucky and Ohio, who collectively owe over $1,000,000 in personal medical debt.
The letters will advise these fortunate few that their debt has been abolished.
This obligation is gone. Vanished. Nullified. At least for this one particular medical-related debt, these people will never fear another call from a bill collector, ever again.
There is, by default, another beneficiary -- Occupy itself. Each portfolio of debt purchased will provide continuing opportunities for public education and gaining political attention for Rolling Jubilee's parent -- Strike Debt. Although not mentioned in the Main Street Media, it's "Life or Debt" protests and activities this past weekend drew enthusiastic crowds and overwhelmingly positive attention.
Is debt forgiveness, done even-handedly and at minimal cost, a blessing that Wall Street and our own Senate and House will provide? Not on your life. There's no money or power in it.
The Rolling Jubilee campaign purposely removed these two motivations by putting into place concepts and practices not employed by Big Business or Bad Government: transparency, shared decision making and the intention to hold today's system of predatory finance up to scrutiny.
No money found its way to the Insurance Companies or Wall Street through Rolling Jubilee's process. No money was set aside for political "slush funds" and re-election campaigns for the politicians. No power lunches for the Lobbyists and their captive legislators. No high-paid staff, as most are unpaid volunteers. No expensive offices, just whatever open spaces, offices or apartments could be commandeered to house the many meetings.
Transparent, people-centered bailouts -- a lesson for our government
Rolling Jubilee is a non-profit 501(c) (4) organization formed with the exclusive mission of buying and abolishing debt. An unpaid Board of Directors was formed, sub-committees formed and volunteers rounded up. Even when brokers and web developers were employed, their services were purchased well below market value.
Assisted by industry experts and funded by contributions from people wanting to help other people, Rolling Jubilee initially sought $50,000 to start their campaign. A modest social-media based fundraising campaign was initiated, and that goal was promptly blown past. There is now almost $600,000 in this war chest, and more money trickling in every day.
$600,000 in debt purchases, for a cost of under a nickel on the dollar, translates into almost $11.5 million less indebtedness for the unfortunate medical "client." All done through public donations fueled through grassroots and social media (think Twitter @StrikeDebt and FaceBook).
Occupy accomplished this feat -- and is positioning itself to accomplish even more such "bailouts of the people, by the people" -- by taking time to understand the health care industry, the ways in which Wall Street and insurance companies manipulates it for profit, and the role served by a willing army of aggressive debt buyers and bill collectors.
Occupy's Activists come from the stand that health care is a basic right and not just another commodity to be packaged and financed and mined for profit. It abhors the entire industry of pain which is in place because accessible health care -- even something as simple as expanding Medicare to all -- is not being made available to Americans.
Few Americans realize that, once defaulted on, medical debt becomes a commodity. One which, when purchased, causes people to suffer many times over. Perhaps no longer from the illness, but certainly from the extraordinary energy, manipulation and intimidation applied by the buying, selling and collections industry to see that debt repaid.
Billions of dollars in medical debt, literally, are purchased and sold yearly by debt buyers which then sell this debt off to collection operations. This happens again, and again, and again, year after year. When one agency fails to collect on an account, it is added into a portfolio to become a candidate for sale to another agency for pennies on the dollar. The industry even has coined a word for this: "Zombie" debt.
In the Emergency Room and on Life Support
What will the future look like for us if Wall Street and Insurance Companies don't release their greedy hold on the finances of the medical industry?
Bankruptcies, 62 percent of which were caused in part or largely by illness in 2007, will continue to decimate individuals and families. Hospitals and medical practices will continue to be forced to depend on third-party collectors and debt buyers to help meet their expenses.
Many hospitals will be closed down as "unprofitable," not being able to pay their own creditors or for their increasingly expensive medical facilities.
Strike Debt's intention through Rolling Jubilee is to get America well. It won't be easy, and it's not a total answer as pointed out in a November, 2012 article in The Nation (tellingly titled: "Rolling Jubilee is a Spark-Not the Solution." Rather, it is "a first strike against the predators who feed off the debt system (why do banks, not people, get bailed out? )"
Its author added, "Looking ahead, the Rolling Jubilee has served as a kind of beacon, inspiring experts and laypeople alike to share their ideas for the next wave of the movement."
Hmmmmm, next wave? Should commercial lenders, payday loan folk, loan sharks, credit reporting agencies, for-profit colleges and Fannie Mae be looking over their shoulder?
They should -- it's a matter of Life or Debt.