1 Gather Round For Story Time About Cancer Costs | The Billfold

Gather Round For Story Time About Cancer Costs

BoingBoing’s Xeni Jardin has breast cancer, and she is just killing it everyday on Twitter with her insights and discussions with other survivors and their families (she live-tweeted the mammogram that led her diagnosis and has been going ever since—unbelievable).

She compiled the following conversation about cancer costs on Storify four months ago. She shares some of her own costs (“When I walked in to the chemo clinic, before they hooked me up to my drip I was presented with a bill for more than a thousand dollars: my out-of-pocket, after insurance. I get a bill every two weeks, each time I go in for an infusion”). Others share their stories, too (“After my fiance’s diagnosis, we ended up losing our house and are now in bankruptcy. And we had ‘good’ insurance!”)

The conversation is months old but still relevant—and so important. Obamacare may prevent some of these crises, but it won’t take care of all of them. Our healthcare system ruins lives, even in instances when it successfully treats disease. 


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My emergency medical plan: $50 for marriage license, $1,000 for flight to my girlfriend’s home country.

(I have “good insurance” and I didn’t go to physical therapy after I messed up my knee a few months ago because it was too expensive. Can’t imagine what cancer would entail.)

EmmaG (#1,023)

These stories just make me want to weep. My sister is in her mid-twenties and was diagnosed with a brain tumor this year. It’s a nightmare in its own right.

But fortunately, we’re in Canada, so while she does have a 10% co-pay for chemo (and any other pharmaceutical treatment) anything done in the hospital is 100% covered by provincial healthcare. I can’t imagine the horror of having to deal with this AND worry about being able to feed yourself or dig yourself out of thousands of dollars of debt. It breaks my heart to see how the healthcare debate plays out in the US because no one deserves to suffer these terrible diseases, let alone the indignities of a for-profit healthcare system.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@EmmaG Oh dear. I am sorry about your sister. I’m glad that she has access to good care though, and that the financial burden is minimal; it can make all the difference.

EmmaG (#1,023)

@MuffyStJohn Thank you. Treatment is going extremely well for her. It isn’t easy by any means, but when I hear these stories I know that we’re so lucky to have the system we have.

EM (#1,012)

I’d be interested to see a study on attitudes towards public socialized medicine that compares people who have ever had (or had an immediate family member with) a devastating illness like cancer, an organ transplant, an autoimmune disease, versus people who haven’t.

It’s such a weird contrast- in Canada NO ONE I know besides maybe some 1%ers would switch to a private system. My mom had a liver transplant, spent three months in the hospital, received top-notch care from some of the best surgeons and care teams in the country, and it cost us nothing. It’s not perfect (pharmaceuticals, mental health, dentistry, optometry are not covered through public HC for the most part) but oh my god is it ever better than the alternative.

Lis (#1,820)

@Michelle As someone who has autoimmune disease, I have broken down for several people exactly what my costs are, both with and without insurance. It has changed several people’s minds who didn’t realize that, yes, medications CAN cost $10,000/year (or $1,000/year even after insurance) (and that’s assuming that I don’t get sick, which can range from $5 [thank you, Doctor who will call in scrips without an appointment] to $300 out of pocket, with good insurance!).

Most of the people I’ve spoken to who are opposed to it are people who have complete coverage (state employees, retired state employees, retired postal workers, etc.) and simply don’t realize how expensive healthcare can be, even for “normal, mostly-healthy” people like me.

Poppy (#1,438)

A little late to the conversation, but whatever…I’m from New Zealand originally, but have lived in a few different countries and am now, for the foreseeable future, in the U.S. The healthcare system here breaks my heart every time I think about it (a surprisingly high amount; I have a chronic illness, so I’ve seen a few healthcare systems up close).

NOBODY should lose their house, or all their savings, or go bankrupt, because they get sick. How can anyone think that’s okay? How can it be considered fine to make money from a misfortune that could hit anyone, at any time? Why do I pay so much tax when basic needs like this aren’t met – where does it go?

I try very hard to be positive about the U.S., because I’m a guest here (and I do appreciate it very much). But when the conversation turns to healthcare I become all sputtery and unable to talk rationally. I can’t vote, so internet and IRL ranting’s about all I’ve got…my apologies, but is there anyone out there who can explain why so many people are so scared of a healthcare system that takes care of all its citizens and taxpayers?

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