Trending News Today: Last Week Tonight Host Purchases Millions in Medical Debt

Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.

Vice President Joe Biden announced the launch of a new open-access cancer database called The Genomic Data Commons (GDC) that will provide researchers with information to better understand cancer and develop new and more effective treatments. The database contains raw genomic and clinical data, as well as data on which treatments were used and the responses from 12,000 patients, reported The Washington Post. As researchers contribute to the GDC, a database that is part of the National Cancer Institute, more records will be added. “Increasing the pool of researchers who can access data and decreasing the time it takes for them to review and find new patterns in that data is critical to speeding up development of lifesaving treatments for patients,” Biden said. The database will be accessible through an NCI portal and will be both searchable and interactive.

For a little under $60,000, the host of the HBO show Last Week Tonight purchased $14.9 million worth of medical debt through his recently formed company, reported The New York Times. The company is called Central Asset Recovery Professionals (CARP), and according to Oliver, it cost him only $50 to create. After receiving a portfolio of approximately 9000 people that included names, current addresses, and Social Security numbers, Oliver was able to give the debt away. “(Buying the debt was) absolutely terrifying, because it means if I wanted to, I could legally have CARP take possession of that list and have employees start calling people, turning their lives upside down over medical debt they no longer had to pay,” Oliver revealed in his latest show. “There would be absolutely nothing wrong with that except for the fact that absolutely everything is wrong with that.”

In 1986, the practice of refusing care to emergency room patients who couldn’t pay was outlawed. Since then, health insurance expansion under the Affordable Care Act reduced the amount of Americans who are likely to face crippling medical debt. However, new data shows that those with health insurance may also pay a large financial price for hospital care, reported The Washington Post. Although insured patients are less likely to face major financial burden because of hospitalization, it still has a substantial effect on their financial stability. A national health and retirement survey revealed that insured individuals between 50 and 64-years-old had their out-of-pocket medical expenses increase by more than $1000 a year after hospitalization. Furthermore, annual incomes dropped by more than $7000 (17% decline), which researchers believe could be due to patients working less or losing their jobs. Although social security payments can make up for some of the lost income it does not cover all of it. “By design, however, insurance in the US covers (a large portion of) medical expenses and relatively little of the earnings decline,” the researchers wrote. “Employer provision of sick pay and private disability insurance is fairly sparse, and public disability insurance is available only after a lengthy application and approval process.”