“You have cancer.” Words no one wants to hear. But the fact is, here in America, 156 people per hour will hear those words. What would you do if it were your doctor telling you these words? Research shows that a positive attitude increases the effectiveness of treatments. So you say to yourself, “I can beat this.” But then reality sets in and you say, “How will I pay for this?”

If you are insured, you must check to see if cancer is covered under your policy. It would surprise most people to learn there are many loopholes in the insurance you pay $600 to $900 per month for. Supplemental plans are available, at additional cost, that will cover some of these loopholes.

Let’s say your insurance is an 80/20 policy and covers reasonable expenses for cancer. What can you expect to pay out of pocket? The average cost today of conventional treatment (chemotherapy and radiation) is $136,000. Your cost would be $27,200. This is for the treatment only. This of course would not include costs leading to diagnosis, which would be doctor visits, blood tests, X-rays and lab fees.

Maybe your type of cancer is best treated with bone marrow transplants. The average cost associated with this treatment is $193,000. Your cost would be $38,600. This would be for the treatment once again and would not include the costs associated with the diagnosis. USA Today recently reported that one in four Americans say they or a family member in their household had problems paying medical bills during the past 12 months.

What happens if you are uninsured? According to the U. S. Census Bureau, 46.6 million Americans do not have medical insurance. More and more of our larger companies are cutting costs by eliminating health care benefits, and the rising cost of health care prohibits small businesses from even trying to provide these benefits to their employees and themselves. So, if you are uninsured, the cost of diagnosis and treatment would be billed directly to you with payment expected within 30 days. Many people will never even attempt to pay the bills, and that burden will fall to the American taxpayer and financially strained health care providers as the cancer patient loses all hope of maintaining a good credit score by which they could own a home or buy a car. A few cancer patients will assess their needs and wants, realign their budgets and pay what they can until the bills are paid in full so they can come out on the other side of this disease with their homes and lives in tact without adding further stress to the health care system.

Have you had cancer or know someone who has? I have had only two friends that have had to face cancer. The first was my best friend when I worked for Texas Instruments in Abilene. Her name is Chris Revis.

Chris is a single mom who endured many treatments, lost all her hair and fell deeply into debt even though she had “good” insurance. To maintain a positive attitude, she bought herself two wigs (one for work and one for play). She worked an average of 56 hours a week to earn overtime. Her “play” came two times a month when she would leave her daughter with “Grandma,” and she would go out dancing with friends. Those two nights a month were all she allowed herself to escape the financial burden she faced. Every payday she would send a check to pay down her medical debt. It took her nine years to pay off her portion of that debt, settle judgments against her and restore her credit. But she did it. My second friend is Pat Linkenhoger. Pat was not insured, so his debt was much greater and solely his responsibility. He also endured many treatments through which he maintained a positive attitude, realigned his budget and made a plan to pay his medical bills without deferring to the taxpayer.

It’s been seven years, and his family has one remaining judgment to clear up, which they are in the process of doing. Pat Linkenhoger has done this without burdening the taxpayer, without losing his family’s home and building strong relationships with encouraging Christian friends along the way. I applaud both of these people and the others just like them. It has been an honor to know these individuals and to witness their determination to survive cancer and pay the cost. Could you do it? Would you do it?

Please don’t forget Relay For Life, set for June 8-9 in Cleburne. This will be your chance to honor the determination of Johnson County cancer survivors and to remember those who did not survive. More research is needed to find better and more affordable treatments sorely needed due to the ever increasing cost of health care and the increasing number of uninsured Americans. Visit the Relay For Life Web site at www.acsevents.org/cleburnetx to see how you can help fight cancer and save lives.

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