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Bill of the Month Podcast

‘An Arm And A Leg’: Tradition Grows Into $1 Million Gift For People In Medical Debt

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Every year — for decades — the Buehler family and friends have organized a softball tournament in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area to raise money for someone with big medical expenses.

“It’s like a holiday for us in the family,” Ed Buehler, 40, said. “You know, another one that just happens to come in July.”

The tournament started in 1980 as a fundraiser for Ed’s dad, Denny Buehler, who was battling leukemia and needed to travel to Seattle for treatment. The tournament typically raises about $10,000 each year.

“I don’t want to say $10,000 is not a lot of money,” Ed Buehler said. “But life is hard, and when something’s gotten in your way, $10,000 doesn’t go really, really far.”

In 2019, inspired by RIP Medical Debt, the Denny Buehler Memorial Foundation took on a new project. The foundation decided to buy up old medical debt — at pennies on the dollar — to pay off $1 million in debt for neighbors in the Cincinnati community.

In early December, the foundation met its fundraising goal and has plans to keep going.

This story has it all: softball, beer, late-night TV host John Oliver and a punk-rock singer turned Girl Scouts mom. And victories … for scores of people who had carried old debt for years.

Season 3 is a co-production of Kaiser Health News and Public Road Productions.

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