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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – An Indianapolis grandmother is celebrating after FOX59 stepped in and helped pay off some of her medical debt.

Shirley Starks couldn’t believe what she was reading when she got a letter from FOX59 in the mail explaining that we’d paid off a hospital bill.

“They paid $682.73,” she said as she looked at the letter. “That was really a blessing, because I didn’t have that,” she said.

Starks has a medical condition called Syncope, which causes her to lose consciousness. Nearly 10 years ago, Starks said she blacked out at church and woke up in the hospital. The next things she knew, she had bills she just couldn’t pay.

“I’m on a fixed income. I only get a check once a month,” Starks said.

Nearly one in every four Hoosiers in central Indiana has medical debt in collections. That kind of debt can ruin credit and ruin lives.

That’s why FOX59 decided to step in.

We teamed up with RIP Medical Debt, a non-profit that takes donations and buys up medical debt in the secondary debt market for pennies on the dollar. Once they buy the debt, they forgive it.

FOX59 donated $15,000 which turned into nearly $1.5 million dollars of medical debt paid off. Our recipients are chosen at random but fit a few qualifications:

  • Earn less than 2x the federal poverty level
  • Have debts 5% or more of annual income
  • Face insolvency — debts are greater than assets

Starks saw what FOX59 was doing on TV and wondered if she would be a recipient. A few days later, she got a letter in the mail and couldn’t believe what she was reading.

“I appreciate FOX59 paying my bill!” she said.

Starks isn’t debt free just yet. She still owes about $1,000 in other medical debt. But she feels blessed at least one hospital bill is off her shoulders for good. She’s already talking about how she wants to pay it forward. Perhaps not with money, but with whatever she can give. And she wants others to know there’s still hope even if they are in the midst of a tough situation.

“FOX59 has blessed me,” she said. “Just pray ’cause it’s coming!”

You can help pay of someone’s medical bills too. While you cannot buy a specific family’s medical debt, your donation can go to a Central Indiana family needing help.

You can donate to RIP Medical Debt by clicking here. Every dollar that you donate, will wipe out $100 of someone’s medical debt.