I was diagnosed with stage three melanoma when I was 17. I went through one month of high dosage infusions and then 11 months of self-induced shots.
After surgeries, scans and countless doctors’ visits, my family was fortunately able to stay financially afloat. However, not all families are that lucky.
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 2010, the average cost for one year of treatment for a female with melanoma covered by insurance was $5,047 (by far the cheapest treatment).
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill released a study that patients without insurance would pay more — as much as 43 times more. So, if I were to not have insurance, my family could have paid up to $217,021.
The highest cancer reported by the NCI was brain cancer at $108,168, and without insurance the cost could be $4,651,224. According to Forbes, medical expense is the number one cause of personal bankruptcy, at 62 percent of cases.
Families literally cannot afford to get sick.
In 1997 the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was signed into law and continued with bipartisan support until September 2017. CHIP covers health insurance for children and pregnant women whose families are up to 250 percent above the poverty line and who do not qualify for Medicaid.
The Federal Government allocates funds to the states, which they use at their own discretion. CHIP covers 8.9 million children in the country.
Congress has not renewed funding for this vital program. This year, the United States Congress decided, and still decides, that health insurance for children is not an urgent issue.
In Iowa, the state level CHIP program is called hawk-i (Healthy and Well Kids in Iowa). It provides health insurance for 60,000 children.
The AP reported that providers at hawk-i are now preparing letters to send to families that are covered, stating that their insurance will likely run out in March of 2018 if funding is not renewed in Congress.
At UNI, we have many organizations that advocate for cancer survivors. However, none advocate for real solutions in terms of health insurance — perhaps due to the political nature of the health insurance debate.
Regardless, children’s health insurance cannot be political; it is essential. I encourage anyone who has made a wish, relayed for life or danced for kiddos to please call your representatives and demand that Congress take action to provide health insurance for children.
You can reach them at (202) 224-3121.
— Hannah Gregor