IDAHO FALLS — Frank and Belinda VanderSloot are spending another $500,000 to defend Idahoans against aggressive tactics by medical debt collectors.
The Melaleuca CEO made the announcement Thursday afternoon, bringing the total amount the couple is spending to $1 million.
“We’ve been blessed beyond any amount that anybody should be blessed with, and way beyond what we deserve,” Frank VanderSloot said in an interview with EastIdahoNews.com. “We’ve got these resources and want to try to help some of these people out.”
In April, the VanderSloots announced they were establishing a $500,000 fund called Idaho Medical Debt after EastIdahoNews.com posted a series of reports about Medical Recovery Services (MRS), a medical debt collection company based in Idaho Falls. MRS and its representing law firm, Smith, Driscoll & Associates, are owned by Bryan Smith. Smith employs Bryan Zollinger, a Republican Idaho state representative from District 33. The agency has been accused of being aggressive and unethical in their debt collection practices.
Since starting the fund, VanderSloot says 483 people have reached out for help, and Idaho Medical Debt agreed to take on 140 cases. So far, 35 have settled “very favorable to the patients,” but 105 cases are still open.
“Most of these people have been playing defense, and in just a few weeks, many are going to go on the offensive and start suing the collection agency for their tactics,” VanderSloot said. “We’ve burned through about $400,000 of the original $500,000. We need to carry this through to fruition, and we’re going to.”
VanderSloot said the vast majority of “troublesome” cases involve MRS, but a handful deal with other collection agencies. He said he’s heard the same stories “over and over” of patients never receiving a bill, being told they don’t need to show up in court and having attorney fees drastically larger than the original medical bill.
In previous statements to EastIdahoNews.com, Smith has denied the allegations against him.
VanderSloot said he plans to ask the Idaho Legislature to pass meaningful laws that protect Idaho’s citizens from unsavory practices related to medical debt. Details of the legislation will be announced next week, and the VanderSloots anticipate donating additional money to lead a consumer advocacy and education campaign throughout the state.
Idaho Medical Debt still wants to hear from people who have been treated unfairly by any collection company in eastern Idaho. You can call (208) 534-2208, email firstname.lastname@example.org or post on the Idaho Medical Debt Facebook page to seek assistance.
EastIdahoNews.com has reached out to Bryan Smith for a response to VanderSloot’s new announcement.
When the original $500,000 fund was announced, Smith said, “In representing the interests of our clients, we always ensure to follow all applicable rules, regulations and statutes — as well as our professional ethical obligations. When collecting owed debts – earned by medical professionals — our practices are fully supported by the applicable laws of our highly regulated industry, and the court determines post-judgment fees on a case-by-case basis.”
Watch the video above for our entire conversation with Frank VanderSloot.