John Oliver buys $15 million in medical debt to forgive it

Photo: HBO / MGN

(CBS)– For years, talk show titan Oprah Winfrey held the record for the largest one-time televised giveaway after she gifted her 276-person audience with new cars, valued at just under $8 million — but Sunday night that all changed.

“Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver easily bested that record when he forgave nearly $15 million dollars in medical debt — though he didn’t have to spend nearly that much to do so.

“It is pretty clear by now debt buying is a grimy business and badly needs more oversight, because as it stands any idiot can get into it,” Oliver said during the broadcast.

“I can prove that to you, because I’m an idiot and we started a debt-buying company. And it was disturbingly easy.”

Oliver and his producers spent $50 to set up a debt-buying company, Central Asset Recovery Professionals, and then spent another $60,000 buying $14,922,261.76 in outstanding medical debt owed by 9,000 U.S. citizens.

“We thought instead of collecting on the money, why not forgive it?” he said. “Because on one hand, it’s obviously the right thing to do, but much more importantly we’d be staging the largest one-time giveaway in television show history.”

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