A Pakistani-American doctor gave a Christmas gift to nearly 200 patients that he hoped would make their lives “a little easier,” erasing their medical debt of more than half a million dollars, according to media reports.
According to the Arkansas Democratic Gazette, Dr. Omar Atiq, who founded a cancer clinic in 1991 in Pine Bluff in the US state of Arkansas, sent a notice to his patients just days before December 25 saying, “The clinic has decided to forego all balances owed by its patients to the clinic.”
The newspaper announced that after nearly 30 years of offering cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy Dr Atiq, an oncologist who earned his medical degree from Khyber Medical College, Peshawar closed the clinic in February.
In an interview published on Friday, Atiq told ABC TV’s “Good Morning America” news programme that he had worked for months with a billing firm to obtain any leftover payments from patients, but ultimately decided to avoid contacting them.
As of December, according to Dr Atiq, who is also a professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, the clinic still had a total of almost US$650,000 in unpaid patient bills.
Dr. Atiq wrote in the note to his patients that “Although different health insurance companies pay most of the bills for most patients, even deductibles and co-payments can be burdensome.”
“That’s how our health care system currently works, unfortunately,” Dr. Atiq said, before telling patients that all outstanding debts will be forgiven.
“Happy Holidays,” said the Doctor.
Bea Cheesman, president of RMC of America, the billing firm that collaborated with Dr. Atiq, said that “a very kind gesture” was Dr. Atiq’s decision to forgive all remaining debts.