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Oncologist wipes out $836,000 in medical bills

Lucy Dean
·2-min read
Male person holding some Australian currency. This visual concept evokes ideas around saving money, paying for expenses and investments.
Image: Getty

An American oncologist has forgiven US$650,000 (AU$836,000) for cancer patients after he found many patients were struggling to cover the bills.

Dr Omar Atiq wrote to patients over Christmas to tell them any debts would be erased, after closing his Arkansas cancer treatment centre in 2020 after nearly three decades.

The holiday greeting card had a message that read: “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 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. Happy Holidays.”

Atiq had previously worked with a billing company to gather the debts but called off the debt collectors when he realised many families simply couldn’t pay.

“Over time I realised that there are people who just are unable to pay," Dr Atiq told Good Morning America.

"So my wife and I, as a family, we thought about it and looked at forgiving all the debt. We saw that we could do it and then just went ahead and did it."

Around 200 patients had their debts wiped, with debts ranging from hundreds of dollars to thousands.

Atiq said he had always felt uncomfortable about sick patients having to worry about money in addition to their health.

"You add to it the absolute devastation that the [coronavirus] pandemic has wrought, and you think thank God that we’re fairly comfortable and this was something we could at least do to help the community," said Atiq.

He said he hopes the gesture makes life a “little bit easier for them. That’s it.”

Kind deeds in fashion

A Florida McDonalds made headlines last year after gifting a 15-year-old boy a brand new car after the owners found out how much the boy, who has autism, loved to draw McDonald’s famed golden arches.

Closer to home, a mystery shopper on the Gold Coast paid off $16,000 worth of lay-buys at a toy store, leaving staff and shoppers overcome.

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