• Jessi Stetina

The Cost of Cancer

I want to make it clear before I dive into this that I am not asking for financial aid. I’m sharing this to show the shock of the American healthcare system, and how a medical tragedy can not only threaten your life, but your financial future.

I’m fortunate to have health insurance. How good it is, I honestly don’t know. I’m not a health insurance expert. It seems pretty reasonable. There is a high deductible of $6000, and then my individual out of pocket maximum is $6,650. So in theory, the most I will pay per year is $6,650. Not by any stretch ideal, but it could be worse.

My insurance is paying a large amount. Take a look at the below for reference.

To date, my insurance has been billed $116,664.22. In four months. Prior to going into the hospital in May, my insurance received one claim for me $505 for my yearly OB/GYN visit. So over $116,000.00 of that is completely related to my cancer.

And I have not yet begun treatment.

So remember when I shared that my individual out of pocket max was $6,650? Notice that based on my insurances estimate, I may owe $11,646.48. That’s $4996.48 higher than I’m supposed to have to pay out of pocket, right?

Well, the out of pocket max speaks to what you the insured would pay out of pocket for covered procedures, appointments, etc. At the moment, my insurance is challenging my PET scans as not medically necessary.

As shocking as that may seem, I get that. They are a company, and they are trying to make money. Based on how they approve things, they are looking at my original CT scans as not showing cancer as an indicator that I did not need a PET scan. I’m a unique case, and my cancer was confirmed visually and through the resulting pathology.

I don’t fault them here, but what I do have to do now is worry about making sure that this denial is over-turned. I’m calling my doctor’s office, ensuring they are submitting the correct paperwork. At least I was. I’m fortunate that my company offers a Health Advocate service. Now THEY are currently fighting this back and forth for me. But what about people who have no such benefit? The onus falls on the patient. While dealing with a major medical catastrophe, they also have to deal with bureaucratic red tape that make up the hospitals and insurance companies. It’s too much to stress about while currently worrying about your life.

Okay, now back to the $6,650. I think we can all safely assume I hit that with my surgery in May. Major surgery, and I was in the hospital for a week. Well, I received the bill for my May hospital stay just this Friday, and surprise, it wasn’t quite at my out of pocket max. But it was close.

The message along with the bill immediately shocked me. It sounds like they are saying I’m past due, but this is the first bill I have received. I called today, and was told that is what is stamped on each bill to give a sense of urgency.

So the message the hospital was sending to me is I have 15 days to pay over $6000, or I’ll be sent to collections.


No way, man. I don’t have $6k laying around, waiting for a medical bill. Even if I did, I’m not using my $6k on this medical bill! So I asked about what they do for interest free payment plans. I was told that based on the bill amount, I was eligible for a $300 a month plan.


No way, man. I didn’t choose to buy a new car. I got cancer. I haven’t even started treatment yet. I need to hold onto any extra money I have for emergencies to come.

So what do I do? I’m submitting a request to be allowed to pay $100 a month, which is still more than I want to do. Then I’ll probably pay the outstanding balance this winter once we get our tax return.

What I want to do? I want to inform the hospital that I have a new policy where I don’t pay any medical bills until I’m cured of cancer.

I’m not alone in this. Life happens – everyone deals with large financial crises like this all the time. But during a time where everyone is telling you to only worry about your health and to just get better, it’s hard to not fret over bills. Fret that once we enter 2019, I have to hit that out of pocket max again. Fret that my insurance company may never cover my PET scans, or start denying future procedures.

I know this is just the beginning.


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