The Invisible Fees Hitting Our Community’s Cancer Patients

The good Samaritan syndrome, strangers helping strangers
The good Samaritan syndrome, strangers helping strangers

I just cannot shake the high cost of health care from my list of worries.  And that being said, it has come to my attention that patients and families of patients battling cancer have turned to “crowdfunding” (Click here)as a source of funding for medical bills,  Modern technology has brought a great opportunity to people having difficulties paying for their medical expenses while battling cancer. Some of these expenses include, but are not limited to, travel costs for treatment, chemotherapy, radiation, vitamins, wigs, various medications, the cost of missing an expanded period of work, childcare, doctors appointments, family/living expenses, caregiving expenses, potential legal issues, etc. In theory, Obamacare makes it so insurance companies cannot opt of covering preexisting conditions, but it’s the hidden fees and invisible costs that get to the pockets of patients and their families.

My family, in particular, learned this when my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer and breast cancer within three months of each other. My mother, in her mid 50’s is our primary source of family income. My younger sister and I are her only two children. As a teacher, we were very lucky that she had enough sick days to cover her year out of work. She also had great health insurance that covered a majority of her treatment. Yet, having some of the best treatment coverage one could possibly have still was not enough for us. The co-payments for her daily and weekly treatments added up quickly. The 40 minutes to an hour of driving per visit to her oncologist, surgeon, and various other doctors she had to see, took up a lot of gas.

The care that she received at New York Oncology Hematology in Rexford and Ellis Hospital in Schenectady was top notch. I saw this with my own eyes the one day I could get off of work to take her to a chemotherapy session. This particular day she experienced an unexpected allergic reaction. As I ran to get the nurse, watching my mother’s face turn a deep shade of red under her scarfed head, the nurses had her taken care of as soon as the words “My mother needs help” slipped from my mouth. I am not denying in my argument that healthcare workers deserve anything less than what they are being paid.  In order to save the patients money. I am, however, arguing that there should be more done for the invisible expenses cancer patients face.

The facts are out there. People who have had a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime are 2.5 times more likely to go bankrupt than those who have not. The possibility is even higher for young people, under 65, who have received a cancer diagnosis. “Crowdfunding” has allowed strangers to help strangers pay for expenses,  whether it be the cost of treatment or the invisible expenses patients run into. This new opportunity for financial assistance has been made necessary by the insanely high cost of health care in the United States. Because of unaffordable healthcare, we have been forced to rely on strangers for financial assistance. This is assuming, however, that one’s source of “crowdfunding” is successful. It takes time, networking, and knowing a lot of people for one’s “crowdfunding” page to get around the Internet and be successful.

This is the beginning of technology used to gain financial help from others for medical expenses. This will expand from here if something is not done about healthcare expense. The doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals that helped my mother, my father, and my kid sister get through my mother’s illness offered more than just medical assistance: they offered moral support for our fears of my mother’s health and our financial woes. Their jobs are difficult enough: the things that they see and handle on a daily basis are heavy, and our local medical professionals are truly incredible people.  High healthcare costs take a toll on patients, their families, and their medical professionals. “Crowdfunding” can help, but should not be mistaken for a solution. Insurance may cover some expenses, but the invisible expenses add up quickly. For the sake of American communities, more needs to be done for our country’s cancer patients.  In the meantime many thanks to those good Samaritans.