A surgeon in Nebraska is taking a very unconventional approach to letting his patients pay for their medical bills — he is letting them work off the debt by volunteering for local humanitarian groups.
One individual who had a debt of about $20,000 after a surgical procedure was given the option of spending 560 hours volunteering to work off the debt. He or anyone he knows can step up and work off the hours on his debt.
“I don’t care if you’re a multi-billionaire or if you’re the guy on the street corner with a Styrofoam cup,” said Demetrio Aguila, who runs Healing Hands of Nebraska. “You get offered the same options. Why? Because it’s fair.”
Much has been written about the medical debt problems that people in this country are facing. While politicians make their speeches about how to fix the problem, it is inspiring to see someone actually trying something innovative to address the issue. While what Aguila is doing might not be practicable for collection agencies seeking to collect on unpaid medical debts, out-of-the-box ideas should be celebrated and used as inspiration to see if other ideas can be developed to help individuals with their medical debt burdens.
About 10% of the facility’s patients qualify for the volunteer program, Aguila said, and how much time people need to spend volunteering depends on the complexity of the surgery.
In too many cases, individuals put off important medical procedures because they are worried they will not be able to afford them. Aguila is giving those people hope that they can be helped and will not be burdened with debt for the rest of their lives.
“We can’t ignore the people in our own backyard,” he said. “We want to be able to offer hope to patients who have lost hope medically.”