When I’m sick, the last thing I want to think about is bills. But as many Americans know all too well, being sick can be extremely expensive.
According to CNBC over 17% of Americans have defaulted on their medical debt.
In a population of 3.28 million, that’s almost 56 million people who can’t pay their medical bills.
That’s why the story of Dr. Omar Atiq of Pine Bluff, Arkansas is so bittersweet.
Medical expense is familiar concept. We’ve all seen the GoFundMe pages to raise money for treatment.
According to a Time interview with CEO Rob Solomon, 30% of the site’s fundraisers are for medical care.
He even went to Congress to ask for help.
The CEO of Go Fund Me:https://t.co/b5uiWNkCcZ
— Special Agent Fox Mulder (@FoxMulder010) February 21, 2021
Dr. Omar Atiq has spoken about the same issue, and urged colleagues to contact their government leaders:
— Heather Gantzer, MD, MACP (@HGantzerMD) May 14, 2019
But in December 2020, Dr. Atiq, who had been treating cancer patients in Arkansas for three decades, tried to help his patients one last time in the best way that he could.
Forced to close his oncology clinic because of staffing shortages, Dr. Atiq made the decision to forgive all outstanding balances.
After working with his billing company to forgive about $650,000 owed by around 200 patients, he sent an unexpected Christmas card to his patients.
“I hope this note finds you well. The Arkansas Cancer Clinic was proud to serve you as a patient. Although various health insurances pay most of the bills for the majority of patients, even the deductibles and co-pays can be burdensome. Unfortunately, that is the way our health care system currently works.
Arkansas Cancer Clinic is closing its practice after over 29 years of dedicated service to the community. The clinic has decided to forego all balances owed to the clinic by its patients.
Here’s what the card looked like…
Working on a sweet story tonight.
Around 200 cancer patients in Pine Bluff got this holiday card a few days ago— Dr. Omar Atiq who founded the Arkansas Cancer Clinic is forgiving all outstanding debts owed by patients.
He says they wiped away bills totaling around $650,000. pic.twitter.com/IHnQ3IAv15
— Hunter Hoagland (@HunterHoagland) December 30, 2020
Interviewed by Fox 16, Dr. Atiq explained:
“Being sick is hard, having cancer is harder, and having Cancer in this pandemic is devastating.
I am just a regular physician–a regular person that they have in the neighborhood–it just so happens to be me standing here.
The ones struggling couldn’t pay, so we thought we could just write off the debt.”
What an absolutely amazing human being.
Now a professor at the University of Arkansas Medical School, it is clear that Dr. Atiq’s students won’t just learn how to treat cancer patients, but also how to treat their neighbors.
This story gave me so many feels. What about you? Let us know in the comments.