We know that chemo is paid for by insurance, mostly. But what are the side effects of that payment?
My husband and I worked for the same employer. Around the time of his diagnosis and treatment, two or three other people at our workplace also had catastrophic illnesses. One of our strongest benefits was a good insurance plan, but in the last week of June–one month after Ed’s death–all employees were notified that due to dramatically rising insurance costs, our insurance carrier would change, effective July 1st.
The new insurance plans have high deductibles, high out-of-pocket payments, and numerous exclusions. Our daughter’s medicine, for example, used to cost us $300 a year; now it is $1400 a year. So at the moment when our household income was halved and we were still negotiating the payment of our original medical bills, our insurance was taken over by a new company that took no cognizance of what we had paid in the first half of the year–more than doubling the year’s deductible and out-of-pocket costs–and that pays relatively little of our ongoing expenses. This has happened to every one of my colleagues, and they have suffered this loss in large part because of my husband’s last-ditch, ineffectual, extremely costly chemo treatments.
It’s seen as somehow obscene to weigh the financial costs of desperate remedies. Who cares what it costs? Is there any price to be put on a human life? Surely not. If the chance at six more months of life costs a million dollars, shouldn’t we spend the money?
But if the attempt to gain six more months of life ends up as the tipping point that spills every one of your coworkers into losing a good insurance plan… what then?
We need to think about these questions. It’s horrible to have cancer, to die of cancer, to lose a family member to cancer. It’s tempting to say we can’t put a dollar sign on the individual’s right to treatment. But the dollar sign is there, and it carries real consequences for other people’s welfare. We should not pursue desperate and costly remedies with such tunnel vision that we don’t see the implications for those around us.