[Dec. 27, 2023: JD Shavit, The Brighter Side of News]
In a touching message shared on social media, Casey expressed her final wish - to alleviate the crushing burden of medical debt carried by strangers. (CREDIT: Instagram/Andrew Rose Gregory)
In a poignant and heartrending testament to the power of compassion and generosity, Casey McIntyre, a beloved publishing executive, left an enduring legacy of hope before succumbing to ovarian cancer at the tender age of 38. In a touching message shared on social media, Casey expressed her final wish - to alleviate the crushing burden of medical debt carried by strangers, a wish that would go on to captivate the hearts and minds of countless individuals worldwide.
"To celebrate my life, I've arranged to buy up others' medical debt and then destroy the debt," McIntyre, who served as the publisher at the Penguin Random House imprint Razorbill, wrote in a message that rapidly went viral. "I am so lucky to have had access to the best medical care at @MSKCancerCenter [Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center] and am keenly aware that so many in our country don't have access to good care."
Her husband, Andrew Rose Gregory, took to the same social media platform to share his own thoughts on the donation experience. He referred to it as an "eye-opening look at both our power to eliminate medical debt and how fictional and made up so much crushing medical debt is." Additionally, he expressed his intention to host a "debt jubilee" with the possibility of a bonfire, and a memorial service in honor of his late wife in the coming month.
As of now, the RIP Medical Debt campaign, established in Casey McIntyre's name, has successfully raised $613,000 of its $650,000 goal, a remarkable achievement that will enable the eradication of over $60 million of medical debt.
This inspiring campaign spearheaded by Casey McIntyre strikes a chord at the heart of a crisis that has gripped nearly half of the American population. The struggle for access to quality healthcare has been exacerbated by the pervasive issue of medical bills.
According to a recent survey brief by the Commonwealth Fund, a staggering 44% of adults in the United States grapple with medical bill problems, irrespective of their income. Even more distressing is the fact that 46% of Americans with low or average incomes have been compelled to defer or forgo necessary medical care due to its cost.
Another survey by the Commonwealth Fund highlighted the staggering medical debt burden faced by Americans, with 85% of respondents reporting total debts exceeding $500 and nearly half of them carrying debts of $2,000 or more. In a broader context, a recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that the collective medical debt in the United States stands at a staggering $195 billion.
Casey McIntyre, a beloved publishing executive, left an enduring legacy of hope before succumbing to ovarian cancer at the tender age of 38. (Andrew Rose Gregory via AP)
This escalating crisis serves as the impetus behind the creation of RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit organization founded in 2014 by former debt collection executives who recognized the inherent flaws in the for-profit system of trading medical debts at a fraction of their face value. Daniel Lempert, the Vice President of Communications for RIP Medical Debt, elucidated the concept behind the organization. He explained how the nonprofit leverages donor contributions to acquire medical debts belonging to individuals who are least likely to be able to repay them.
"Every penny [donated] buys approximately $1 of debt," Gregory noted, shedding light on the economic dynamics. The reasoning behind this is that healthcare providers, often constrained by the lack of resources to collect past-due debts, sell these debts in bulk to collection agencies at significantly reduced values, often mere pennies on the dollar or even less. Lempert elaborated on this point, stating, "A collection agency just needs to collect the face value of some of those debts to make a profit."
This is where RIP Medical Debt steps in, allocating donations towards the purchase of medical debts of individuals who fall within specific criteria, including those below four times the federal poverty level or those for whom the debt constitutes 5% or more of their annual income. This strategic approach enables $1 donated to effectively erase an average of $100 in medical debt.
Once the organization has successfully eliminated an individual's medical debt, they take the heartwarming step of sending out surprise letters, informing them of this life-changing news.
Beyond individual donations, RIP Medical Debt is actively addressing the issue of medical debt through various avenues. Lempert highlighted their collaboration with community partners to pair medical debt relief with local services, a strategy designed to reduce the likelihood of individuals accumulating medical debt in the future.
Moreover, the organization's policy team is engaged in advising the federal government and other stakeholders on the best approaches to combat the burden of medical debt. An encouraging development is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's current efforts to remove all medical debt from credit reports.
Joining the Cause
Any individual can contribute to the cause by visiting the RIP Medical Debt website and making a donation that will contribute to national debt relief efforts. Moreover, on the charity's campaign page, donors have the option to choose specific geography-targeted campaigns, allowing them to make a difference in specific regions, similar to Casey McIntyre and her family's impactful initiative.
RIP Medical Debt encourages communities to establish their campaigns. Lempert emphasized the versatility of their partnerships, spanning high school students, community members, businesses, faith organizations, and more, all driven by a shared commitment to alleviate the burden of medical debt. While community campaigns are pivotal, it is apparent that this is a crisis demanding collective action, as Lempert acknowledged, "We know this isn't a problem we can fix alone," stressing the need for structural change alongside their crucial efforts.
In the memory of Casey McIntyre, her compassionate wish has ignited a powerful movement that brings relief to countless individuals shackled by the weight of medical debt. Her legacy serves as a testament to the enduring impact of empathy, showcasing how, together, we can work towards a brighter, more equitable future, where access to quality healthcare is not a privilege but a fundamental right for all.
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