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When you have no insurance?

Posts: 1
Joined: Mar 2010

My mother has lung cancer with mets to the brain. She has undergonce several surgeries the last being brain surgery to remove the tumor that was causing her to have seizures, and lose use of her left side. She is 59 years old this year.

In the last 2 day she has fallen repeatedly, and has had a progressive change in physical behavior.

Due to her lack of insurance, no Dr. will schedule her a MRI or CT scan to see if the tumor is growing back. Are we supposed to just sit back and watch her continually deteriorate? Because that is what is happening.

We don't know if there is a tumor regrowth that is causing her to regress, and it is very frustrating and discouraging.

Does anyone know what else we can do to help her? We have tried to get her medicaid but they keep denying her. She is too young for Medicare.

If anyone has any suggestions my family and I are all ears.

Caregiver1963's picture
Posts: 46
Joined: Jan 2010

Hi Bk37,
Almost all hospitals receive federal funds and are required to have some free care and reduced cost services available. These services are targeted for those who have no health insurance and aren't eligible for medicaid or medicare. Check with the financial services dept at the hospital where she receives care and ask to apply for free care. It usually involves completing an application and then a decision is made if your mother is eligible. Another suggestion would be to ask to meet with a social worker or case manager and ask for assistance with finding free or reduced cost care.
Good Luck

Posts: 21
Joined: Mar 2010

There are countries close to home (Mexico and Panama come to mind) where you can get U.S.-level care (with doctors who speak decent English) at much cheaper prices. Consider traveling overseas, especially if your treatment would be for a limited time.

One thing that has amazed me about my mom's glioblastoma treatment is how much cheaper it has been than it would have been in the United States. She is getting the same therapy she would get in the United States (except she does not have access to trials here) at a fraction of the cost. The radiation therapy/temodal treatment with two craniotomies would have cost us about $60K if we had paid out of pocket. From my own health care in United States, I can imagine one craniotomy would have cost that. (For example, my mom's last MRI ran about $350; my last MRI ran about $1400.) Not every country has U.S.-style medicine, but some do.

I truly feel for you. It is unfair, and I hope you are able to work it out.

Posts: 71
Joined: Jan 2010

My Mom has stage IV ovarian cancer and we are in the exact same boat... There is a way to get that MRI. All you need to do is take her into the hospital through the ER. They cannot deny anyone. Just say that she is in for headaches and that she does have GBM4.

I hate to sound this way and kinda manipulate the system... but we have to do what we have to do for our family.

Posts: 20
Joined: Feb 2010

Dear BK37,

I'm sorry to hear about your mother's situation. I am an employee of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and we recognize that cancer can be quite an economic burden for patients, whether one has insurance or not.

You might find the National Cancer Institute information to be helpful: https://cissecure.nci.nih.gov/factsheet/FactSheetSearch8_3.aspx.

Here you can do a search for government-sponsored and other national organizations that offer financial assistance for cancer-related expenses, including treatment, diagnostics, travel expenses, etc.

I hope this information is useful and wish your mother all the best as she continues to fight this disease.


cindysuetoyou's picture
Posts: 514
Joined: Dec 2009

I am so sorry to hear what your mother is going through, and what you are facing with drs refusing to do MRIs or CTs. It's an awful situation for all of you. I don't know if our experience will help you, but maybe it might give you some ideas....

My 26 year old son had really good insurance thru his place of employment, but after a craniotomy, chemo, raditaion, and now the 5 day on/23 day off chemo cycle, he has been unable to work full time. His employer only offers insurance to full time employees....part timers are not eligible. So they dropped my son's insurance with only one week's notice. We thought that they had to give at least 60 days' notice, but we found out otherwise.

We looked into COBRA but that was going to be very expensive. We have a friend who does insurance consulting...she finds the best policies for the best prices for the county we live in, and for private businesses, and for individuals. I didn't even know that there were people who did that for a living. She found a plan that was tailored for people in my son's position. Because of his age, it's relatively cheap. His premiums are $355 a month. $1,500 maximum out of pocket expenses. And it doesn't matter that he has a pre-exisiting condition. Your mom would not get such a reasonable rate because the premiums increase dramatically with age, but I wonder if you might try checking with an insurance consultant?

My son is going to a neuro-oncologist at a large teaching university....Oregon Health Sciences University. He applied for financial assistance thru the oncologist's office. We just got a letter today saying that all of his outpatient treatments will be covered 100%. (Not chemo or prescriptions). It covers the time period from 3/5 to 9/5 and we can apply again in Sept. His MRIs are all outpatient and will be covered 100%.

My son also did his radiation treatments thru our local hospital here in Salem, Oregon. They have an entire dept. set up for the care and support of cancer patients, with people whose sole job is to be a support....arrange transportation, meals, counseling, and also to help find financial resources. These people gave us tips on how to apply for assistance. We were able to have most of my son's doctor bills (prior to the actual diagnosis and surgery) reduced and even waived. We were also assigned a social worker, but that person was not really very helpful at all. It seemed like all she did was bury us in paperwork, and we never really saw any results. I think all she did for us was to get my son $25 a week in food stamps. But even that is a help.

Did you check with your mom's oncologist about agencies and organizations that can help you financially? If you don't get help right away, please don't give up--please keep trying different avenues. We didn't get some of the help until just recently....and my son was diagnosed last May.

Could you get online and look at any organization like the American Cancer Society and see if they have any financial assistance programs? Also maybe contact that gal at Sloan Kettering and see if she knows of any organizations? And try any teaching hospitals and universities....but please keep trying. And I agree with the other writer who said if all else fails, take your mom in thru the ER and get an MRI that way. It's shameful that those drs are refusing to do an MRI or CT....

Please keep us posted.

Posts: 1
Joined: Mar 2017

Can you tell me which insurance did you get for your son?

danielgharper's picture
Posts: 13
Joined: Apr 2010

I doubt my story will help you, but it might. I had a GBM when I was 21, and on my parent's insurance because I graduated from college, and got married the next year. I qualified for COBRA, but my dad worked for a non-profit who was allowed to opt out of COBRA. I got a HIPAA guaranteed plan from in the form of a private PPO out of Las Vegas, where I moved for work. My cancer recently came back... and I had to threaten to sue the insurance company in order to get some things done.

Drea marie
Posts: 1
Joined: Jan 2014

I Was Actually Told I Have 2 Tumors & Dont Know If They Are Cancerous Yet . The Hospital Sent Me Home & Said They Can't Do Anything For Me Because I Don't Have Insurance . 

BenLenBo's picture
Posts: 145
Joined: Feb 2012


   Just reading your story and other stories listed, about cancer patients that do not have insurance.  Your treating facilities have programs that should have been presented to you while in the hospital.  A Social Services Rep from the hospital, should have brought you forms to obtain assistance, along with other programs (Federal and State) run that will pay for medical coverage, travel, housing, meals and basic needs.  Check with your county Social Service Office, also fill out forms for Disability SSI right away.

    My son who was 28, his boss had insurance on the guys, but turned out to be the wrong insurance.  We were visited in the hospital by the hospital Social Services Rep- she got the ball rolling, all the right forms and within days our bills and treatment needs were being covered.  Brain tumors are automatically accepted for Federal Disability and Medicare.  States offer Medicaid instantly.  Yes, there is a lot of paperwork, have someone help get them filled out, signed, and copied.

    Insurance should be the last thing you need to be concerned about- your only concern is fighting cancer.



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