John Oliver Forgives Zombie Debt: Why This is Even More Awesome Than It Sounds

Did you know that once you’ve amassed an unpayable debt due to–gasp–daring to need hospital care beyond your means, your debt can be bought by a debt-buying company? Which can then sell it to another company, and another company…all of which can come after you and threaten your family 24 hours a day to collect that FULL debt, even after you might have settled with the hospital, years earlier, by paying what you could?

John Oliver just aired a full-on expose of this disgusting practice. John Oliver is my hero.

I could keep on describing how awesome this is, but you’d really get more just watching it yourself.

After setting up a bare-bones website, Oliver said CARP was offered a portfolio of nearly $15 million in medical debt for just $60,000. “Last Week Tonight” was able to pay less than half a cent on the dollar for all that debt.

Oliver said CARP could have received a file that included the names, personal addresses and Social Security numbers of nearly 9,000 people who owed the debt it had purchased. He called that fact “absolutely terrifying, because I could legally have CARP take possession of that debt and have employees start calling people turning their lives upside down over medical debt.”

“There would be absolutely nothing wrong with except for the fact that absolutely everything is wrong with that,” Oliver continued. “We need much clearer rules and oversight.”

Don’t have the time to watch the show? I’ll skip to the ending. John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight staff forms its own company, buys nearly $15 million in medical debt for only $60,000…and FORGIVES it. All those poor folks are now off the hook to go on with their lives.

Oliver makes a big deal out of the fact that he did this partly to trump Oprah’s famous $8-million-dollar car giveaway. But he also did it because it’s the right thing to do. And look at that–here we are thinking about it.

Love ya, you crazy Brit. Keep it the hell up.

And Still She Rises: Why Maya Angelou Stays With Us

Maya Angelou for Queen of America!

Never mind: she already is.

Forget the pedigree and riches. The voice, the bearing–there’s her majesty. Oh, and the life lessons she taught us about resilience, forgiveness, love. And all those beautiful, beautiful words.

I hope you will see and hear a lot of Dr. Angelou in the coming weeks. Here’s my offering (thanks YouTube)–not the most famous nor most dramatic declamation of her most famous poem, “And Still I Rise,” but one in which she gives a wonderfully humble, human introduction to the poem: the miracle that every day people go to sleep in pain and suffering, yet still get up in the morning.

Forget for a moment the Presidential Medal of Honor. Remember the fact that she wrote, for all school children to read, of her two years of muteness following childhood abuse. And that she spoke again, a poet.

Forget for a moment her disciple/adopted daughter, Oprah, who could make a pretty good claim to Queenship herself, with a commercial twist. Remember that Dr. Angelou lived humbly in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Forget the Poet Laureate title. Remember the laugh.

Or just listen:

Do you have a favorite Maya Memory? (Man, I can’t believe we lost her and Pete Seeger in the same year.) Now’s the time to share.