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Before dying, she made a fund to cancel others' medical debt — nearly $70M worth

Casey McIntyre (right) Andrew Gregory (center) and their daughter, Grace.
Evan Gregory
Andrew Gregory
Casey McIntyre (right) Andrew Gregory (center) and their daughter, Grace.

Casey McIntyre wanted her legacy to be clearing medical debt for others. But her husband Andrew Gregory says they never dreamed it would get this far.

Who is she? McIntyre was a mother, wife and publisher at Penguin Random House.

  • She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer four years ago and died earlier this month, aged 38.
  • McIntyre's job provided her with health insurance that her husband described as "really excellent," and as a result, her family was not saddled with thousands of dollars of medical debt.
  • This isn't the case for many other Americans —it's estimated that 4 in 10 Americans households owe some sort of health care-related debt.
  • What did she do? Inspired by the philanthropy of others, McIntyre and Gregory orchestrated what they called a "debt jubilee" in her honor.

  • They set up a fund with the nonprofit group RIP Medical Debt, which buys up debt for millions of dollars at a time at a fraction of the original cost. The group says that for every dollar it recieves in donations, it can relieve about $100 of medical debt.
  • Here's McIntyre's own explanation via X (formerly Twitter):
  • The post went viral, gaining thousands of likes and impressions on Instagram and X.
  • At the time of publication, the fund has received more than $680,000 of the nearly $700,000 goal — which equates to almost $70 million in medical debt for Americans across the country.
  • RIP Medical Debt buys the debts just like any other collection company, according to NPR's Yuki Noguchi. But instead of trying to profit from them, they simply notify people that their debts are cleared.

  • Want to learn about another woman's lasting legacy? Listen to Consider This on the life and work of Rosalynn Carter.

    What's her husband saying? Gregory spoke with All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro about his wife's life and legacy.

    On what she was like:

    Casey was very, very, very funny. She was just a hilarious woman. From our very first date, she was cracking me up, and I was cracking her up. And we never stopped laughing even while, frankly, you know, she was struggling with her diagnosis of stage 4 ovarian cancer for four years. When I look back at that, it's pretty remarkable.

    On how they came to this decision:

    Last March, we saw a video online that was a little bit of a viral post where a Moravian church in Winston-Salem, N.C., not too far from where I grew up, burned $3 million of debt. And one thing they did that was really cool is all local debt.

    They've destroyed all of the medical debt in Yadkin County, N.C. And I just think that is really cool. And I showed that post to Casey, and they had done it through RIP Medical Debt as well.

    And Casey came very, very close to dying around the end of May. And while she was in the hospital, we came to an agreement that this is what we were going to do. And Casey was very excited about it. And she got out of the hospital, which — we were very lucky that she did. She entered home hospice at the recommendation of her oncologist, and we were really lucky that she lived for six months. 

    On how many people they've helped:

    I do not think Casey could have possibly imagined this response — the global press coverage it's gotten — even as I think she would have thought that it would have gotten some notice.

    I was able to talk to the CEO of RIP Medical Debt, Allison Sesso. And one thing that really blew me away is I said to her, like, "Hey, we set this up as a national campaign. Would it be possible to maybe shift it to be more like New York City? Because Casey was such a consummate New Yorker."

    And Allison said, "Andrew, this is too much medical debt for New York City for us to buy. We have to do a bigger area."

    So, what now?

  • Casey McIntyre's debt jubilee is still taking donations.
  • Learn more:

  • This group's wiped out $6.7 billion in medical debt, and it's just getting started
  • Millions of U.S. apples were almost left to rot. Now, they'll go to hungry families
  • She was elated about her pregnancy. Then came a $2,400 bill for blood tests
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    Manuela López Restrepo
    Manuela López Restrepo is a producer and writer at All Things Considered. She's been at NPR since graduating from The University of Maryland, and has worked at shows like Morning Edition and It's Been A Minute. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Martin.