You Can't Put A Price On A Life - This Just In, Yes You Can

by GregP_WN

We often hear "you can't put a price on a life". Well, that's not true. According to my hospital and doctor bills, my cost since the first of the year is approaching 500K. The most expensive, most involved surgery that I have ever had was the laryngectomy with bi-lateral neck dissection, and thyroidectomy. That bill was in the 375K range. It's like we are using monopoly money now. 

You Can't Put A Price On Life

Doctor's bills and hospital/procedure expenses continue to leapfrog and have gotten to the point that it's not real anymore. We are "lucky" to have insurance that at least will hold the door open at the hospital/doctor's office and let us in. That insurance, which I bought in 2008 three months before my third diagnosis, is very limited. A 5,000.00 deductible followed by a limited amount paid. After all is run through whatever process the insurance company and the hospital runs them through, we are usually left with about half of the bill to pay. 

Like I said before, it's like monopoly money. Who do you know that could write a check for 250K for their portion of the medical expenses? And this is just for Jan - to present. I am getting ready to have a port put in, that surgery is an outpatient surgery that will only take about 20 minutes to do. But there is 2 hours of time set aside for OR and recovery. The estimated cost for this small surgery is 15K. 

I will be on Keytruda along with a clinical trial which uses a drug currently only known as ADU-100. It is an experimental drug that is injected directly into a tumor. I have two tumors currently, one is not accessible and the other can be accessed easily. I have no idea what the cost of that drug would be if I wasn't in the clinical trial, the Keytruda treatment is said to average 30 thousand per treatment. Again, I have sorry insurance and it may or may not even cover it, Keytruda was just approved by the FDA and is now recognized as a line of immunotherapy cancer treatment. My insurance will not cover anything considered "experimental". So nothing will be paid for that. This clinical trial will also include 25 CT scans over the next 24 months, and 3 PET scans in addition to a multitude of blood tests, and other procedures. I wouldn't even try to guess that that would cost. Luckily, all of those costs are covered by the drug company sponsoring that drug. 

To get started on this latest line of treatment for my recurrent head and neck cancer, genetic testing was done on the tumor to see if it contained the PD-L1 receptor that allows keytruda to target the tumor specifically using my immune system's T-Cells to attack it and leave the other body cells and organs alone. That genetic testing was an expensive test. Luckily, I was given financial help by the company that does the testing, Tempus, to cover those expenses.

The Keytruda treatments will be covered through another financial assistance program through the Merck Patient Financial Assistance Program. This program will pay what my insurance doesn't pay leaving me a $25.00 copay. I'll take that!!

This treatment with Keytruda will continue for a minimum of two years, considering if I make it through that long. Two years of Keytruda would add up to approximately $1,032,000.00. That's just for the drug. Add to that, doctor and hospital charges, blood work, scans, and a multitude of other procedures that are sure to come, and I can see this easily reach over two million dollars in two years. What is a life worth?

We are "lucky" to have this sorry insurance that doesn't pay much because it at least lets us get in the door and have the treatments done. We pay over 1,000.00 a month for Sweetie and I to be covered under this policy. And that rate goes up every year. At some point the cost of the plan reaches a point of being too expensive to continue it. Then what? 

You Can't Put A Price Tag On Life

The balance owed for hospital and doctor's bills  is left to deal with on another day. But what about those people who have no insurance and can't even get in to see a specialist when they first find a problem? Those are the ones who often die before any treatment ever gets started because they couldn't even get in to see an oncologist, have screening scans, biopsies or other diagnostic tests. 

Those who argue against a national health insurance plan have obviously not had a serious illness and have not had to look for health insurance coverage on their own. If a person can get a job at a company that provides health insurance are luck to find it. The insurance is worth more than the wage you are paid in many cases. 

Some of these people who are against national coverage don't realize that with their group health insurance through their employer they are one recession, one bad decision, one merger, one tragic health situation, away from being without coverage. Then the opinion about health coverage changes, rapidly. Especially if there are people in the family with pre-existing conditions. 


So, as we press forward into my 5th diagnosis, second time for having any form of chemotherapy, first time for immunotherapy, and most likely my last line of defense against this cancer, we will watch as the total amount that we owe continues to rise to unbelievable, and unreachable amounts. Right now, we are still in the phase of being accepted into the trial. I have had the screening scans, the bloodwork, filled out the applications, and jumped through all the hoops. Now we wait some more, while these tumors continue to grow. 

How will these expenses be paid? Through the grace of financial assistance programs through Merck and the research programs at Vanderbilt. 

We will keep our fingers crossed that things continue as they look like they will be now, with me being accepted into the clinical trial, expenses paid, and the financial assistance package through Merck for the Keytruda. 

What's a few months or a year or two of life worth? It's looking like about 2 million in my case. Who said you can't put a price on a life? They do it every day!!

Other Articles About My Latest Series of Diagnoses

You can’t put a Price on a Life-This Just In….Yes You Can 
Diagnosis #5 Because Apparently #4 Wasn’t Enough 
Things Usually Go Right, But Sometimes They Go Left Down The Highway to Hell

Dear Family-I’m Sorry I Gave You Cancer….4 Times 
Learning to Live As a Laryngectomee 
2 Weeks Out From Life Saving, Life Altering Surgery 
Tonight You Won’t Be Able to Speak, What Will You Say Today?

Gratitude and Humility-How Do You Get It? 
10 Positive Things With a 4th Diagnosis….Wait..What? 
Random Thoughts While Waiting For Cancer Surgery 
Diagnosis #4 Just Got Real 
Dancing With Cancer For The 4th Time 

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