One of the most emotionally draining aspects of battling breast cancer is the cost. Hospital bills can climb well over $100,000. Add to that expenses for traveling to and from the hospital and medical offices, such as food, gas and lodging, and a host of other expenses.
Most often, the additional costs coincide with a loss of work or income.
Women with supplemental insurance that covers cancer have a financial advantage of those with regular insurance or no insurance.
For those who have only health insurance, they often face a sizeable deductible. Since treatments tend to continue for more than a year, policyholders pay the deductible multiple times.
Anyone with little or no income must depend on indigent programs, charitable organizations or face going without some services.
While federal law requires insurance companies cover breast reconstruction surgery for their clients who had to undergo a mastectomy, that does not help non-insured patients.
No matter what, anyone diagnosed with breast cancer will face a host of financial concerns on top of simply trying to survive.
Teacher and cancer survivor Shelly Moffatt of Soper said she was fortunate to have signed up at the right time for Aflac Insurance – a supplemental insurance policy.
Supplemental insurance helps pay for services and extra expenses regular insurance doesn’t cover.
Moffatt said she had delayed buying supplemental insurance for years.
Her policy went into effect Jan. 1, 2007 – five months before she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She had signed up for both cancer and accident policies.
As a result, Moffatt said, “I never saw a (medical) bill.”
She received a “first occurance payment” when she was diagnosed followed by additional payments for chemotherapy, radiation and lab work.
“They pay for everything,” she said.
Moffatt estimated her medical bills at more than $100,000.
Breast cancer survivor Patty Kyle of Paris knows what it is like to battle cancer with a near-empty wallet. After undergoing chemotherapy and numerous surgeries, she and her husband’s retirement funds were depleted.
Her thoughts on the subject were expressed in detail in her online journal.
On Oct. 29, 2012, Kyle wrote: “I am all alone and praying. I am asking the Lord how I can be off (work) for a year. How do we pay bills? … I am spent. I’m tired. Even my mind hurts.”
Despite having health insurance, the costs associated with cancer treatments are enormous. For Kyle, the deductible was $10,000.
As the medical-related bills piled up, the family’s income dropped.
“We went through all of our retirement money,” Kyle said. “You can’t work when going through chemo. People need financial support.”
Providing an example of the type of costs cancer patients face, she described the price of injections she received.
Because of an adverse reaction to chemo, Kyle had to get shots of Neulasta – a drug that helps reduce the chance of infection because of the low number of white blood cells. She had to receive an injection day the after every treatment.
According to her insurance statement, the injection was $9,470 plus $93 for someone to administer it – every time.
On Dec. 4, 2012, Kyle wrote she spent four hours trying to sort through her medial bills.
Since her diagnosis Sept. 24, her medical bills totaled $170,647.31.
“Cancer is expensive,” she wrote in her journal. “Thank God for insurance. … Thank God we had the ($10,000 for the) deductible... Now we have to plan on starting all over January 1.”
Kyle applied for assistance with well-known cancer research organizations. She was typically provided with a voucher that ranged from $50 to $75 for the year.
There are healthcare services available for women who have little or no income.
For example, the Lamar County Indigent Health Care Program assists women seeking breast cancer screenings and those who have already been diagnosed with the disease.
Applicants must fill out a form and show certain documents as proof they reside in the county. Documentation may include a water bill, mortgage or rent papers, or a driver’s license.
Applicants do not have to be a U.S. citizen to get help. But those who hold documents, such as visas from Immigration and Naturalization Services, must show them. Information, including the number of family members living in the household, is required. Applicants may also be asked to show a paycheck stub.
For more information, visit 119 N. Main St. in Paris or call (903) 737-2418.
The Paris-Lamar County Health District is the primary care facility for the county’s indigent program and provides women’s health services. Medicaid is accepted.
The district offers the Healthy Texas Women Program. Benefits of the program include screening services, such as clinical breast examinations, mammograms, and pelvic examinations and pap tests. Diagnostic services and help applying for Medicaid for breast and cervical cancer treatments are also available. To qualify, women must be at least 18 years of age and a Texas resident. She cannot have health insurance and must meet certain income guidelines.
The district’s primary clinic is located at 400 W. Sherman in Paris.
For more information, call (903) 785-4561.
Paris Regional Medical Center may also treat low-income or uninsured patients. For information, call (903) 785-4521.
Uninsured and under-insured individuals can apply for Medicaid before an emergency arises. But for those uninsured individuals who find themselves facing a critical emergency situation, Emergency Medicaid is an option.
How You can Help
Kyle offered suggestions on how people can help others who are battling cancer.
“If you want to help someone with cancer, choose a family who is going through it and write them a check,” she said. “The resources need to go directly to the family.”
The amount of the check doesn’t matter, she said, noting anything to help pay for a meal, their electric bill or necessity is appreciated.