Pinky Pie

Gratitude & me

Posted on: January 22, 2010

I go back to the books that I co-wrote in 2008 about living with childhood cancer. Not only did I interview many kids with cancer, I also interviewed some parents.

It was absolutely startling to me to hear the stories of parents who spent hours and hours on the phone trying to get medical care for their children from their insurance company. I called it medical terrorism and it is.

I also noted how different it was from the time our son, Matt, was treated for leukemia. We never had the fear of some insurance clerk deciding he would not get care. We did not have to worry about charges deemed “above the prevailing health cost data” or whatever the current jargon is for, “Nope, we’re not paying it. Good luck lady.”

To top it off, when Matt was diagnosed, the publisher of the newspaper where we both worked told us to take as much time as we needed and that we could not use sick days for it. Instead, he said we would be paid as if we were there for as long as we needed.

And when Matt relapsed twice and needed a bone marrow transplant, we were both called to the publisher’s office once again. He said we’d handle it the same way we did before. I smiled and said, “Me too?”

Ah, not me. I had left the newspaper’s employ to become a freelance writer because I simply could not do it all any longer with a child receiving three years of chemotherapy treatments. (Mine were only for four months but more intense.)

So the publisher paid Dick as if he was still at work. That allowed him to be with us up in Minneapolis for three and a half months. Other fathers lost their jobs because the costs were too great on their insurance plans. And that was 1986.

Incidentally, the  father of a child from Canada also was paid his salary during this time plus had all his child’s medical bills paid. That’s socialized medicine for you.

After Matt died, we didn’t have tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. Oh, we did get a bill from the University of Minnesota almost two years later for several hundred dollars of newly found charges. But Gundersen Clinic in La Crosse even waived some charges for us.

We were very lucky with our insurance then and I am grateful.

When my husband had open-heart surgery and other heart procedures over the years, we’ve mostly been very lucky, too. Although it certainly has gotten worse over the years. The old insurance company claimed it had not received necessary documentation for $1,100 in charges from a couple years ago. The medical center said it sent the information. And so that continues.

And now with my cancer, we are not so lucky.  “The governor” came through yesterday with a reprieve that allowed me to have radiation therapy in La Crosse at the “in-network” rate.  But that was just before I was to have my simulation and even the verbal approval was very difficult for the cancer center to accept. They had worked with this insurance company too much before to trust them.

But how much will the insurance company really pay for radiation? There is so much wiggle room for insurance companies to squirm their way through.

We are struggling with the old insurance about my chemotherapy. After each treatment I was given a shot to boost my immune system so I would recover enough for the next treatment and to avoid my getting sick. I also received a shot twice that boosted my red cells, as my hemoglobin was so low that I could barely peel myself off the couch.

I was on a more intense treatment plan, requiring the shots, because my doctor felt was necessary for me as I had cancer in my lymph nodes.

However, the shots cost about $4,500 each, not that I knew that at the time. And the insurance company is balking at paying for them. So that could leave us with another $45,000 in medical bills if appeals are not successful. Who wants to think about that?

And yet, I’m very grateful for the wonderful care I received and am receiving.

Still, every mortgage payment is an adventure.

I used to wonder who those folks were who had such insurance troubles. Surely, they must be at fault in some way.

Now I know.

P.S. I want to get back to being funny again in this blog.

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1 Response to "Gratitude & me"

Hang in there, Sue, and keep fighting. Thank God you will be getting your radiation. The bills can wait.

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