The title of an article on the cover of the AARP magazine (June/July 2018) jumped out at me: “Broke from Cancer” by Peter Moore.
“Cancer can attack more than just your body and mind. It can also destroy your bank account. Even the best health insurance might not protect you. But you can protect yourself. Here’s how.
If you are diagnosed with cancer, which expert should you see first?
- A medical specialist
- A money manager
Surprisingly, option two might give you the best hope for surviving the disease with your health—and your wealth—intact. Not only are cancer patients two and a half times as likely to declare bankruptcy as healthy people; but those patients who go bankrupt are 80% more likely to die from the disease than other cancer patients according to studies from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “For many patients, when they get the bills, it can be as bad as some of the side effects of the disease or the treatment,” says the center’s Gary Lyman, M.D.
The entire article is worth reading. I remember clients who had bins full of bills, late notices and collection letters with no clue about what to do except to not answer the phone.
I really recommend second and even third opinions. Five years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer—DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ). I remember that I didn’t hear anything the primary care physician said after I heard the word “carcinoma.” I was more calm and prepared when I met with the oncologist and the oncology nurse. During our discussion I asked about cost of treatment. They referred me to billing who told me they would not know the cost till after the surgery and follow-up care were completed and “wasn’t removal of the cancer cells “the only thing that should be on my mind.”
When I mentioned this exchange with my primary care physician she shrugged and said, “Get the thing out and worry about the rest later.”
But I did worry about it for all the months it took for the various departments to route the billing through Medicare and my supplemental insurance.
I don’t dine at restaurants where the menus don’t show the prices. I don’t know anyone who does.
It worked out for me—this time. A low co-pay and clear margins. But, sometimes, during one of those 3am journeys into the dark-what -if’s, I worry.
I know I am not the only one.