stupid prices

Truth be told, I would much rather fix the health care and health insurance system in this country than pay my medical bills. But the reality is, I still have to pay my medical bills.

Remember that scan two weeks ago that made me cry? Despite all the phone calls and the time spent trying to get my insurance straightened out beforehand to avoid the crying, I still received a letter from the insurance company saying the scan wasn’t covered and that I owe $8,000.

$8,000!!

My oncologist called this the “stupid price” of the scan. He said no insurance company pays $8,000 for a PET-CT, and almost no individual without insurance has to pay that much either. He lost me back at stupid price–wait–why isn’t there just one price?

I’m finding that there isn’t just one answer or one price for almost anything in health care. And that almost nothing is cheap. I take three types of chemo; none of them are generic. I see my oncologist at least once per month: more, if my blood counts aren’t cooperating (like this month). I have at least three other doctors that I sometimes see for hormonal issues that come with having an NET, my surgery-induced diabetes, or more surgery. I get a scan every two months. I don’t have to pay the “stupid price,” but I usually have to pay at least a couple hundred dollars. I also just turned 26. Which is good, because it means I got to celebrate my birthday, but it also means my policy got a lot more expensive. But I have a pre-existing condition and no insurance company wants to cover me–so a $500/month premium is my best option.

That’s a lot.

I’m torn between wanting to give it all up and go back to my pre-cancer, bare-bones monthly budget (on an island where health care doesn’t exist) and wanting to keep living and feeling relatively good–at a high price. I believe to some extent in eating right and exercising, but, I don’t believe that any of these alternative cures that have been flooding my inbox are going to cure me. So if i’m going to keep living and writing and dancing, I am, realistically, going to need some help.

Many of you have been asking how you can help. You can help by sharing my video and by continuing to send your words of encouragement. Or you can Give Forward (or visit my “Help” page for more information). I’m trying to raise $10,000–which is ambitious–but if things keep going as they are, it will cover the organization’s 7% cut (which is low), plus, most of my insurance premiums and doctor’s visits and prescriptions for one year. At which point I will finish grad school and hopefully, maybe, get on top of my finances again. If that’s possible when you get diagnosed with chronic cancer. Or i’ll decide to move to that island.

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18 Responses to stupid prices

  1. Nick Dahlberg says:

    I feel your pain. I’ve had skin cancer(thankfully they caught it before it got serious) but now that I have a pre-existing condition my premium would be sky high. I own my own business which is a dream but don’t make enough to justify $550 a month for “coverage” that won’t even cover me to go see a Dermatologist.

    We should start our own “Occupy” Wall street but tackle the insurance companies. Call it “Human Health Takeover.” Have everyone in the USA DROP their health insurance and bring the companies to near bankruptcy until they make insurance affordable with no red tape. If they make car/house insurance affordable then why can’t it be for our own health coverage. HHT!!!! HUMAN HEALTH TAKEOVER!!!

  2. Jen Feng says:

    Lindsey, I’m so sorry that your health insurance company is giving you trouble, I can only imagine how frustrating and scary it is to not know what will and will not be covered by your insurance. Are you at liberty to say which company it is? And your oncologist is right, insurance companies have contracts with doctors and hospitals with agreed prices for various procedures. Insurance companies get to negotiate lower prices than an individual patient for a certain procedure because they have leverage; if the doctor accepts the lower pay, insurance companies provide them with more patients. This American Life actually did 2 great episodes that explains this wonderfully: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/391/more-is-less and http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/392/someone-elses-money …but I bet you’ve already heard them or have already learned about it in your health policy class. It might get worse before it gets better, esp. since there are all these budget cuts that need to happen in return for raising the debt ceiling. The proposals that the Super Committee have made include cutting funding for community health centers (who provide healthcare and access to the uninsured) and cutting funding for graduate medical education (meaning that instead of getting paid $40,000/year for working 80-100 hours a week, residents at teaching hospitals might need to take out additional loans to pay for their residency, some of whom have already taken out $100,000-$400,000 in loans for medical school). It’s all so maddening and enough to make someone’s head explode.

    I’m sure this totally doesn’t help your trouble with thinking in macro, but your posts about healthcare costs have definitely struck a chord with me…probably for obvious reasons. On a more micro level, I’ll be sure to try my best to publicize your video and blog as best I can, and I really do hope to see you sometime in the near future (although I understand if you’re too busy going on all your coffee dates to fit me in :) ).

  3. Becky Gayle says:

    I’m a student pharmacist (and old coworker of yours) and feel the pain of every patient that I try to help navigate through our endlessly confusing healthcare system. Luckily, I know of some available programs that not many people know about, programs that were recently put in place with the Affordable Care Act that 1. will hopefully not get repealed and 2. will start to cover a significant portion of the uninsured. These programs are PCIP (California) and MRMIP (federal). Unfortunately, because they’re state- and federally-funded, they have quite a few restrictions and I don’t think you’d be able to qualify at this time, but maybe they’re something you can apply for in the future? I think it might be worth a shot, or at least something to keep on your radar. Here’s the link to the MRMIP website. You have to apply to both PCIP and MRMIP simultaneously to be considered for either one.

    http://www.mrmib.ca.gov/mrmib/MRMIP.html

    Also, for patients without insurance that get brand-name drugs, there may be a way to get them for free through Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) offered by drug companies. Of course, there are restrictions to these programs (mostly that you have to meet certain income levels and you cannot have insurance), but, again, I think they’d be worth looking into or at least asking your doctor – and/or social worker – about. (Unfortunately, I think I’m one of few pharmacists who know about these programs, although I think a lot of healthcare workers in oncology know a lot about them.)

    Visit this website: RxAssist.org, click on the patient center link, and then search whatever brand name drug you’re taking. You’ll find info on eligibility requirements and the application form. Then you’ll just need your doctor to sign it and send it in!

    For those with insurance, you may qualify for Co-Pay Assistance Programs that can be found using this off-shoot of RxAssist.org:
    http://learning.rxassist.org/sites/default/files/Copayfound%203-11.pdf

    These programs definitely take some searching / sorting through, but they can end up saving you a lot of money.

    Hope this helps, and let’s all hope – and vote – for measures that improve our healthcare system to make it less confusing and costly!

    Becky

  4. I’m sorry you are having to go through this (figuring out medical insurance and getting your medical bills paid) at such a young age. Sadly, it’s an issue that, at one time or another, will touch all of our lives, yet we are reduced to begging and hoping that someone will care enough to help. It’s not right.

  5. om bansal says:

    i am from india and fighting liver mets NET for last 2 years, disease is stable now after 6 cycles of Lu 177 PRRT. i am also on tibetan herbal medication prescribed by dr yeshi dhonden[ google it]. this medication costs me 10 dollars a month. the PRRT, in europe costs 25000 dollars a cycle, in the US, its not approved yet[ as far as i know]. i have not been on chemo, though onco physicians will like me to have those expensive oral chemo tablets. i have avoided it till now.
    i monitor progress of disease by quarterly chromogronin A blood test and MRI and gallium 68 PET CT scan every 6 months. in india, PET CT costs 150 dollars in any clinic.
    tou may like to try tibetan herbal medicines, he can do miracles and has cured many people, he lives in dharamsala and was physician to his holiness dalai lama. your health system and insurance is totally screwed up , who can afford it? if one does die of cancer , one would of paying bills and paper work. try some other place, see , if this input helps

  6. David says:

    It’s hard to imagine that we live in the greatest country in the world and people need to constantly be forced into situations where they have to decide if they can afford the ante necessary to get into the reasonable healthcare game.

    For those who rail against President Obama’s attempts to overhaul our healthcare system I have to wonder if they’ve ever been in your position. Is the first pass at change perfect (or anywhere close to it)? No. But it’s the first legitimate chance in our lifetime of turning things around.

    I’m glad you’re continuing to pursue the best of treatments. Because of your recent turn at celebrity vis-a-vis the Joseph Gordon-Levitt date video I’m hoping you’ll be showered with the right $ort of $upport from a wave of new fans.

  7. Tom says:

    why don’t you have UCLA SHIP insurance?

  8. M.Potter says:

    It’s painful to see something like this. My mother might have met a similar situation if we lived in the US – don’t worry, I’m not going to go political, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Millions of people across the world face similar situations, and it haunts me that someone so lovely, so bubbly, can be hit by so callous a policy. It’s basically “bankrupt yourself if you want to live” option.

    Just please keep on going, love. Keep on fighting and trying. I’m sure you’ll get the required fiscal resources, I’m sure you’ll come out smiling in the end, fingers crossed. You’re simply too kind-hearted to lie down and accept it – to quote Churchill, ‘if you’re going through hell, keep going’.

  9. Rich says:

    Appeal the denial of benefits by the insurance company. Review the insurance policy and/or summary plan description (SPD) and plan documents. Track down the person at the company who told you and the radiologist that you were covered and see if you can get help from her. Better yet, have someone advocate for you – whether it is parents or someone else – this is stressful stuff and you don’t need the burden.

  10. Linda says:

    In Finland (where I live) the healthcare is almost free, usually it costs round 8 dollars/year, or sometimes it’s free (if you are a student or older than 65), and it includes all tests and scans that is needed. Cancer treatments are also cheap, because it is in our law, that everybody should have free healthcare.

  11. david says:

    Maybe ayahuasca is right for you. Watch a documentary or two online and see if it resonates with you.

  12. Todd Wong says:

    Hello Lindsey
    wish I could say more than “stay positive”
    - but I believe in that too.
    I am a cancer survivor – diagnosed at age 29
    now – I it is 22 years later…

    Thankfully my costs were covered by our Canadian Medicare system.

    $10,000 is 100 people donating $100 each… or 1000 people donating $10 each.
    It is reachable.

    Thank you for your blog, and your video.
    You have a wonderful spirit.
    You may never know how many people you have touched.

    Peace ad blessings to you…
    Todd Wong

  13. Maria says:

    Stay strong Lindsey. I’m also from Finland and as Linda said already, medical care is here almost free. I’m happy to pay a bit more higher tax fees so that all people here get their free medical care. I know what the situation is in USA and I really hope your country would sort these things out somewhere in the future. Of course there is just about 5 million ppl in Finland, but I don’t see it as a huge obstacle why these things wouldn’t work too in USA…

    I wish you get well soon.

  14. José Roberto Mota says:

    Um verdadeiro exemplo de fé,força e superação.Saiba que sua história apareceu no Brasil ( http://www.techtudo.com.br/noticias/noticia/2011/11/mulher-com-cancer-faz-campanha-na-web-para-ter-um-encontro-com-o-ator-joseph-gordon-levitt.html )e todos nos comovemos muito.Estamos orando por ti.
    Um grande beijo pra ti.Vale muito saber que na terra existem pessoas como você.

    Que Deus a abençõe ricamente.

    (I’m sorry,I don’t speak english.)

  15. John Land says:

    Hi Lindsey

    I found your video while surfing the net and am moved to write. I am a natural health care practitioner for the last 30+ years. I help people to restore their health and well-being. The pain you’re going through is common amongst those who are dealing with the profit oriented cancer industry. However these times of crisis can be a huge impetus for personal growth and inquiry and as such can reveal a wholly new path for your life.

    What I’d like to tell you is that cancer is imminently curable – but you won’t find that on the evening news. I think you are quite courageous so I’d like to encourage you to consider another option.

    First you need to know what cancer is. The mystification and fear must be removed. Keeping you in fear is the way you are fed to the cash-hungry corporation.
    Cancer is fungus. We are clear on that now. I refer you to Dr. Simoncini (google “Dr. Simoncini cancer”) Knowledge is power.

    Second you need to know that this condition doesn’t just arise overnight but it is the end result of a natural process that required certain preconditions to be met. In short it is a process of decay within some parts of your body. If you look at nature you can see fungus and molds everywhere. They are part of the cycle of life. When organisms decay funguses take hold, resulting in the breakdown of the material.

    So before you get alarmed with what I’m saying consider for a moment that if we know what it is then we know how to deal with it. The human body ALWAYS moves towards health. What we must find are the impediments that prevent it from doing so.
    So to kill the “cancer”we must take and anti-fungal remedy. Fortunately these are CHEAP, as in inexpensive. And EFFECTIVE, as in you can regain your total health.

    I’d also like to point out that dealing with the preconditions is also highly recommended. Which is what I do for folks.

    So, I’ll point you in the direction (watch Simoncini’s video) then check out the protocol on the following http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Grtrm8tk4d4&feature=player_embedded and go to the links in the video.

    If you would like to confer with me, email me and we can talk. I have a website that I can refer you to as well.

    blessings to you and yours

    John

  16. Rodrigo Dracxler says:

    i´d like to say that i´m praying for you to get better soon and i´m sure that god is on your side! cheers from brasil!!

  17. Hi, I payed forward a Versatile Blogger Award to you because I think you have a well written, heartfelt blog and an important message. My blog is goofy compared to yours, but I love that the blogging community brings people together in a meaningful way.
    http://worrywarts-guide-to-weight-sex-and-
    marriage.com/2011/11/18/the-versatile-blogging-award/

  18. john doe says:

    FYI, medical cost in Taiwan is MUCH cheaper than that of the US with the same quality of medical care.

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