Cancer + No Insurance = ?

I just found out from my mom that a man with whom I used to be acquainted has brain cancer and advanced stomach cancer, and “no job, so no ins[urance], so no doctor checkups” (her words).

I knew things were fucked up in the U.S., but *that *fucked up? Someone with cancer couldn’t get *some *kind of government health insurance if he’s unemployed? I had a roommate a couple of years ago who was unemployed (mainly because of her health problems) who was able to get, uh, I think it was called GAMP, which covered a lot of her care/prescriptions.

So, enlighten me. What options are available to someone with a serious medical condition, no job, and no coverage? Is your only option really just to rack up the bills and hope you survive long enough to spend 40 years in debt?

The National Cancer Institute financial aid search:

Medical college hospitals will treat for free, but you’ll be a guinea pig for students.

Travel to Bethesda, MD and try to get in a clinical trial at NIH.


These are not all great options, granted, but the resourceful can certainly find some degree of help.

Calling around to area hospitals (or even those not in the immediate area) could help. Many hospitals have programs to help uninsured & underinsured people. If he can find one, he’d probably qualify, but it depends on where he can get treatment.

If you are resourceful, determined, have access to computers (even at the library) to do research, and have time and money to follow up leads. Failing on any of these things, and being too young to automatically qualify for Medicare, can end in situations that are very close to the OP’s mom’s friend.

I know some people with expensive chronic conditions just spend money until their broke and then qualify for Medicaid. Obviously thats a plan with considerable downsides, though.

Just being broke isn’t in and of itself a qualifier for Medicaid, though, is it?

When I lived in Maryland (all three locations), there were charity hospitals; they would take people regardless of medical coverage and/or ability to pay. You had to apply for their charity, but not until you were already being treated. I was treated at a Catholic hospital in western Maryland for a number of kidney stones when we were uninsured.

After my bout with cancer, I faced the insurance dilemma (I had insurance, but it got very expensive). Being basically self-employed, I found the best bet was to join the local Chamber of Commerce, which qualified me for their group insurance, which doesn’t exclude people based on prior medical history. The policy had a $10,000 deductible, but it covered me for major medical disasters.

No. but being both broke and sick with low income and high medical bills gives a good chance for being eligible. States and circumstances vary, of course.

Pretty much, yes. If he’s sitting in a million dollar house then the government will take that into consideration. He needs to start hereand see where he stands.

At least in Florida if you are on Social security disability you can also get on medicaid, assuming you don’t have much money.

Please note that if you don’t have the proper work credits you won’t be getting disability regardless, which was already pointed out.

Call or email the American Cancer Society

They are great at finding you resources. The will not do anything directly for you but they have access to TONS of information you do not. They will help you get low cost treatments.

Sorry for your prediciment and good luck

In my state, if you have no money you can be declared indigent and then the hospital would send the bills to the state which would pay some percentage and the hospital would eat the rest.

The simplified version is that it is a death sentence. About 45,000 people die in the US this way every year. And because they can get emergency care for as long as they can haul their dying asses into the ER, it is a very gruesome way to die.

My uncle was in a somewhat similar position. He had a full-time job, but no insurance and little savings when he was diagnosed with cancer. He received treatment under a compassionate care program at a hospital in Pittsburgh. I don’t know where the funding for that program came from, but he was able to qualify for it by documenting financial need.

maybe partake in some medical tourism to India or somewhere?

These are the type of emotional stories that drum up support for health care insurance reform. The real issue is not that the person described in the OP will go untreated or even be saddled with a huge amount of personal debt after his care. The real issue is that since he is uninsured, he has never paid into any sort of insurance program (private or government) and he will still get care (probably different from what an insured person would get) but will still receive treatment, that will be paid for by those that do pay premiums into programs, either currently or by increased future premiums.

It’s a good question and deserves some useful answers, because with all those people unemployed and/or no insurance, and so much cancer around, I’m surprised the emergency rooms aren’t packed wall to wall with dying patients. (well, maybe they are).

Yeah, here in Canada we don’t have those sorts of stories. If you are a legal resident, you are covered. Every so often the newspaper will run stories about how this or that group has a longer waiting list for various treatments, but if you need treatment, you get it.

Not only do US insured people pay premiums for their coverage and to cover the uninsured; but remember those premiums also cover all the “gatekeepers” who have to scrutinize every medical treatment to determine if the insurer will accept or reject it; someone at the doctor or hospital has to figure out what’s covered and fill out those forms; all the back and forth time if the treatment is rejected and appealed… etc… Plus, pay profits for those HMO’'s.

Plus, the USA has Medicare, which in itself covers more people than all the 10 provincial health systems here put together. Medicare is funded by the taxes of all the US citizens, including those lucky enough to work all their lives and pay taxes to cover health care for the elderly and unemployed, but not have the medical care the unemployed do.

Plus, US doctors make significantly more than Canadian ones, but half that income goes to support lawyers who have to fight every lawsuit that is launched by greedy lawyers seeking to find someone to pay medical bills that are heavily inflated…

We can get into a great debate, but suffice to say in the first world, unlike the USA, the OP’s dilemma would not exist. Yes, they might eventually end up broke not because of medical bills but because they cannot work - depending on their level of disability insurance.