Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Fighting Cancer: Money Matters More Than Medicine

I wasn’t sure when I’d write again about Mom’s cancer battle, but today’s fiasco has inspired me. And I’m definitely not inspired in a good way. To put it bluntly, it was made more than obvious to us that in the eyes of Medicare money matters more than medicine.

Mom’s been undergoing chemotherapy since August, and according to the doctor and oncology nurses she’s been doing quite well on the drugs they’ve been infusing her with. While no one can honestly say that she’s out of the woods yet, she’s been making good progress and her doctor had scheduled her for more chemo sessions and another body scan in a couple of weeks. You can imagine our surprise then when we walked into the office for her weekly chemo session and the young office manager was forced to inform us, “Sorry, we can’t treat you today. Medicare says you can’t have any more chemotherapy.”

Of course they’ll fax in documents and medical notes and what-not to the paper-pushers at Medicare, but who’s to say that Medicare won’t take their sweet ol’ time deciding if additional chemo sessions are worth it? What’s six months to a career bureaucrat? It’s a water cooler break! But what’s six months to a cancer patient not getting treatment? I guess Medicare doesn’t shed any crocodile tears if the patient isn’t alive when they finally make their decision.

Mom is fortunate that she has supplemental private health insurance, but for some reason it won’t pay its 20% unless Medicare pays its portion first, and if Medicare isn’t paying… Then of course that means they don’t pay, either. I can’t figure that out—you pay expensive premiums for insurance that doesn’t pay when you need it? Sounds like something from a classic Monty Python sketch, “The auto insurance that only works if you don’t use it” sketch. It seems at this point if Mom wants to continue to get better and receive chemo treatments, she’ll have to pay out of pocket. Unfortunately, our last name isn’t “Gates”, so she doesn’t have an endless bank account.

I know Mom’s case isn’t unique. I’m certain that every day thousands—maybe millions—of Americans are told that they are no longer worthy of receiving life-saving medications or medical treatments. It seems to me our government has found a rather unique way to cull the “surplus population” (as Ebenezer Scrooge labeled them in Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol). The U.S. may not force you into having abortions and sterilization procedures like the Chinese do to prevent population growth, but instead it waits until you’re retirement age and then it lets you waste away from lack of healthcare. It allows you to labor as the working poor without any health benefits with the freedom of keeling over in your tracks if you happen to get sick. How kind.

I saw an “Occupy Findlay, Ohio” group camped out in front of the Hancock County Courthouse this morning. It seems even in small town America people have had enough of an uncaring government and want to make their voices heard. Maybe Mom and I should join them?


Please feel free to share your experiences with Medicare, unresponsive health insurers, and other injustices the 99% of us endure on a daily basis in the comments section below.
Please pass this blog/link along to others who feel put upon similarly. If we create enough noise, perhaps someone somewhere in a position of power will grant us justice.

In any case, even if we’re not here to see the results of the revolution, perhaps we can help start it.

Feel free to join our Facebook page, The Mad-As-Hell Party. Let the politicos know we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!


Kathy said...

I don't know what to say to this.
It just is unreal. I'm lucky my Father has a fair amount of savings and his house. Of course, he has not been as ill as your Mom. So far, only heart issues, gout, and recovery from a broken hip.

I'm just hoping that when his time comes, it is quietly, happily and with no issues.

I will pray for you Mom.

I agree that something must be done, I wish I knew what. It is increasingly obvious to me that anyone who makes more the $100,000 a year is completely out of touch with the rest of the population and our gov't leaders and bosses at our companies really don't get what is the reality for their workers and constituents. (the 99%).

A J said...

It's a disgusting state of affairs, and I'm truly sorry for your situation. Your mom worked all her life, was and is a productive member of society, a volunteer with numerous charities - and this is how she's repaid? I agree with Kathy.

This is fast becoming a world where a minority of cold, unfeeling people are taking too much power over our lives. It's time to take it back!

Zo said...

This of course sucks. I'm wondering if there is any seniors organization in Findlay that might be able to help. Some organizations have lots of experience in dealing with the paper-pushers and know how to get action. You might also contact the AARP. I've been getting lots of information from them on Medicaid and Medicare.

Cindy said...

Cancer Patient Services of Hancock County has said it will try and help Mom find alternative care if necessary. That's the good news. The timing of it all--that's the worrisome part. Her doctor informed her (on the phone)that they've sent in the paperwork to Medicare, but Medicare has 60 days to make their decision. TWO MONTHS? I really bet they don't make any decision faster than that... Why bother when you can out wait the sick patient?

I'm not sure how much I'd trust the AARP, Zo. I get their flyers and Mom has dozens of them, too. They're the ones that didn't want a single payer healthcare system, correct? They want seniors to have private health insurance. Well, Mom has private health insurance but it doesn't seem to be any good if Medicare doesn't uphold it's end of the deal. It's really an assinine system, and I'm very sure Mom's case is not unique and will not be the last, unfortunately.

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