The financial cost of a dreaded disease

By TOM WOERNER
Posted 10/26/21

Like most Americans, I have been personally hit by cancer in my family. I know the fear, tears, stress and questions that come when a family member is diagnosed. An event Friday reminded me of …

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The financial cost of a dreaded disease

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Like most Americans, I have been personally hit by cancer in my family. I know the fear, tears, stress and questions that come when a family member is diagnosed. An event Friday reminded me of another major problem that is often forgotten in the chaos that often follows a cancer diagnosis.

I attended the annual Pretty in Pink fundraising banquet. Pretty in Pink is an organization much more than a cancer patient advocate and support group. They are literally a lifeline for those facing the everyday challenges of a breast cancer diagnosis and the treatment that goes along with it.

The organization provides funds for those whose lives are interrupted by a breast cancer diagnosis. The intent of the organization is to provide funds to continue normal life as much as possible so that treatment can be maintained.

A better explanation is the group’s mission state to provide uninsured and underinsured breast cancer patients financial assistance for quality life-saving medical treatment.

An example of their work was a lady speaking Friday night. Diagnosed at 29 years old with breast cancer, she suddenly struggled to pay her every day bills. She said her Pretty in Pink money kept her insurance from lapsing at a time when it was needed most.

According to the organization’s website, 11,677 women in North Carolina will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone. The organization anticipates being able to help approximately 2,615 of those patients. That small contribution comes in with a whopping price tag of $6 million.

It should be noted that is one organization and one state. Nationwide, the figure reaches unthinkable levels.

It is also one disease. Breast cancer often gets much more coverage than other similar diseases, which is not a bad thing. At the same time, cancer strikes many parts of the body. Regardless of location, each diagnosis brings with it the potential for great expense.

Financial experts will tell you medical bills are one of the biggest reasons for personal bankruptcy in America today.

In addition to the cost of treatment, patients often lose employment and have regular income interrupted. It becomes an avalanche of financial distress.

Insurance is the large issue. The fact is, even after years in the public limelight, thousands of Americans have no insurance or minimal coverage. Despite the promises, the plan named after a former president did not resolve the issue.

It is another issue for another day, but a serious look needs to be given to what medical organizations charge for their services.

Insured patients usually have what experts in the industry call an “out-of-pocket maximum,” which is essentially a ceiling for costs.

Without this limit in place, it is easy for someone needing extensive treatment to owe as much or more on medical bills as they do on their home. It is a disturbing thought.

This is not the place for health care politics, but different sides see different answers. Many of those leaning left call for more government health care. Their opponents often cringe as such bureaucratic involvement in personal lives and support more individual responsibility.

Then you ask, what is the answer. Frankly, I don’t have the ultimate solution. I do know organizations like Pretty in Pink and many others make a big difference. As citizens, we can find one and each do our small part to help.

Tom Woerner is a former reporter with The Daily Record and former editor of the Harnett County News. Reach him at woernertmw@yahoo.com.

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