Having Cancer Without Having Health Insurance

healthcare-reform As if being diagnosed with cancer wasn’t a big enough shock there is another part to my story that delivered almost as big of a blow to my wife and I. See, I was laid off from my job back in January. As apart of being laid off I was offered Cobra which would have allowed me to continue my company-sponsored health insurance.  I would have to pay the whole amount of the policy which was about $950/month. Being recently unemployed and unable to find a job I elected not to participate and we had kids covered under a local Medicaid program (funny, the kids qualified but Elsy and I did not).

I few months later President Obama was nice enough to pass a bill for unemployed people that would cover up to 65% of Cobra costs and we elected barack-obama to participate. Our monthly total for insurance would be around $350. It would still be tough to come up with that extra money every month but it would be worth it we thought. When we got the first bill to start the Cobra coverage it was $1250. See they wanted us to pay for the ~3 months of coverage that we never used. While $350/month would be tight, but possible, $1250 was unattainable after being unemployed for almost 4 months.  We did not take the coverage.

Fast forward to late August.

s_handshake3 In August I was offered and accepted a position with a new company. The pay was similar to what I made before at my previous company but because of the economy they could not offer benefits for 90 days. Fine I said. I like the company and was happy to have the offer after almost 8 months of being unemployed. I was already having symptoms of my condition but thought if I could just hold out for 3 months I could go see the doctor and get it take care of.

Three weeks into the new position my stomach was bothering me enough to where I could not wait to see a doctor any longer. I thought it was an ulcer so how expensive could it be? Well after my 2 1/2 day hospital visit I started to get a taste. The stay alone was about $17,000. The various tests and what not was another couple thousand. We are currently negotiating price and payment plans to take care of those 2 1/2 days.

medicaid_000 While at the hospital we applied for government help through Medicaid and some other local sources. We were denied for all of them. The reason? I now made too much money. Lovely. Another side effect from lack of insurance was that the cancer doctor who diagnosed me now would not treat me because I did not have insurance. They were nice enough though to refer me to a cancer center in Austin named Shivers that possibly would.

The Shiver cancer center is run my Seton hospital which is a non-profit hospital. They have charity programs for people like me which thank God, we qualified for. They see me and all I have to do is make a co-pay. Unfortunately though they do not provide all the services that I need in order to treat my condition.

img_NM_PET_CT_02 As part of the process of diagnosing and treating cancer my doctor order a PET/CT scan. This scan measure activity in the body which tells them whether the cancer has spread. Unfortunately Shivers does not have the equipment to do such a scan so they referred me to another medical facility. They were happy to do the ~$8000 scan with 20% down and a prearranged payment plan. Or if we want to pay up front we could get a 40% discount. We needed the money in 2 days and thus sold our paid-off van to cover the cost. The good news is that the scan showed that the cancer had not spread.

That brings me to where I am today.

I went through all of that just to find out what needed to be done to treat me. The treatment plan calls for 4-5 months of Chemotherapy plus radiation and then a surgery as well. The fun part is that some of these things are covered by Shivers and others are not so we will have to foot the bill on those.

denied_insurance_coverage Oh, in case you were wondering about my handy dandy health insurance that will kick in within another 5-6 weeks at my job? Well, it won’t do anything for me since I now have what is called a "pre existing condition". My health insurance won’t be required by law to cover my cancer for 12 months after it starts. Fun!

As mentioned I am about to start treatment and hopefully be past this in the next six or so months. From here to there though there are several procedures and treatments I will need. Here is a list of the things that I am aware of and whether they will be covered by Shivers or not:

  • An endoscopy ultrasound – Not sure at this point
  • A Chemo port – Think Shivers is covering
  • A feeding tube to my stomach – Think Shivers is covering
  • Chemo Treatment (not medication) – Shivers is covering
  • Chemo medication – Qualified for donation from drug company (go figure)
  • Radiation – Have to foot this one on my own
  • Surgery – Have to foot this one as well
  • Stay in hospital during surgery ~2 weeks – Footing this one myself as well

Estimated cost for treatment? No idea. I don’t think I want to know right now.

So what is the moral to this story? Don’t get sick? Don’t be unemployed? What? I really don’t know.

Looking back yes, I wish I would have paid for insurance but at what cost? I don’t know.

I know this is lengthy but I thought it would be good to share this aspect of what is going on with me as well. I am not doing it garner sympathy from folks. This is nobody’s fault. Things happen and people find themselves in unfortunate situations like this. Unfortunately the country we live in does not have anything in place to help a person in my type of situation. Should they? Sure it would be nice but at what cost? I am not sure anyone can answer that and I certainly am not going to try.

What I do ask is that you keep my family and I in your prayer because we are fighting this war on two fronts. We have been faced with battles on both sides of this war but have been victorious so far. We will need strength though to keep fight as this war has barely begun.

  1. Steve says:

    Hi Dan.
    I Agree with you 100% about the health care debacle, if Japan and Canada can have. universal health care I am sure the US can too. There are issues with Japan’s system but they can be fixed easily because the Gov. has control. I pay for my insurance based on my Income. I get an insurance card good at every medical facility in the country. I can go to any facility-includes all clinics and big hospitals. With or without an appointment, they will see me if there is time and I never fill out any forms and pay 20% and fees are capped by the gov.
    I worry about my mother she is alone on Soc Sec and overweight, I can imagine her needing long term care and eating up all her $. Of course her children will pitch n to help but it angers me that essentially this is all to support health ins, Cos. who do nothing but shuffle paper and take $.

  2. Jessica says:

    My friend was recently diagnosed with Hogkins Lymphoma and is in the same boat as you. She has no insurance whatsoever and certainly can’t afford to pay the expenses on her own. It’s outrageous that there is no help out there for people in these situations. Even more outrageous that our health care system is so beyond just screwed up. Doctors care more about the money than saving a life. When did our society get so greedy?

  3. Dan says:

    There is help out there, it is just not through the government. I suggest your friend contact the American Cancer Society or Livestrong. There are usually local non profits, hospitals, and/or medical centers that will treat people without insurance. This is how I got my first rounds and radiation until Medicaid kicked in. The important part is to nor give up.