This morning I happened upon a report about women being charged and overcharged for mammograms. It was on CBS News this morning and it’s not a morning program I generally watch. But given my nine year journey with medical bills along with being a cancer survivor it resonated.
If it resonates with you, they are looking for women who have had problems getting mammograms covered and other kinds of charges to email Healthcosts@cbsnews.com
I wrote them to share my thoughts and say thank you. In part, what I said was:
I don’t normally watch CBS News in the morning, but it happened to be on, so I watched it this morning. I’ve watched with great interest you’re a piece about how expensive it is to get testing done that is breast related.
I am a nine year survivor of breast cancer. When I was initially diagnosed I had Aetna HMO. I had to fight for everything. I was exhausted after the surgery and into the treatment, but I had to be my own advocate or the bills would have been even more expensive.
I have an Independence Blue Cross PPO now. But even with good insurance all those tests I have to have as still an active cancer patient can be ridiculously expensive. For now, however, it seems my mammograms are covered. Other tests like MRIs have expensive co-pays.
This year I had a repeat dance twice with a second cancer which is skin cancer. Squamous cell and basal cell both requiring Mohs surgeries. One of the surgeries required a skin graft or I would’ve literally had a hole in my nose. The way insurance is so oddly structured along with hospitals payment systems, this year alone I have had over $5000 in overages that I have to pay off with a monthly payment plan.
I am grateful that both my hospital system and my insurance company are fairly easy to work with. But I know that’s the exception rather than the rule as compared to what a lot of women deal with.
I had knee surgery December 26 last year, as soon as 2020 hit the per visit for physical therapy went from $70 a visit to $100 a visit. I needed physical therapy twice a week. So I spent a lot of money on physical therapy, and that is one thing that I don’t like about my plan is physical therapy is expensive. I sucked it up and paid it because I needed the physical therapy.
When I was initially diagnosed with breast cancer it was pre-Affordable Care Act. I was self-pay on my health insurance because my employer at the time only offered himself health insurance not his employees.
Once the Affordable Care Act came in to play, I was one of the millions of people Aetna dumped in Pennsylvania. Fortunately for me the ACA meant I could get better insurance and I could go back to Independence Blue Cross Philadelphia or IBX as we know it around here. But then again, once Obamacare came into play that was pretty much all that was offered if you were self-pay in Pennsylvania.
Not to be political, but since Trump became president my healthcare costs have gone up. And every year I hold my breath and stress out because as someone who literally lives with pre-existing conditions, I am terrified of what will happen in the insurance industry.
In 2020 there have been some months as a self-employed person where I felt like I was working to pay my health insurance. But I know I am lucky because I was able to do it.
I think the problem is there is a big disparity between the hospital systems and the insurance companies. And where it gets broken down in a lot of cases is the hospitals don’t actually make that much money off of the insurance companies, but the insurance companies need to be more consistently regulated or regulated in the first place so that women can get the breast health test they need covered, and doctors get paid. Because this isn’t just 2020 where you have to fight to get stuff done in a lot of cases.
And a lot of people don’t have the luxury of having insurance companies and hospital systems that work with them. I am lucky that I can handle it even if I have to break things down into a payment plan. But it just sometimes is overwhelming to deal with medical costs and insurance.
Women do have to learn to be better advocates for themselves. They have to not be afraid to be pushy and when you’re going through cancer treatment that can be hard because you’re just tired.
When I used to have problems dealing with Aetna I found one of the most effective ways of dealing with Aetna was Twitter. They don’t like negativity on Twitter it seems.
It really shouldn’t be so punitive financially to try to get the health coverage and treatment you need as a woman.