SWFL family’s medical debt erased just in time for the holidays

Reporter: Chris Cifatte
Photo via WINK News.
Photo via WINK News.

Medical debt is crushing Floridians: One in four people in the state are in collections over old medical bills.

During the last six months, WINK News has asked the community’s help in eliminating some of that debt for your neighbors.

MORE: Donations helps hundreds erase medical debt in SWFL

And the community came through just in time for the holidays for one Estero family.

“It’s an early Christmas present. It’s a big relief off my shoulders,” said Dennis Martell. “The total dollar amount was 11,403 and our balance now is zero.”

The slate wiped clean on a nearly $12,000 debt racked up over the years.

“The phone calls, they don’t stop,” Martell said. “It’s 7 days a week until 9-10 o’clock some nights. They keep calling. Debt collectors.”

All a result of Dennis Martell’s health issues including 9 surgeries in the last 13 years.

But when his wife opened a special letter in a bright yellow envelope…

“I was sitting right next to her when she read it out loud. She just said what’s this? She read it again and she just said ‘Oh my god, WINK TV paid our medical debt.'”

All thanks to your help!

Over the last several months, many of you made donations totaling $55,000. WINK News worked with the charity RIP Medical Debt and we used that money to buy and forgive $9.8 million in outdated medical debt, helping to erase bills for more than 1700 people in Southwest Florida. Including Martell.

“It was a gift. Something amazing just happened to us and I’ll never forget it!”

And the couple plans to pay it forward.

“To talk at this table, we had to move off presents. These aren’t just presents for your family. You adopt families,” Martell said. “We serve in a ministry quite regularly so we help families throughout the year. It’s really nice and a complete surprise.”

Check your mailbox and let WINK News if you got one of those yellow envelopes! There are instructions inside for how you can reach us.

And again, WINK News thanks everyone in the community who made this possible.

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