When I was first diagnosed, I thought “Thank God, I have insurance!” This was the first time after years of being a consultant with very spotty insurance coverage that I had solid health insurance. In many ways, I was fortunate … I don’t know what I would have done without it because it opened many doors for me very quickly. However, what I didn’t realize was that I had several thousands of dollars in deductibles and out-of-pocket costs annually (and, believe me, my employer was paying a sizable amount each month for that insurance). I also had a $25.00 co-pay. Again, what I didn’t realize was that the co-pay was for a doctor’s visit only. Imagine my surprise when I got a call from my oncologist’s billing department, just days from my first chemo treatment, informing me that my co-pay was well over $300.00 per treatment AND it was due at the time of treatment! I understood. It’s a business. I didn’t expect my treatment to be free. I just believed the lie that if I had insurance, I would be completely covered and wouldn’t have to worry about money while going through chemo / radiation / surgery. I was extremely naive.
Later, side effects from the treatments, as well as the multitude of tests and medical appointments, necessitated that I become a part-time employee. Within a matter of weeks, I received a call from my insurance broker who informed me that as a part-time employee, I was no longer eligible for health insurance (my employer was more than willing to cover the cost, but the insurance provider said that it wasn’t an option)!
The broker was wonderful and even offered to go over other options, including Affordable Care (“Obamacare”) or medicaid. However, as a single woman facing huge medical bills, a potentially terminal illness (this was prior to my metastatic diagnosis), treatment that had side effects that were sometimes worse than the illness, little income, savings long gone, and so exhausted some mornings that I could barely pull myself out of bed, this news was devastating.
I wasn’t alone. In the back of my mind, I was constantly reminded of the words from a friend of mine who was also an oncology nurse … “People, especially men, let pride get in the way of treatment and they die. They leave behind devastated families because they were too prideful to ask for help.” I’m paraphrasing, but that was my take of the conversation. Another friend, the sister of a woman who is fighting colon cancer for a second time, said that her sister was lamenting about choosing between paying her medical bills and paying her mortgage!
There are options, but you need to know how to find them and become immune to embarrassment. I had a choice … keep my pride or try to find help to get the treatments necessary to save, or at least extend, my life. I chose to fight for my life. Unfortunately, I have run into people who think to embarrass me or block me from support that is available (for whatever reason). I have also found a lot of incredible people willing to assist me. That would not have happened if I hadn’t advocated for myself. Researched and educated myself. Made demands, not unreasonable demands, but demands none-the-less.
I was very excited when I saw this video on www.curetoday.com. It’s not a comprehensive explanation of what’s available out there, but it’s a start.
Interestingly enough, as I was researching this post, an article from livestrong.org caught my eye.