BY NORBERT RUG
I have prostate cancer. This has now metastasized for the third time after being in remission for a few years. I am now, once again, fighting. Fighting the cancer and fighting about my treatment. I am telling you this because this article is about my personal experiences with drug companies and other health care providers. Not a week goes by without me being overcharged or double billed. I just got a refund check for over $50.00 from a doctor that had overcharged me.
I recently talked to a woman that I know who said that her father had prostate cancer a few years ago. He ended up charging the costs for his cancer treatment. Now, 2 years later, he is still paying for these drugs and procedures. According to a Gallup survey that was paid for by a nonpartisan health consortium, Americans have had to borrow around $88 billion to pay for their health care just last year. One in four people skipped their care because of the cost.
I understand someone needing to skip their treatment or take less of a drug than their doctor prescribed to save money. I was taking a cancer drug that cost over $12,000 a month. This is NOT a typo, over $144 grand for a year’s worth of drugs to save my life. This drug stopped being effective after a few years so we had to go with a new, different drug. This new drug costs over $13,000 a month.
These are just two of the drugs I have taken in my fight to stay alive. There are several other prescriptions that I take for my edema, blood pressure, cholesterol and excessive clotting. My drug costs for the first ten months of 2019 were $150,748.39
So far, since January first, my other medical bills, with the exception of my drugs have been $197,748.39. This is ridiculous! It will be interesting to see what this total will be by the end of the year. In November I had a CAT scan and a bone scan and I haven’t even seen those bills yet but I am sure they will be substantial. My copay for installing a port on December 2nd so I can get more Chemo was $350 and I just can’t wait to see what was charged for that procedure.
You shouldn’t have to lose your house or go bankrupt to get lifesaving treatment. It’s not uncommon for patients to pay “astronomical” amounts for treatment or drugs. It shouldn’t boil down to getting either food or medicine.
It just blows my mind, how some bureaucrat, sitting in his Ivory tower, can decide how much they will pay for medication or procedures that will allow people to live. I understand that their job is to make money for the shareholders, not to be concerned how this effects people, but at what cost? I am sure if it was a child of theirs that EVERYTHING would be paid. I guess it is a good thing that they aren’t in charge of the air that we breathe or else we would all suffocate.
But the high cost is not just for treatment and drugs. Just taking an ambulance to the hospital is also outrageous. I live less than a block from the hospital. I can see the door of the hospital from my house. It is two tenths of a mile from my front door to the emergency room and we would occasionally walk over to the hospital for a meal in the cafe.
I went to the ER because I got dehydrated and collapsed in my home. I didn’t hit my head or pass out. The only thing that happened was I got overheated and my legs gave out. The bill for the ride to the ER by ambulance was $1,417. When I saw this, I almost collapsed again. $1,417 for a trip I would normally walk in a few minutes. I just needed a ride to the hospital. I didn’t want to buy a whole damn ambulance. Next time I need to go to the hospital I will call an uber, a cab or maybe a limo. They would charge less than what I paid for this trip.
If I had to pay for all of these costs out of my own pocket, our house would have been sold and I would be living in a homeless shelter. I was fortunate enough to get some good advice about medical “gap” insurance and how to apply for EPIC (Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage). The EPIC program is a New York State program for seniors aged 65 and older administered by the Department of Health. It helps more than 327,000 income-eligible seniors to supplement their out-of-pocket Medicare Part D drug plan costs.
Norb is an internationally published writer and blogger. Follow him.