GoFundMe To Pay Cancer Bills is Barbaric - A Friend's American Horror Story

I don't often do this, but my writing teacher has breast cancer. On October 4th, her husband lost his job because his employer said it was cheaper to pay a bookkeeper than an accountant. The employer knew what this would mean for her. She even called to beg them to keep him on at a lower salary so she could have healthcare. They said no because they didn't want to "insult him."

Here's what she said on the day this went down on her Facebook page:

Today, Michael lost his job. [...]

Which means we only have insurance until the end of the month. Again.
Which means we will not be able to afford insurance, including through the Affordable Care Act. Again.

But this time, it means I will not be able to afford the medication that I'm supposed to be on for the next five to ten years, to keep the cancer from re-occurring.

I will not be able to go in for my future exams, including mammograms.

Basically, I've just been killed. I've been gunned down - but in a different way. Michael's workplace just pulled the trigger.

The cost of COBRA insurance from his ex-employer is $1475 per month. It is actually cheaper than what she could get on the exchange in Wisconsin,where the best plan they are eligible for costs "over $1600 a month, with a $6400 deductible. The cost of her drugs would go from $50 per prescription to $400 under the ACA plan. Of course, they are already in debt for the $5000 deductible under her husband's old plan. For the rest of this year any new ACA plan would cover nothing, even if the premiums were cheaper, which they are not.

Basically it doesn't matter, however, as they can't afford to pay for either as her gofundme page makes clear:

On June 27th, 2017, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Stage 2, Grade 1. On July 25th, I had a partial mastectomy. In early August, I started taking Letrozole, and will continue to do so for the next five to ten years. The cancer I have is an estrogen-eating one, and so the drug suppresses my estrogen, thus starving the cancer. Then from August 28 to September 25, I underwent radiation. I thought I was finally on the road to recovery.

On October 4th, my husband lost his job. His job provided our insurance. His employer was very aware of my situation, but they were not moved by personal communication with me, asking to please either give my husband his job back, offer him a lower position, or extend our insurance coverage to enough time for him to find another job. They only gave us insurance until the end of October and two weeks of severance.

With research, I found that the least expensive and most expedient way of continuing my recovery is with using the Cobra insurance offered. The best insurance offered under the Affordable Care Act was more expensive and came with a $6000 deductible. I am already paying off a deductible that came with our current insurance. Adding another would be devastating.

They can't mortgage their house any further and they can't sell it as she runs her writing business, Allwriters Workshop and Workplace out of their home, literally holding classes there, in addition to running their online classes through their home computers. And that business is now her family's sole livelihood. To make it worse, her teenage daughter has autism, and her her husband suffers from narcolepsy. That disorder makes it difficult to work any job not in his field. Accountants can get away with the occasional "intermittent, uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep during the daytime." Jobs at the local burger joint, supermarket or Starbucks don't usually like to hire employees, however, who may fall asleep at anytime during their shift.

Like so many Americans, Kathie and her family now must rely on the kindness of strangers to pay their medical bills. Her situation isn't unique, though obviously her plight means a lot to me. Millions of people risk losing their homes, their businesses and even their lives when a medical catastrophe happens.

This is America in the 21st century, and it's barbaric. The wealthy do better and better while the rest of us are one crisis away from losing everything. Just like Kathie and her family.

You should know Kathie Giorgio is a published author and a great teacher. Many of her students have gone on to publish books of fiction, memoirs and poetry because of her. She's hardworking and fiercely independent, a wonderful mother who's raised an amazing daughter under trying circumstances, and a woman who loves her husband. She's many other things, but most of all she's a fundamentally good human being. Here's her picture, by the way:

Kathie G picture.png

I'm not asking you who read this to donate to Kathie's gofundme page, though if you can that would be wonderful. I'm not asking you to donate, but I am asking you to please share her story online, on social media, and to email it to your Senators and Congressional Representatives.

Because America needs universal healthcare, something we could easily afford , and which would save our economy and most Americans a ton of money. All it would take is to simply not spend more and more on our military than the next eight countries combined.

Until we take that step, too many Americans will continue to risk losing everything, including their lives, until our nation does what every other developed country in the world, and many underdeveloped ones, do for their citizens - provide them universal healthcare as a right. The USA is the richest nation in the world but America will never be "Great" until we stop treating healthcare as a privilege that benefits mostly large corporations and not a right for the benefit of all living, breathing human beings.

Today it's Kathy Giorgio. Tomorrow it could be any one of us, even you - or me. Surely we can do better than using crowd-sourcing as our fallback position for paying for healthcare. Can't we?

up
27 users have voted.

Comments

The Aspie Corner's picture

The whole system is barbaric. The only reason my partner is able to see her doctors is she has Medicare and Medicaid. And the capitalist politburo is constantly attacking both of those relentlessly along with Social Security.

As for me, I can't even get Medicaid even though by all rights I qualify for it, among other things.

But that's just how it goes in a country that doesn't give a single solitary fuck about the infirm unless some bourgeoisie fuckwit can use us for photo and other PR ops.

up
15 users have voted.
Steven D's picture

@The Aspie Corner @The Aspie Corner People in other countries are appalled at how we treat people who need healthcare. For them, they never have to think about paying medical bills. For us it can all too often be no care at all and possibly death, or financial disaster - or both.

up
15 users have voted.

"You can't just leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution."---Tyree Scott

mimi's picture

@Steven D @Steven D @Steven D (diting typos)
I think what is happening is beyond evil and beyond stupid. I retired and sold my modest townhome on the East Coast near Washington DC, where I got Medicare and my ridiculously low SS checks and had a Medigap program with Kaiser Permanente in MD. that did cost me the very low amount of $20 per months plus the Medicare deductions from my SS check. I could handle that and was happy to have that. Luckily I am blessed with no major health problems, but I also have the intention, if I really would get something that would make permanent treatments necessary, to leave the US.

When I sold my townhome on the East Coast, I had no place to go other than to return to Germany to my hometown I grew up in. I was very, very lucky to get into our public, non private health insurance system. By chance only, because I had to prove that I had been insured with them in the past and that I had no other insurance outside of Germany. I didn't even remember anymore that I had the German Health Insurance some 18 years ago, when I worked for a couple of months in Germany in the family's company. (They - the insurer - found me in their system - as the saying goes - you are never forgotten in the digital space). That was good enough for the German public insurere to let me back into their system as a retiree. Thank You.

Now I went to Hawaii, where my son struggles to make his living. He is a US AF Veteran, so he can go for emergencies to the VA hospital. Otherwise, dependent on who he works for, he is off and on again on some of his employers health insurance packages. Normally you get on there only after three to four months and as they hire and fire you within a day, you can imagine what that means to your mental health.

I had to re-establish my health insurance coverage in Hawaii, because my German one doesn't "grip" me in the US as they explained to me (just in other EU countries they would). My SS income is so low that I should qualtify for Medicaid. But unfortunately I have more than $2000.00 on my bank account, because I just sold my townhome on the East Coast. And dare you to have more than $ 2000.00 on your account, you are too rich and can't get Medicaid anymore. I just laughed at the folks and withdraw my application. Not that I (or my son) had an affordable shelter yet established on Hawaii, for which I needed the money I got from the sale of my East Coast townhome..

What I also was reminded of, reading this essay, is one little thingy I was at the time silently appalled about.

I remember that Markos had once promoted a "Go Fund Me" page for a little boy of his extended family, who was living in Greece, if I remember correctly, and had to come to the US for a somewhat very complicated treatment and (heart?) surgery. I don't remember exactly anymore what it was. I knew I was "touched" enough to donate something for that.

Months later there was a very short notice (probably not seen by many readers) that he got something like a "grant" or whatever kind of money through whatever kind of method in the amount well over $100,000.00 dollars for that kid's treatment. And I just wondered what kind of "networking relations" he must have had to get this money. Normal little people don't have that. I have to tell you that this was one more thing I was pretty much stunned about and didn't "like" too much. Whatever, I don't dwell into that.

I had also my niece in the US. She had Hodgkins as a teenager and a recurrence of other cancer forms were always looming over her life. My sister kept the whole time during her daughter's stay in US (way over 10 years) her German Health Insurance active. She could get treatment any day in Germany just by flying back.

Luckily my niece became a tenured professor fast. Before that she was an adjunct. And the difference in the respective Health Insuranve Packages you get as an adjunct and as a tenured prof were apparently huge. Of course her cancer came back as predicted, breast and liver, was treated under her Health Insurance of the US as tenured prof and then, after being for while cancer free, they detected her brain cancer. They forgot to scan her brain regularly. They simply missed it. My niece never got over that fact and was - silently - very angry about that. She was meanwhile in NYC and got brain surgery and treatment in NYC also under the US Health Insurance she was having there. She died a couple of month later.

That showed me that a couple of groups of people in the US are way better insured than the rest of the little people. Apparently government employees, tenured academics and retired Military are among them. But I have never figured that out, because I am too pissed about it to get into researching it.

I pay right now Health Insurance in Germany and in the US. Here in Hawaii the program I had on the East Coast in MD is 10 times more expensive. If I get sick and am still "transportable" I fly out of here and back to Germany. It's way, way cheaper than whatever bills they would throw at me in HI or elsewhere in the US.

Also, if I had a basically incurable old-age form of cancer, I wouldn't even get into treatment anymore other than palliative care.

To be frank, I think this US Health Care systems stinks to heaven and I can't barely read anything about it. I try to follow the essays by Unabashed Liberal, but I have no brains to focus on the details and comprehend them. I am too pissed off. When I hear about $1400.00 plus monthly premium payments I just ask myself "Have the Americans lost their minds"?

How can people in their right mind not be able to pressure their representatives to get the Health Insurance issues out of the hands of employers and into a publicly financed system. I am even not capable anymore to read about all those fancy "Exchange" Programs, or the differences of "Medicare for All" and "Single Payer System" and "Obama Care" or "ACA". We have Private Health Insurance Co. in Germany, we have publicly financed one under several different insurers. All I know is, when I get cancer and go into treatment in Germany, I will not be bankrupted, noone would confiscate my home's equity, and I would be able to pay for the medication I need. Period.

Sorry, I lose my temper over all of it. I just hate the US for what it does to their own people.

up
7 users have voted.

"History is what the present chooses to remember" - Carl Becker

Steven D's picture

@mimi I, like you am appalled at our "healthcare" system and how it mistreats most of us. I am sorry for your son, and for your personal situation. Take care.

Steve

up
5 users have voted.

"You can't just leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution."---Tyree Scott

mimi's picture

@Steven D
no need for pity. I just keep adjusting to situations I didn't expect would happen and was for a while a bit "overwhelmed with".

Take good care of yourself and your loved ones. I like your essays a lot and hope you keep on keeping on.

up
3 users have voted.

"History is what the present chooses to remember" - Carl Becker

thanatokephaloides's picture

@mimi

How can people in their right mind not be able to pressure their representatives to get the Health Insurance issues out of the hands of employers and into a publicly financed system. I am even not capable anymore to read about all those fancy "Exchange" Programs, or the differences of "Medicare for All" and "Single Payer System" and "Obama Care" or "ACA". We have Private Health Insurance Co. in Germany, we have publicly financed one under several different insurers. All I know is, when I get cancer and go into treatment in Germany, I will not be bankrupted, noone would confiscate my home's equity, and I would be able to pay for the medication I need. Period.

Sorry, I lose my temper over all of it. I just hate the US for what it does to their own people.

warning: the next line is actually beyond my command of German! The meaning is intended to express gratitude; but I apologize if I've ordered an electric stove by mistake!

Vielen Danke für deine Wut darüber, meine gute und geliebte Frau!

Smile

up
3 users have voted.

"Some members of the government are now investigating opioid pain killers but they are investigating the wrong thing. Despair-masking drugs are not the problem. Despair is."
-- featheredsprite

mimi's picture

@thanatokephaloides
that is too cute," Meine gute und geliebte Frau", you can actually only say to your own wife ...
Vielen Dank!

That is the best laugh I had since a long time reading here.
Give rose

up
3 users have voted.

"History is what the present chooses to remember" - Carl Becker

thanatokephaloides's picture

@mimi

that is too cute," Meine gute und geliebte Frau", you can actually only say to your own wife ... Vielen Dank!

Well, at least I didn't actually order an electric stove! Smile

up
4 users have voted.

"Some members of the government are now investigating opioid pain killers but they are investigating the wrong thing. Despair-masking drugs are not the problem. Despair is."
-- featheredsprite

mimi's picture

@thanatokephaloides
... otherwise my brain will smoke like it was toasted in that imaginary electric stove.

(heh, I didn't get your joke, but I hope that doesn't bother you).

Peace.

up
3 users have voted.

"History is what the present chooses to remember" - Carl Becker

thanatokephaloides's picture

@mimi

(heh, I didn't get your joke, but I hope that doesn't bother you).

Peace.

It refers to a situation in France where un Americain, at a restaurant, attempted to show sophistication he really didn't have by ordering in French (which he also didn't have!).

Monsieur le garçon managed to keep a straight face long enough to get behind closed doors, and then fell to laughing so hard he could not breathe.

L'americain had just ordered an electric stove! Smile

I tried to locate the original article for you, but could not. Sad

Anyway, you are our beloved friend, and we appreciate it when you get ticked off at injustices we suffer!

And your English is waaaaay better than my German! Smile

So peace, love, and every blessing, mimi!

up
3 users have voted.

"Some members of the government are now investigating opioid pain killers but they are investigating the wrong thing. Despair-masking drugs are not the problem. Despair is."
-- featheredsprite

mimi's picture

@thanatokephaloides

up
1 user has voted.

"History is what the present chooses to remember" - Carl Becker

riverlover's picture

And does Not include a $1300 ambulance bill that I can't find a reimbursement check for.

up
7 users have voted.

Hey! my dear friends or soon-to-be's, JtC could use the donations to keep this site functioning for those of us who can still see the life preserver or flotsam in the water.

Wink's picture

horse$h!t. That should be the Total Cost of health insurance for one year.

up
10 users have voted.

the little things you can do often are more valuable than the giant things you can't! - @thanatokephaloides. All about building progressive media. (-1.9) On Twitter @winkradio.

Eagles92's picture

@Wink My deductible is lower -- $2,500 -- but my total annual "out of pocket" (which includes copays and coinsurance) is $6,900.

And it's funny how "preventive care" never seems to be defined as such, when the bills get sent.

up
8 users have voted.
Hillbilly Dem's picture

of the health of their citizens. But that's not the American Way! American Exceptionalism in 2017? Why, we are reduced to putting our hat in our hand and begging. There's something very American about having to beg for the health care that citizens of all other developed nations get as a birthright.

Was Rev. Jeremiah Wright really that far from wrong when he said that we shouldn't sing 'Gob bless America' but instead 'God damn America'?

up
10 users have voted.

"Just call me Hillbilly Dem(exit)."
-H/T to Wavey Davey

thanatokephaloides's picture

@Hillbilly Dem

Was Rev. Jeremiah Wright really that far from wrong when he said that we shouldn't sing 'Gob bless America' but instead 'God damn America'?

"God damnED America" is more like it.

Ordinary working Americans do not deserve the Neoliberal Capitalist HELL that the 0.1% have made of this country.

And Wright's parishioner, Barack Obama, hurled him under the bus for telling the truth. I'm sure the Biblical Prophet Jeremiah can relate!

Diablo

up
3 users have voted.

"Some members of the government are now investigating opioid pain killers but they are investigating the wrong thing. Despair-masking drugs are not the problem. Despair is."
-- featheredsprite

edg's picture

With a diminished income, she may qualify. If nothing else, the child with autism ought to qualify for it.

up
5 users have voted.
Steven D's picture

@edg generates too much income to qualify, plus what her husband earned already this year. I know they looked into it. They'd have to sell their house and spend whatever equity they might get from that sale to qualify for Medicaid.

But her business is based out of her house, so that doesn't seem like a great idea considering that's how she is feeding her family. Her daughter is in High School and is doing well, even has a BF. Her biggest costs right now are for her cancer treatment and by the time she qualified for Medicaid she would have likely starved to death. Their only option right now is to try to get enough together to keep paying for the COBRA insurance until her husband can find a new job with benefits. She's still been working hard despite the ongoing treatments. Can't really risk stopping her therapy for cancer, and can't stop working either even though she doesn't earn enough by herself to cover all their bills. What do you stop paying for? The mortgage? The medical bills? Food? The immediate need right now is to keep the insurance they have through COBRA long enough to finish her treatment.

She was like many people - hardworking, even created and owned her own business - but even with two incomes no savings and not much equity in home. This is how even regular people in the middle class are just one catastrophe away from bankruptcy. The tragedy is that if she were poor enough she'd already have Medicaid, which would cover her medical bills (though I'm not sure how great Wisconsin's Medicaid coverage is to be honest).

up
5 users have voted.

"You can't just leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution."---Tyree Scott

edg's picture

@Steven D

My situation has some similarities. I have a home-based business. Home-based businesses can generate quite a bit of income offset. My wife is on my payroll as my office manager. This qualifies her for Arizona's "Freedom to Work" program that allows disabled people to work while collecting disability (SSDI in her case) and Medicaid. The income limits for her are very generous, and my income doesn't count against her eligibility.

up
7 users have voted.
dkmich's picture

Sometimes they do have programs for people who can't afford to pay. If I were her, I would also contact my Congress assholes and Senator to ask them to find me help. Constituent services.

Begging in the streets for health care is an abomination.

up
9 users have voted.

*donate *follow us on Twitter *like us on Facebook

Steven D's picture

@dkmich and I am sure she will. But my understanding is that even then, the best the Pharma folks do is give you a cheaper rate for the drugs that often doesn't help all that much. You still need a doctor to prescribe and monitor her condition. She's literally halfway through her treatment. If this had happened to My wife and I when she was being treated for pancreatic cancer I'm not sure what we would have done. Begged my parents for money I suppose, but my wife's employer didn't fire her in the middle of her cancer treatment thank god.

Crazy we have to rely on "charity" from corporations in such situations. I'm sure even the discounted rate they offer still provides them a profit margin.

up
7 users have voted.

"You can't just leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution."---Tyree Scott

dervish's picture

is not just archaic but frankly insane. It's time to stop.

up
9 users have voted.

"Obama promised transparency, but Assange is the one who brought it."

Daenerys's picture

It's a travesty that people in the supposed "greatest country on earth" have to resort to asking other people who have no money to spare to help pay their medical bills. There's always benefit dinners for somebody who can't afford their medical bills around here. Makes me so angry. I wish so often we could move to another country, Germany or Norway maybe, but without any actual ties to another country we're pretty much doomed to stay here forever. Sad

up
1 user has voted.

Well-behaved women rarely make history.