Cancer patient pays off millions in medical debt for strangers before death

Casey McIntyre, a New York City woman who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2019, lost her life on Nov. 12 at just 38 years old. Her dying wish is coming true.

A New York City woman’s dying wish is about to come true.

Casey McIntyre, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2019, lost her life on Nov. 12 at just 38 years old. In the days leading up to her death, she urged friends to donate to a campaign that would cancel the medical debt of strangers.

By the time of her death, that campaign raised enough to pay off nearly $19 million in debt and has since nearly tripled its impact.

One last note

Before she died, McIntyre wrote on X that she was arranging to buy up others’ medical debt and then destroy it “to celebrate my life.”

“I am so lucky to have had access to the best medical care at @MSKCancerCenter and am keenly aware that so many in our country don’t have access to good care,” she wrote.

The thread included a link to the fundraising campaign that she and her husband, Andrew, started through the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt, which uses data analytics to find households that earn less than four times the federal poverty level or whose debts are 5% or more of their annual income, the nonprofit says on its website.

“In general, $1 donated does abolish $100 of medical debt,” Daniel Lempert, an RIP Medical Debt spokesman, told the New York Times.

After McIntyre’s call to action, nearly $200,000 was raised. “That’ll probably abolish somewhere in the neighborhood of $19 million,” Lempert said.

As of Monday, $543,465 had been raised, converting to around $54 million of paid-off debt.

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

The miracle of more time

McIntyre discovered she had cancer in 2019.

“Casey and I received some mind-bendingly bad news,” Andrew wrote on social media when the couple received the news. “She has stage 3C Ovarian cancer. The silver lining is that it’s a type of cancer that is very treatable with chemo – by this weekend she’ll be halfway done with her six treatments.”

This past May, McIntyre was admitted to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Soon after, her oncologist advised that she return home for hospice care. The prognosis was that McIntyre had a few weeks to live.

She lived six months more.

“We had six months where we were able to travel, we went to the beach, we went to the river, we had karaoke parties in our house, and Casey had time to plan, and she was a planner,” her husband shared with the Times.

McIntyre leaves behind an 18-month-old daughter, Grace, who will one day receive the letters her mother had been writing her since birth, knowing she was ill.

Rent, food or health care? People make tough choices amid rising health costs, debt

Even with insurance, millions struggle to pay for health care

Nearly three in four people without health insurance struggle to pay for health care, but even people with coverage find it difficult, USA TODAY previously reported.

According to a telephone and online survey of a random sample of more than 7,800 adults April 18 through July 31:

◾ 38% of people delayed or skipped needed health care or filling a prescription drug because they could not afford it

◾ More than half of adults who skipped care said a health problem worsened as a result

Consumers also had to make other sacrifices to pay their medical bills:

◾ 39% cutback on necessities like food, heat or rent.

◾ 37% spent all or part of their savings on medical debt.

◾ 25% took another job or worked more hours at an existing job.

Is medical bankruptcy a good choice? Exploring options for debt relief.

Other national nonprofits that help with medical bills

Though an individual cannot apply for debt to be purchased by organizations like RIP Medical Debt, there are other organizations that can help, including HealthWell, the Patient Advocate Foundation and the Patient Access Network (PAN) Foundation, BLUEPRINT reported.

If you’re unsure where to start, the nonprofit Dollar For can help you select and apply for various programs. 

Ken Alltucker of USA TODAY, and Hanna Horvath and Jenn Jones of BLUEPRINT contributed to this reporting.

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