US doctor forgives $650,000 in medical bills for cancer patients
Debt was cleared for 200 patients.
An American oncologist has wiped out $650,000 worth of debt for his former patients and delivered the news in a greetings card delivered to them at Christmas.
Dr. Omar Atiq, who ran a cancer clinic in Arkansas for 30 years before retiring last year, had previously worked with debt collectors to retrieve outstanding bills.
Upon realising a large number of his patients were unable to afford the fees, he decided to forgive debt for 200 of them.
"Over time I realised that there are people who just are unable to pay," Dr. Atiq told ABC's 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."
In his Christmas greeting card to his patients, he wrote: "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. The clinic has decided to forego all balances owed to the clinic by its patients. Happy Holidays."
Unlike most developed nations, the United States does not have universal healthcare, and instead operates a system which combines both public and private healthcare.
The system, which greatly enriches insurance companies and has left millions of Americans in debt for nothing more than being ill, has been widely criticised, and has led to calls for a single-payer system from the likes of Bernie Sanders.
Under a single-payer system, the government would take on the costs for all healthcare, with all citizens becoming the recipient of healthcare and access to all necessary services.