July 13, 2024

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New York woman helps erase millions in medical debt

New York woman helps erase millions in medical debt


A New York City woman who died Sunday from cancer has raised enough money to erase millions of dollars in medical debt with a posthumous plea for help.


Casey McIntyre told followers in a social media message posted by her husband that she had arranged to buy the medical debt of others as a way of celebrating her life.


McIntyre wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that “if you’re reading this I have passed away.”


“I loved each and every one of you with my whole heart and I promise you, I knew how deeply I was loved,” the 38-year-old wrote. The posts included a link to a fundraising campaign started through the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt.


McIntyre’s husband, Andrew Rose Gregory, posted the messages on Tuesday, and the campaign quickly blew past its US$20,000 goal. It had raised about US$140,000 by Friday afternoon, or enough to buy around US$14 million in medical debt.


Gregory said his wife had good health insurance and received great care at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Even so, the couple saw some “terrifying” charges on paperwork for her care, he said.


“What resonated for me and Casey is, you know, there’s good cancer treatment out there that people can’t afford,” he said. “Instead of dreaming of a cure for cancer, what if we could just help people who are being crushed by medical debt?”


Patients in the U.S. health-care system can quickly rack up big bills that push them into debt even if they have insurance. This is especially true for people who wind up hospitalized or need regular care or prescriptions for chronic health problems.


A 2022 analysis of government data from the nonprofit KFF estimates that nearly 1 in 10 U.S. adults owe at least US$250 in medical debt. That total of roughly 23 million people includes 11 million who owe more than US$2,000.


RIP Medical Debt erases debt purchased from hospitals, other health-care providers and the secondary debt market. It buys millions of dollars of debt in bundles for what it says is a fraction of the original value.


The nonprofit says every dollar donated buys about US$100 in debt, and it aims to help people with lower incomes. Spokesman Daniel Lempert said the organization has never had a campaign where someone plans for it to start after their death.


McIntyre, who was a book publisher, started treatment for ovarian cancer in 2019. She spent about three months in the hospital over the past year, her husband said.


The Brooklyn couple started planning for her memorial and the debt-buying campaign after she almost died in May. They were inspired by a video they saw of North Carolina churchgoers burning about US$3 million in medical debt.


McIntyre spent the last five months in home hospice care, giving her what Gregory calls a “bonus summer.” She went on beach trips and spent time with their family, including the couple’s 18-month-old daughter, Grace.


“Casey was very, very sick at the end of her life, and she couldn’t finish everything she wanted to finish,” Gregory said. “But I knew she wanted to do this memorial and debt jubilee. So I set that up and did it the way I thought she would have wanted.”


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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.