Lottery Winner Uses Prize To See Doctor After Years Of No Health Insurance, Learns He Has Cancer, Dies In Days

Justin SullivanGetty Images

Donald Savastano was self-employed and went years without having life insurance, so when the New York man won a $1 million prize on a lottery scratch-off, it gave him the money he needed to finally go and see a doctor.

But his luck apparently ended there. Savastano was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and died just 23 days after winning his lottery jackpot.

The story of the unfortunate lottery winner has gone viral this week, which many saw as a cautionary tale of the health care crisis facing the United States. As reported, the 51-year-old carpenter had been feeling ill for quite some time before buying the winning ticket and was reportedly relieved that he would finally be able to see a doctor.

“He was self-employed. He didn’t have insurance, he hadn’t been feeling good for a while, I guess, and when he got the money he went into the doctor,” said Danielle Scott, who works at the store where Savastano purchased his winning ticket.

Savastano won the $1 million prize on the New York Lottery’s “Merry Millionaire” game and chose the lump sum payment that gave him $661,800.

Donald Savastano said the money would change his life.

“Being a self-employed carpenter, I didn’t really have a plan for retirement,” Savastano was quoted in an announcement from the New York State Lottery. “The money will help with that. I don’t have any other extravagant plans. I’ll buy a new truck, pay off some debt and invest for the future.”

Savastano said he bought the ticket while he was driving home from work in early December, and noted that he did not normally buy holiday tickets but decided to give Merry Millionaire a chance.

To many, the lottery winner’s sad tale highlighted the health care crisis facing Americans and the fight to put in place some kind of universal health care. According to a CNBC report from 2017, close to 11 percent of Americans had no health insurance last year, down from a peak of 18 percent in 2013, just after Obamacare was put into place.


It is not clear what will happen to Donald Savastano’s lottery winnings after his untimely death, but some reports suggested that it will now be left with his family.