Will your Medicare plan be on your side against cancer?Jan 12, 2021
I hate cancer.
I vividly remember as a 12 year-old being in the surgery waiting room at Baptist Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee on a snowy January day. My dad – my best friend, my baseball coach, my golf teacher and playing partner, my fellow history buff and my hero – was undergoing surgery for a supposedly benign tumor in his kidney. (The picture above is my dad and me from around 1969)
“Benign” was a word I had just learned a few days earlier. I knew it was a good word. A word my father and mother were using with a sense of relief and comfort. It was almost like a friend.
When my mother, grandmother and aunts came to see me in that waiting room that morning, “benign” was nowhere to be found. A dark, foreboding, evil word had taken its place – “malignant”.
“When they operated on your father they saw the tumor was malignant.”
I did not need a dictionary. The look on their faces defined the word “malignant” better than Mr. Webster ever could.
I soon learned many new words that 12 year-olds should not know so young – radiation, chemotherapy, oncology, survival rate.
“First we’ll do radiation then we’ll do chemotherapy.”
For his radiation treatments, my father was tattooed with big dark lines to direct the radiation technicians where to direct the beams at his tumor. I remember the space between the lines contained most of his abdomen. Even at my age I knew those beams had to travel through a lot of healthy cells and organs to reach those malignant cells around his kidney.
The chemotherapy regimen that followed was a medical version of the Bataan Death March. My father had the beginning and end of the nausea attacks that followed his weekly chemotherapy treatment timed down to the minute.
The chemotherapy treatment ended at 11:00 a..m. on Tuesday, the nausea started at 2:15 p.m. that afternoon and ended around 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday. It did not pause for dinner, sleep or helping me with my homework.
I learned how hard a man will fight to be able to watch his only child grow up a little longer.
We have come a long way in fighting cancer in the 42 years since that snowy January day.
A few months ago the FDA approved for the first time cancer treatments based on the genetic makeup of a cancer instead of the location of the original tumor. You can learn more about this by clicking on the following link from Cancer Treatment Centers of America
This progress in fighting cancer may never apply to you but the odds are it will in the future either apply to you or someone you love.
When you first go Medicare, you make a decision about how you will receive your Medicare benefits and medical care the rest of your life. One choice will allow you to take full advantage of the wonderful breakthroughs we make every day against cancer.
This choice is staying with regular Medicare and enrolling in a Medicare Supplement that will cover your share of Medicare’s costs. With regular Medicare, if you have a serious health condition you can receive care at leading cancer treatment facilities such as Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Mayo Clinic, or M.D. Anderson Cancer Treatment Center. With the Medicare Supplement that you can combine with regular Medicare, your costs are covered 100 percent from the best cancer doctors and hospitals in the country.
I call this choice the “benign approach”.
The other choice is to leave regular Medicare and assign your Medicare benefits to a private, for-profit, restricted-choice Medicare Advantage plan such as Humana Gold Plus or Kaiser Permanente.
With a Medicare Advantage plan, you can only receive care from a limited list of doctors and hospitals and you must receive care in your home area – even when the best treatment for your condition may be outside of the plan’s network or your home area.
Even worse, the ultimate decision concerning the type of cancer treatment a Medicare Advantage plan will approve will likely be made by a budget analyst who may consider the cost of your treatment rather than your likely health outcome. Medicare Advantage plans can, and very often do, say “no” to more expensive cancer treatments even when the more expensive treatment is likeliest to save your life.
They do this because the money they save by saying “no” to a more expensive treatment that may save your life goes to increase their profits, pay their salaries and pay bonuses based on reduced patient care costs.
And leading cancer treatment facilities such as Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Mayo Clinic and M.D. Anderson do not participate in Medicare Advantage networks.
Imagine having to tell your loved ones in a few years that you unwittingly left regular Medicare for a private, for-profit, restricted-choice Medicare Advantage plan and now they will not pay for the cancer treatment you believe will give you the best chance to live.
For this reason I call the Medicare Advantage option the “malignant choice”.
Charles Bradshaw is the President and Founder of MedicareAnswerCenter.com.
p.s. If you know of someone who needs help with their Medicare, please share this with them.
Would You Like A Free, No-Obligation Medicare Supplement Quote?
Subscribe To Learn More About Medicare
Get the latest articles, videos, books and online classes so you can make a smart, well-informed Medicare decision.
We will not share your information with anyone.