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No health insurance -- need surgery for malignant tumor the size of an orange

Posts: 1
Joined: Jan 2006

I am a caregiver for someone with no health insurance. He has just been diagnosed with a malignant tumor on his kidney the size of an orange. He needs surgery immediately or the tumor will leak or burst and spread cancer throughout his body. He has virtually no income or savings. Is there anywhere he can go to get immediate surgery and pay the bill off gradually? I appreciate any recommendations.

Chicago's picture
Posts: 73
Joined: Apr 2004

Assuming you are in Chicago, we may be able to give you some ideas. You will probably want to email me privately.

KCFighter's picture
Posts: 50
Joined: Jan 2006

Any publicly funded hospital has to treat your friend. In Washington State, that is Harborview medical.

Posts: 8
Joined: Oct 2004

I wish your friend the best. I was faced with the same situation about 17 months ago myself. I had just a few assests (nothing of much value individually) but didn't qualify for state medical
aid. It added much stress to my other problems. I almost decided against treatments because of the price and my finacial situation. When I learned that they did not get it all, it was bad enough, but most hospitals will only offer 6 months of equal payments as a payment plan or else refer you to a bank loan application. Radiation treatments were over $10,000 per week!!! Don't nother phoning the kidney foundation. They only help if you have diabetes, are on dialysis, or have a transplant. So many organizations claim to have help available, but when you get to the fine print, you will find that the average Joe doesn't qualify for much at all, or in my case nothing!
It is a sad fact that one serious illness can cause someone with unblemished credit to ruin their life forever. My bills totaled $172,000 and are still mounting. Each followup scan is a few more thousand dollars every three months. Don't misunderstand me. I am thankful for the second chance at life, but won't live long enough to pay off my debts.

Posts: 8
Joined: Jul 2005

Wow faithful1... I am sooo sorry about your debt. My advise is to call around the your local hospitals and see if they have a financial assistance program. My local hospital does... and it goes by your income. For example a single person that makes $19140 in a year gets 100% reduction, they can get a 40% reduction if they make less than $28710, and a 35% reduction for less than $38280 (this is off total bill~even after insurance has paid, if you do have insurance). These amounts do go up the more people you have in your family. They also will give reductions if you are over these amounts but have had a catastrohic event which has caused you a hardship... example all of the med bills combined. I know here locally alot of the hospitals have this program but they do not make it very well known. If they can collect the money they want to but if you mention the assistance program to them they then have to explain it and help you with it. Good Luck to all... and I hope things go well.

ldycheroke57's picture
Posts: 4
Joined: Mar 2009

Wow, that's really great to know. Two weeks after my RCC nephrectomy, my husband had to have a triple open heart bypass operation, so we are overwehelmed. We have insurance, but even with it, our share of the bills total in the thousands. We don't have much in savings, just our son's college account of about $10,000. He's been accepted at Idaho State U and will be starting this summer. We've been saving that money since he was born. My husband is retired on a pension and I'm on disability due to Bipolar Disorder. We would be heartbroken if we had to spend our son's college fund paying our medical bills, and are trying to arrange monthly payments we can stick to. Going to a bank seems unrealistic, they aren't even loaning money to businesses, let alone individuals with lots of medical debt! We are worried that the hospital and Dr's will get tired of waiting to be paid in full and demand the rest at once. I'm going to call up the hospital tomorrow and ask about their assistance program. Thanks for the heads up.

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Posts: 6
Joined: Sep 2010

I was diagnosed with kidney cancer in October 2007. Unemployed and uninsured. I didn't meet the basic criteria for Medicaid and was told to apply for Disability. I applied for Disability but was denied because I didn't have a pathology report. It has been almost 3 years and I still haven't received surgery or treatment. I know just how you feel.

Whenever I have told my story of being Uninsured with Kidney Cancer - I am met with responses stating that public hospital can't refuse to treat me, etc. The fact of the matter is that hospitals are only legally obligated to provide basic, life-saving medical care. To this day, no ER considers my kidney cancer to be life-threatening enough to do something.

If you will visit my blog - Pray, Eat, Love & Laugh at http://prayeatlovelaugh.wordpress.com - I have a page that addresses Financial Assistance for Cancer. There are some really great links there. Unfortunately, its been my experience that none of those organizations (with regards to kidney cancer) offer pre-surgical evaluation or surgical assistance.

My first recommendation is to go look at my Medicaid Info and Disability Info tabs at the blog. The Medicaid Info tab has all the basic eligibility criteria and links for more info on Medicaid in your state. The Disability Info tab has links to the Social Security Administration Disability Blue Book where you can see the criteria used in determining a claim. Kidney Cancer is covered under Compassionate Allowance with Disability - which means it is expedited much faster than many other claims. That said, there are certain criteria that must be met - and my blog has the info and link to these.

If you or anyone who is uninsured with cancer has any questions - please feel free to send me a message.


Von55's picture
Posts: 57
Joined: Aug 2010

You are doing a great service here- this situation is terrible! I can't believe that medical care is so problematic in the US- it sounds positively inhumane. I am Australian, married to an American (so I'm not anti-US by any means!) and have been very fortunate to have had a life-threatening illness under Australian Medicare. We are currently on a low income with no health insurance, but this has not affected my treatment in any way.
I was sent to a urologist by my GP after an ultrasound detected a 4.5cm tumour on my left kidney. I then had numerous CT, bone, DMSA etc scans and 3weeks later on Sept 20th 2010 had an open partial nephrectomy done by the specialist in a wonderful public hospital. I stayed 5days and the care was impeccable. I think I've had to pay around $80 all up- all the scans, the operation and the hospital stay were free.
Believe me, I'm not gloating about any of this, but my heart goes out to you all- health care reform is badly needed! Things arn't wonderful fiscally over here- a loaf of bread is well over $3, and petrol is around $1.20 a litre etc, but as high as the cost of living is there is no denial of health care regardless of income.
It really burns me that these inequalities exist, and I pray with all my heart that the whole world becomes motivated to change this situation. God bless, and good luck to you all!
Von xx

icemantoo's picture
Posts: 3354
Joined: Jan 2010

I am all for Universal health care in this great country of ours and Obamacare is but the first step. Move over Mama Grizlies and those who practice more whichcraft than care about there fellow citizens. What have we become if heath care for everyone is not a bedrock principal for our great country? I believe as Cancer Survivors we owe it to others to take a lead in this area. Let us see if this post remains before some teabagger reports it as offensive.

Posts: 12
Joined: Sep 2010

Most hospitals have a tax-exempt status and to maintain that, they're required to provide a certain amount of "community benefit" each year. Some of that is done in the form of educational programs, but much of it is supposed to be done by reducing bills for people who don't have the ability to pay for their care. Some hospitals post their policies on their Web sites, but many will tell you about it only if you ask.

So you should call your local hospital or hospitals in your area and ask about their policies. Typically, they call these "charity care" policies. If you explain your situation, they should be able to tell you the amount (if any) you would have to pay.

You might also check with the local office of public assistance in your community, usually run by the state human services agency. Even if you don't qualify for Medicaid, they may know of other options that would be available for you.

But try the hospitals first. They don't like to advertise these community benefit/charity care policies, but they have to have them.

Posts: 6
Joined: Sep 2010

My local hospitals (in Ohio) have Charity Care - it is called HCAP (Health Care Assurance Program). This program is what helps me to be able to get blood work, CT scans, etc. The only problem with HCAP and other Charity Care is that it is hospital based - it doesn't cover the Urological Surgeon and other Specialists - at least where I live.

Anyone who is uninsured needs to talk with the Social Worker or Social Services department at their hospital as well as immediately apply for Medicaid.

Posts: 6
Joined: Sep 2010

Thanks Von55 - I really needed to hear your encouragement. Sometimes - especially after three years of this struggle - I get discouraged. Some people question my cancer story because I am an American citizen and have not received proper health care. It happens - it is what it is. I am always looking for more resources.....hoping to find something that will help....but its like looking for a needle in a haystack.

I have a couple really good friends who are Aussies :) I just lost one of them to Esophageal Cancer in August :( Her and her husband have just been baffled by what it is like in American when you have no insurance. Of course, it isn't just about being uninsured with cancer - it is because we don't qualify for Medicaid either.

Medicaid says that to be a family you have to have a child under the age of 19 in the home. Since it is just my husband and I in the home - and we are over the age of 19 but under the age of 65 - there is nothing to help us. I had a caseworker tell me to either get pregnant, divorce my husband or file for Disability. I chose the latter but my claim was denied because kidney cancer is only recognized as a disability when the cancer has spread to a distant site and you have a pathology report to prove it - or if you are inoperable.

I still haven't found a loophole yet. It is so frustrating.

My Aussie friends have both struggled with cancer. The husband is a 14 + year survivor of kidney cancer and is Stage IV. The wife, as I said, lost her battle with Esophageal Cancer.

We do need a change here in our health care system - but the recent 'insurance reform' just didn't cut it. Yes, there are the high-risk insurance pools - but you have to pay a decent amount of money for it and many are stuck on a waiting list.

In my opinion - if you have medical documentation to back up your need for Medicaid for even just some basic medical care....then you should qualify. A 40 year old American citizen with kidney cancer shouldn't be penalized because she has no minor children in the home or is married. All the while, our country is full of young women who are sleeping around with no regard of the consequences and very easily get Medicaid for their unwanted pregnancy that could have been prevented with a little self control.

Sorry - but it just burns me up that all you have to do is get pregnant in this country to get some medical coverage. There are a whole lot of people here suffering with cancer who can't get the most basic medical care.

Posts: 6
Joined: Sep 2010

Sorry - I can't seem to edit my post to reflect my blog address change.

The blog address should read http://prayeatlovelaugh.blogspot.com

Again - I have some good resources posted about Medicaid, Disability, Financial Assistance for Cancer and Assistance for Living Expenses - not to mention some great stuff in the sidebar for people living with cancer (including kidney cancer).

Posts: 2
Joined: Mar 2012

I know how you feel, it must be so difficult for you, I hope he is okay now, I think there are lot of health institution out there who are willing to sponsored in terms of medical needs. I will look at if I could find one.
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