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Yesterday I was opening a stack of mail that had accumulated in my inbox when I came across a hefty-sized letter from a CURE reader. We get heart-wrenching letters from readers on occasion so I cleared my desk, pulled the tissues close to me and opened it. To my surprise, it wasn't a letter at all. A single page from our Summer 2010 issue was included with a highlighted sentence regarding upcoming legislative changes intended to give cancer patients improved access to affordable care. The reader highlighted a sentence that said, "The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will limit the ability of insurance companies to charge higher premiums based on health status." The article went on to say that eventually it will be illegal for insurance companies to charge higher premiums based on a person's medical history. The envelope also contained stacks of claim detail statements indicating that the reader was responsible for thousands of dollars worth of medical bills because the hospital and the insurance carrier disagreed on the value of the services rendered. A letter from her employer was also enclosed. It stated that the hospital system where she was receiving care was no longer going to be covered by her insurance carrier because "it was charging up to three times the market price compared to other area hospitals." At the top of that page the reader scribbled, "I have metastasized cancer."At that point, I realized that the tissues I had pulled close were unnecessary. I wasn't sad--I was mad as hell. How incredibly frustrating! So, this poor patient with metastatic cancer is going to have to find a new healthcare team at an entirely different facility because it was determined, well into her treatment I might add, that the cost of care was too high. Was this a case of price gauging by the hospital or a way for the insurance company to control costs? Who knows? All I know is that this poor reader is stuck in the middle of what is all too common a bureaucratic mess.
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