Friday, June 15, 2012

Dollars & Sense

So one thing I haven't written much about cancer is the financial impact it can have.  We have been truly blessed with an outstanding health insurance plan provided by LP so the impact on us has been relatively minimal.  Our particular plan has a $2,000 out of pocket maximum which we hit about 15 minutes after the doctors first said the word cancer. 

Vanderbilt has a really great web platform that enables me to keep track of my labs, communicate with my providers, etc. but it also has a billing interface.  So, just for grins, I took a look at what my illness has cost so far.  If I just typed the numbers in nobody would believe it so I copied them off the website.
The first number there - $312,978 is how much Vanderbilt has billed our insurance company this year.  Keep in mind this is before the latest appendix event.  And it doesn't include prescriptions or the physical therapy I had.  Each cycle of chemo costs about $50,000.  The surgery to remove the tumor was about $25,000.  Get this, every time I get a Neulasta shot (which is after each round of chemo) its $7,000.  One shot is $7,000.

The second column over is how much insurance has paid combined with how much Vanderbilt has written off.  The other columns are still pending with insurance.

Its easy to see how by the end of treatment I will exceed half a million dollars in charges.  Probably before the end actually.  I cannot even imagine enduring a financial hardship to PAY FOR cancer treatment in addition to all the social, medical & psychological hardships of the treatment itself.  We are once again the lucky ones - great employers & great insurance.  There are a lot who are so much less fortunate.  I read an article about oncologists & how they always ask patients about side effects & how they are feeling, how they are tolerating the treatment, etc. but they never ask about the financial impact.  One oncologist wrote about how one patient ended up having to file bankruptcy because his family could not afford the treatments & the oncologist never even knew.  This disease has so many dimensions its difficult to consider and account for all of them.

I don't really blame the cost of treatment on any one entity.  I promise I won't get political here.  I think the drug companies who invent these life saving cancer killing drugs have billions invested in development & deserve to recoup that and profit from their investments.  That part of the chain has to remain viable or cancer treatment won't advance.  I think the hospital deserves to be paid fairly for the amazing services they render & all the employees at the hospital similarly deserve to earn a good living.  This part of the chain has to be profitable or hospitals lose their drive for excellence & become just places people get treated.  I think the insurance companies deserve the right to try to negotiate to pay the hospital as little as possible so that they too can realize a profit.  I don't know as much about how they operate first hand so I have less insight here. So I don't suppose looking at it that I think any part of this economic capitalist chain is broken.  Its just when you add it all up its truly staggering.  And would clearly impart financial ruin upon any individual or family who is not insured. 

Further, we are lucky that we don't have any associated costs with treatment.  I drive there, I park for free.  There are no overnight hotel stays for my family and all that entails.  Many many patients at Vanderbilt are not so fortunate.  In fact, the default assumption of the Vanderbilt staff when treating patients is that you're from out of town. 

Anyway I'm not really sure the point of this whole post, it has just been on my mind lately to try to help people understand the financial costs of the disease.  Its one of the very under-represented parts of cancer.

Hope my readers have a wonderful weekend.  Its going to be a hot one here in Tennessee.  The girls are spending the day with the Isaacs tomorrow - Eri's "other mom" as she calls Mindy.  Kendall's running in a race in the morning & I will get some quiet Judy time.  We're having friends over tomorrow night for Kendall's famous ribs. 

Sunday we will celebrate my soulmate, my best friend, the best father in the world, my darling husband Kendall.  Its HIS day!! 

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love reading our comments!