Social Question

jrpowell's avatar

What would happen if I got cancer and didn't have insurance?

Asked by jrpowell (40454points) March 24th, 2010

Say I worked a shitty job. Like the guy who makes your food at restaurants. Odds are good that they are the uninsured and you probably interact with them everyday. What if the guy who just took your order gets cancer?

People say that the ER will treat you if you can’t pay. But what about long term treatments like rounds of chemo or weekly use of a dialysis machine? Will the ER tell you to fuck off and die or do they still need to treat you?

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30 Answers

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bobloblaw's avatar

My understanding is that they’ll treat you until you’re stable. When it comes to cancer treatments/longer term stuff? I believe the idiom is “you’re up the creek w/out a paddle.”

JLeslie's avatar

Probably you have to hope for donations and organizations to help. If you are poor you can apply for medicaid.

The ER just makes sure you don’t die while on their watch. If you are stable you are out.

AstroChuck's avatar

For one, if you weren’t democrat before you’d likely become one now.

njnyjobs's avatar

Apply for Medicaid and/or Medicare benefits. Additionally, you can sign-up for medical studies for new treatments for such illnesses and you’ll get the treatment for free.

lillycoyote's avatar

You’d be up a creek without a paddle. You would either have to forego treatment or pay for it yourself and possibly become bankrupt and or homeless. I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be able to apply for medicaid once you were sick if you were not eligible for it before you became sick. About one third of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. are caused when people who are uninsured or underinsured are overwhelmed by medical bills.

WestRiverrat's avatar

You could always move to Canada or England and enter their health care systems.

faye's avatar

I’ve taken care of people whose IV chemo treatment is covered, then they go home and can’t afford the pills to stop the nausea and vomiting. So they come back into hospital, going through all the paper work, nursing, try to get them a private room, and give the meds IV. This costs so much more than paying for the pills. But these idiots with the power just don’t look at it with common sense.

jrpowell's avatar

@WestRiverrat :: I take it you have never looked into getting citizenship in another country. It isn’t easy and it takes a long time if you even can.

shilolo's avatar

You can get “free” medical care at the local county hospital. People without insurance and undocumented immigrants are treated there, without needing to pay. Of course, the social workers would help a person apply for emergency Medicaid/Medicare so that the hospital could get some reimbursement, eventually.

jrpowell's avatar

@shilolo :: would that apply to things more long-term than take some pills?

thriftymaid's avatar

I think most every state has a program to help with such as this. In my city there is a major university medical center. It is knows throughout the country as the leader in heart transplants and a first class cancer treatment center. When people have something like cancer and are uninsured, there is a program called Charity Care. If you are a resident you will quality. You will get the very same treatment as those who are insured. There is a state foundation that funds it. My guess is every state has such a program.

Dog's avatar

Another sad aspect to not having insurance is that often times the cancer is not found until it becomes symptomatic- and has spread. Early detection can be a luxury of those who have insurance.

gemiwing's avatar

A lot depends on your state and your income level. I had to look into getting health insurance through the state in their ‘emergency’ health insurance plan because I have a pre-existing condition and no insurance company would accept me. It was designed for those with cancer, mental illness and those with chronic conditions. For one person it came out to 5,000 with a 2,000 premium; lifetime coverage of 100,000. That wouldn’t last long for a cancer patient.

If I had gone the disability route, it would have taken two years for Medicare to take effect. Two years of nothing is a long time.

Another option would be our local teaching hospital. They get some money for indigent care but it is not a lot and it’s by no means a free ride. You will expect to pay 80% of the bill. There is a community hospital, of sorts, but they only do preventative care of the most basic nature. There is no surgery or chemo there.

We have no county or state hospital that I am aware of. Our state decided to provide the emergency insurance that I listed above instead.

gemiwing's avatar

Dang, missed the window. It’s 5,000 a month.

andrew's avatar

In three months or less you’d be eligible for the high-risk insurance pool that would provide you coverage, much like my unemployed sister-in-law with leukemia.

Man, those Democrats really fucked up, didn’t they.

RandomMrdan's avatar

I suppose you could try and marry someone from Canada?

JLeslie's avatar

@faye That was the type of think Hillary talked about back in the 90’s when she was working on healthcare. If we are going to cover it anyway, why not go the less expensive route. So dumb. I guess some people never come back for the meds and just suffer, that is what they must hope for. The example Hillary gave was paying for home health care so patients can be at home, instead of keeping them in the hospital.

faye's avatar

@JLeslie This example I gave is for people getting chemo as outpatients, chemo is covered, then they get a prescription for ondansetron for nausea which is $25 a pill and you need 6–8 so people try to make it on gravol, and like I said then need IV therapy in the hospital. Sorry, I didn’t say outpatient.

JLeslie's avatar

@faye I think I understood correctly. BUT, there is also the fact that the hospital could prescribe pills, I mean dispense them, and that would be cheaper, instead of the IV I would guess?? But, for some reason hospitals do not dispense pills for when you leave the hospital. I never understood that.

faye's avatar

The pharmacy system at my hospital is so convoluted and buried under paper and so slow. Our ER will give you enough pain pills to get to morning if you are in there at night.

JLeslie's avatar

@faye Until morning. I just think that sucks. I work for a psych hospital and we send them off with written prescriptions they have to go fill, and some of them are not so stable.

faye's avatar

Yes, I think everyone would agree that psych patients are getting a raw deal everywhere.

primigravida's avatar

There’s always the option of doing something to get thrown into jail and then you’ll have free healthcare, no matter what you need done. At least in Ohio, this is true. I saw something on the news the other night about the hundreds of millions of dollars spent each year by the prisons in Ohio (where I live) to cover the cost of inmate healthcare. They mentioned one man specifically, whose costs were just over 8 million alone. They didn’t say what he had done, but I’m guessing it was something like open heart surgery or a multiple organ transplant.

My dad’s being treated for rectal cancer right now, and his chemo pills alone are 3500 for the month supply. It’s something like 29 dollars a pill, but because he happens to have kickass insurance, he only pays 20 bucks as a co-pay for the whole thing. No idea what the radiation and the eventual surgery/hospital stay will cost. My mom’s also in the ICU now (and has been for about a week, will be for a few more at least) for a whole clusterfuck of reasons that stem from a bad stroke she had about 7 years ago. Needless to say, my parents are pretty lucky that they have good insurance. I have no idea how they’d do any of this stuff without it. They have enough trouble trying to manage all the bills and crap as it is and it’s pretty much all paid for. So yeah, me being unemployed and without insurance is pretty worrysome. Best bet is, don’t find yourself in the situation, if you can help it.

ItsAHabit's avatar

I have a friend in that situation. The hospital charges no more than he can afford.

ItsAHabit's avatar

You would get treatment and pay what you could afford. It happened to a friend who has no insurance.

JLeslie's avatar

@ItsAHabit And we people who can afford it pay more when we are sick to counterbalanace the people who can’t pay the full amount. This is why I want socialized medicine.

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