Have you been looking for a toolkit for navigating your finances after young adult cancer? Look no further!
Triage Cancer and The Samfund have put together a fabulous toolkit, asking you questions about important topics to bring you the information that you absolutely need. You can use it to find out more about health insurance, disability insurance, education, estate planning, and so much more with the end goal of helping you understand how cancer treatment impacts your finances. They want to provide you with information and tools to help make sound financial decisions before, during, and after cancer treatment– not just in the wake of the financial wreckage cancer often causes.
Lacuna Loft is happy to be a sponsor of the Triage Cancer Conference series! The Triage Cancer Conferences provide individuals diagnosed with cancer, caregivers, advocates, and oncology healthcare professionals, with valuable information about understanding your health insurance options, navigating employment issues, managing finances, and more. Register for FREE here! 2019 Conferences will be in Chicago, IL, Chapel Hill, NC, & Houston, TX – travel grants are available!
Who should attend?
Individuals diagnosed with cancer, caregivers, health care professionals, & advocates will learn about:
– Understanding health insurance, picking a health insurance plan, and appealing denials
– Accessing clinical trials
– How to work through treatment or take time off
– Applying for disability insurance
– Estate planning and other important documents
– Managing medical bills, finances, and getting financial help
– Becoming an empowered patient and advocate
– Dealing with how to grow after trauma
Lucky for us, Critical Mass has been staying completely on top of all of the changes that are happening in Washington to the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a the ACA or Obamacare.
Critical Mass has even put together a great FAQ that you can find here. Have questions? Now many of them are put together all in one place! Changes are happening rapidly as the House of Representatives and the Senate decide on exactly what “repeal and replace” of the ACA will look like but now you have the information you need to be informed. If you find that you still have questions, Critical Mass has set up a text system where you can send your questions.
Politics in the United States are changing every day. One of the policies under scrutiny is the Affordable Care Act, also known as the ACA and as Obamacare. The ACA made many strides towards helping cancer patients and survivors obtain and maintain their health insurance coverage. There is fear that changes made to the ACA (or the repeal of it entirely) will dramatically impede the young adult cancer community in having quality and affordable health insurance. You have the power to let your voice be heard. Are you only covered because of the ACA? Before the ACA removed lifetime caps in coverage, would you have run out of coverage due to cancer treatments? Were you able to change jobs or take time off of work because of the flexibility the ACA finally allowed people with pre-existing conditions…*cough* cancer *cough.*
A former student of mine posted this link to a GoFundMe page a young woman set up before committing suicide. The subtext of her suicide note is that she didn’t feel worth the cost of the treatment necessary to keep her alive, and she didn’t want to be a financial burden to her family any longer.
This broke my heart because it shouldn’t happen anywhere, let alone in the richest country in the world.
A young, intelligent woman with a heart yearning to help others should feel certain her life is worth more than $20,000. She shouldn’t feel like she has become a burden to her family because she has student loan debt and debt from seeking treatment for her mental health struggle. She should have access to healthcare that keeps her alive without making her long for death.
People who suffer from chronic and long-term illnesses will also be familiar with this feeling. The guilt of feeling “not healthy enough” to function at a normal level is already difficult enough to handle without the addition of the guilt from being the cause of financial hardship.
This young woman was not the first person in the United States to commit suicide because of the high cost of medical bills, but I pray she will be the last.
Her death reminded me of an article I read about an American woman named Edith Speed. Edith was diagnosed with breast cancer, just like me, but because she was treated for it here in the United States instead of in the United Kingdom, where I was lucky enough to be treated, she racked up a staggering amount of debt, even selling her car to try and keep up with the payments. Two years after finishing her first round of treatment, the cancer came back, and rather than go through treatment and rack up more debt, she took her own life because she “didn’t have another car to sell”.
This is Edith.
Not too long ago, I went to visit some former teacher colleagues of mine, and I was explaining to them why I thought the NHS was so great in the United Kingdom. I cited as one of my reasons that it keeps people from becoming financial burdens to their families due to the costs of their medical expenses, and this guy, who was not a former colleague of mine, just rolled his eyes and scoffed.
His reaction might have been from the viewpoint that if you love someone you should never view caring for them as a burden, or perhaps he felt having an NHS (National Health Service) takes the responsibility of providing for the expense of someone’s treatment from families and gives it to the tax payers, either way, I know if he had grown up in a country where they have this kind of system, he would not feel that way because I have lived in three different countries (the Republic of South Korea, Denmark, and the United Kingdom) with publicly funded healthcare services and it feels very, very right. I write in detail about my experiences with these different healthcare systems in my book 30ish.
The above chart shows what the average yearly healthcare expenditure per person is (in US$) in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, and the Democratic Republic of South Korea. As you can clearly see, Americans pay significantly more on average than countries that fund their healthcare publicly, according to data provided by the World Bank’s website.
Here, the above chart shows the cost of the same drugs in seven different countries. Once again, you will see clearly how Americans are paying significantly more. This data is based on the International Federation of Health Plans 2013 Comparative Price Report.
The reason why Americans pay more is simple—corporate greed. When you have publicly funded healthcare the main purpose of the healthcare system becomes to provide quality, affordable healthcare to as many people as possible. When you have a lot of different, corporate insurance providers, by design, their main function is to make a profit. If they can’t make a profit or enough of a profit, then they will raise their prices to increase their profit margins.
It’s despicable and completely uncivilized. America should not ransom life-saving healthcare services because corporations need to make money. When people are taking their own lives because they don’t want to burden their families with medical bills, it becomes perfectly clear the cost of our healthcare system in America is way too high.
Lacuna Loft does not advocate for or against a social healthcare system. We seek to provide information and personal experiences from our contributors to the wider, Lacuna loft audience.
Interested in becoming part of the hospital and insurance practices conversation in the United States? Check out PatientsRising.org.
Are you a young adult cancer survivor? Check out The SamFund for financial help.
The fabulous folks over at Triage Cancer have some wonderful guides on everything health insurance, employment, and finance as related to cancer treatment and survivorship. With open enrollment ending January 31st, we thought we’d point out a few of our favorite guides to help you on your way to healthcare coverage and everything else.
Always ask questions and stay patient. Having good health insurance is vital to your health.
P.S. If you haven’t signed up yet, you are not alone! This will be part of my Saturday 🙂 Grab a loved one, a pet, a cup of tea, and get started! Know that it will be frustrating and take a lot of time…but getting good health insurance coverage is so crucial! You can do it!
November 1st is the first day of open enrollment for 2016 health care coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace (Healthcare.gov). The Healthcare.gov homepage is set up to help you keep or change your existing coverage as well as handle first time applicants. We’ve written a little bit about finding a healthcare plan here on Lacuna Loft before. You can find those articles here:
Remember that this process (especially for a cancer survivor!) will take time! You want to make sure that you write your questions down and find answers for them. Google is a great place to get those questions answered as well as the time it takes to call the marketplace. Spend the time now in order to find the right plan for you. Your sanity (and finances) will thank you for the rest of the year!
Applying for new health care coverage is a stressful and time consuming process. There are definitely some tricks of the trade though, and equipped with the right information you’ll be able to apply in no time! Didn’t see our last post about health care coverage? Go here!
[list_item]don’t be shy…ask questions![/list_item]
My cancer treatments and follow up appointments have all taken place at Barnes in St. Louis, MO. The last time I was there, I started asking about health insurance plans; explaining that I would be needing to apply for new coverage before the next time I would see my physician. I was pointed to a group of very knowledgeable women who gave me phone numbers galore to call when I started applying through the market place. After a few hours spent comparing the plans open to me, and a few phone calls to a very awesome and nice person at Barnes, I had all of my questions answered!
[list_item]google is also a great place to ask your questions…though verifying the answer with a couple of different credible sources is a good idea[/list_item]
Google your answer then talk to someone about it!
[list_item]the insurance companies’ websites are not necessarily up to date.[/list_item]
When I was looking at plans, I routinely checked whether my oncologist was covered by the health insurance plan I was considering. Sometimes she wasn’t in their list of providers given on the website. When I called my trusty source at Barnes though, it turns out that starting in Jan. 2015, my oncologist did contract with some of those health insurance companies! Like I said before, always ask!
[list_item]insurance companies are businesses.[/list_item]
I have been told downright false information from one insurance company employee (maybe she actually didn’t know she was telling me something wrong?) and I’ve been manipulated by another. Once, I called the insurance company to ask a question, was given an answer, called back to ask another question and this second person told me that the first person should not have told me some of the information that she had…that they weren’t allowed to have told me that info, even though it was true. Goodness gracious….I cannot begin to explain to you how mad and sad this made me. Moral of the story, call someone with your questions who actually has your best interest in mind. I talked with someone specialized in the healthcare issues of the hospital at Barnes. People at Triage Cancer or the Kaiser Family Foundation can also be of great help!
[list_item]use a spreadsheet.[/list_item]
Comparing even just a few plans can get kind of complicated. When figuring out which plans I could apply for, I input my state, projected income, age, and then filtered out only the Gold plans. There were 14 Gold plans possible…that is a lot of different premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket maximums to remember! When calculating the total cost, I put each of these plans into a spreadsheet. Each plan got it’s own row, then the name of the plan, the plan’s ID number, the monthly premium, deductible, and the out-of-pocket maximum, each in it’s own column. Then, to calculate my total yearly cost for a plan, I took the monthly premium * 12 and added that to the out-of-pocket maximum. (Co-pays, Co-Insurance shares, and your deductible all count towards your out-of-pocket maximum). Doing this calculation for each plan makes them financially comparable very quickly…and that way I don’t have to hold any numbers in my head. From there, I started making sure which insurance my oncologist took and which she did not…quite a process.
[list_item]emergency room coverage is different than out of network coverage.[/list_item]
Yep…by law emergency room care is always covered by health insurance. In an emergency, after they’ve stabilized you in an ER, you can ask to be moved to an in-network hospital.
[list_item]check that the prescriptions that you take are covered.[/list_item]
When considering a plan, there is a link that you can click to look at the list of ‘covered drugs.’ Sometimes this list is straight forward and you can just hit your keyboard’s Control key and then your f key (while still holding down the Control key) to search for your desired prescription. Every once in a while though, the list of covered drugs includes the actual medical names of the medications as opposed to the name you are used to calling them. For instance, Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo also goes by the key words norgestimate, ethinyl estradiol. Whew, that’s a mouthful! I found that out by googling my question 🙂
[list_item]expect your healthcare coverage hunt to take some time.[/list_item]
You will have questions. You will need to ask people these questions. You will need to confirm that physicians you need to be covered by a plan, are covered by that plan (or are not). You can either do this all in one go or, like me, you can expect to spend an hour or two over several days figuring everything out. I find the spreading it out method to work best (at least for me) because then I’m not making a decision based on how tired I am of dealing with all of the fine print and confusion involved. Have a nice cup of coffee or tea by your side and try not to feel rushed.
[list_item]write down questions as they come to you.[/list_item]
Have that note pad ready! Nothing worse than having a question, forgetting it, and then realizing what it was when you’ve already signed up for a plan.
[list_item]all of this business is very complicated.[/list_item]
[list_item]know that this will be over soon and your work will be worth it![/list_item]
Sure, this process is stressful and confusing….but having adequate health insurance and knowing that your needed physicians take your health insurance will give you a TON of peace of mind for the rest of the year.
Anyone out there still trying to figure out which healthcare coverage to get? Let us know what things you’ve learned along the way!
Fine Print: This post and all previous posts regarding healthcare coverage are meant to help simplify a very complicated process. The authors of this blog are NOT medical professionals or insurance professionals. All information and opinion given here is anecdotal. Please do not replace expert advice from someone at your physician’s office as to what health care plan is good for you with the information found here. Please do not replace actual medical attention with the information found here.