I was diagnosed with a genetic form of colon cancer when I was thirty two years old. I was divorced, working, and raising two children. I made around seventy five thousand dollars per year and thought I was financially secure. My whole life was about to change.
I had medical insurance at the time I was diagnosed with cancer. I also had a supplemental insurance policy that was specifically for cancer. I didn’t feel a great concern at the time I was diagnosed for my finances. I was more concerned with the effects cancer would have on my health. I had no idea that my insurance had a cap for the year. Once that cap was reached my insurance no longer covered anything and the medical bills began to roll in. Without any insurance to speak of, it is very difficult to convince a doctor or hospital to accept you for treatment. In fact, it’s an absolute nightmare when you need life saving treatment and have no way to pay for it.
Half A Million Dollars
Why so expensive? Cancer is expensive when you simply do chemotherapy and radiation. In my case, I had chemotherapy, radiation, eight surgeries, time in ICU on a respirator, and approximately seven months in the hospital with all stays combined; not to mention around twenty-five emergency room visits. Without insurance of any kind my illness would have cost over one million dollars. In that regard, I suppose I’m lucky it was only half that amount. Still, half a million dollars isn’t exactly in my budget.
Is it really necessary for hospitals in America to charge five times what something is really worth? Six hundred dollars per day just for a room, one hundred dollars for one potassium pill, and almost three hundred dollars for electrolytes? My prescription potassium pills cost eighty-nine dollars for one hundred and eighty pills at Walgreens. I know that privatized hospitals obviously want to make a profit and they most certainly do. However, they are forcing average families like mine into financial ruin while their CEO’s take home multi-million dollar salaries each year.
Needless to say, the cost of cancer treatment has absolutely thrown my family into financial ruin. We lost our home that I had worked for and purchased, moved into a small rental which we can barely afford, and I’m praying my children can get scholarships for college because I don’t see how I will be able to afford tuition. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s more important for me to be with my children than to be able to pay for things like college. It almost makes you feel guilty for surviving after you put your family through something like that. At this point I’m seriously considering bankruptcy. It’s the last thing I want to do but I don’t see any other way currently. I’m not able to do the same type of work that I could do before and my income has been cut down by two-thirds.
Make sure you read the fine print on your insurance policy and don’t assume you will be covered in the event of a major illness.