cost of chemotherapy for uninsured patient

hi,
my mother doesn't have insurance nor does she qualify for medical/medicare because of immigration status. She is 65. so I am going to be paying for surgery/chemotherapy out of my pocket.
Does anyone know the cost of 6 cycles of IV+IP chemotherapy?
Is it cheaper if done outpatient v/s in-patient?
Does anyone know the cost of surgery (my mom is stage IIIb, so both ovaries will have to be removed in addition to the omentum, tubes) ? how much is the hospital cost and how much is the surgeon cost?
how much does the anesthesiologist and pathologist charge ?
thanks in advance.

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23 replies. Join the discussion

I really recommend you talk to the financial aid office at the hospital where your mother's surgery will be performed. They may be able to discount some costs for cash, since there is no insurance. They may even consider your mother as a charity case, although I am totally ignorant as to any rules or regs in regard to immigration status. It can't hurt to plead your case.

Chemo is rarely done in hospital. There is no need to, and it would greatly add to the cost. I think each round of Taxol/Cisplatin I did was about $16,000. (I did IP as well as IV, and that added to the cost, both in the OR for port installation and for the chemo itself, as I had to have a hospital bed for several hours.)The hospital social worker was able to get some of my drugs supplied at no cost. My doc was able to get me into a program that supplied my Emend, a potent anti-nausea drug.

My gyn/onc discounts his fees for non-insured patients. Even his surgical fee. I think, but am not sure at this stage of the game, that the other specialists also discounted their fees. Seems like the surgeon cost was around $8000, the anesthesiologist about $2000, the pathologist about the same.

You will be looking at well over $100,000. Start with the hospital and then maybe the hospital social worker.

I am so sorry you and your mom are facing this, but it sounds like you are in it together. Your support will be so important for her.

All best wishes to you both.

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my chemo was $6,000-7000 for each cycle with IV chemo only, no IP like Jennali had. All of the other cost numbers she listed are pretty close to mine.

I hope other people on here can help you add to the ideas Jennali gave you to get started with.

Please let us know how we can help you and your mother. We are here to help!

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I would think about a clinical trial if you can get one fast,,they are good and free. And most will offer standard treatment plus an extra or a placebo and she needs standard treatment. And talk to social services ASAP.

If she is Jewish or Catholic, there are resources. My cousin got free treatment for lung cancer in a Catholic hospital as they treated free because she was Catholic. And some Jewish hospitals do the same thing.

Whereever you live check the teaching hospitals within a few hours drive,,a trial would be really good.

Good luck, my heart aches for you facing money issues now,,it doubles the stress. And I will pray hard for you and your Mom.

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lemme make sure i understand, i was told my mom needed 6 21-day cycles. and in each cycle, she would need to be administered chemo twice, one on the first day and one on the 8th day. So, is the cost of 16000 for IP+IV for each dose?, i.e., total cost is 16,000x6x2=192,000?
OR is the cost of 16,000 for each cycle, i.e., total cost is 16,000x6
OR is the cost of 16,000 for the entire chemotherapy?

of this 16,000, how much is the cost of the drugs? I am hoping that the drug companies might give some of these drugs for free; how much will that save?

Same question for IV chemo, is 6,000-7,000 the cost for one round or one 21-day cycle or for the entire 6-cycle chemo therapy.

I am surprised to hear that administering chemo is more expensive than cost of surgery

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I had IV and IP chemo. My last two treatments were not covered by insurance due to the fact I lost my job. The cost of just the two treatments was $28,000.

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I had exactly the same problem with my mother - no insurance, breast cancer, immigrant. The hospital had a charity program and I didnt have to pay for her chemo treatments or hospital bed. Her surgeon gave us very very reduced price, about 2K. Her oncologist put her on some special programs that the drug companies sponsor.
Talk to her doctors at the cancer center first. There are many options. You can send me an e-mail if you like and I can tell you more.

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The approximate costs given are PER treatment, not for all 6 treatments. I've had IV treatments, no IP. If she needs a Neulasta shot to build up her white cell counts after each treatment (which I needed on Taxol, the usual first line chemo given) you can add another $11,000-$12,000 PER SHOT for that. Yes, I know it is outrageous but those are the facts.

Most chemo is done out-patient at a hospital or a cancer center affiliated with a hospital. A huge part of the charge is for the facility, a smaller portion for the drugs. Drug companies help with pills and things, but I doubt they will be giving away chemo. Basic blood tests, like the CBC she will get the day of each treatment and the occasional CA-125 tumor marker blood test, cost around $500 each time.

My surgeon cost something like $18,000 or $20,000, not including the hospital bill for 6 days, or the anesthesiologist. The pathology might have been included in the hospital lab charges. I don't remember the hospital bill but it was much more than that.

CT scans, which are often needed at diagnosis and after treatment, can cost over $4,000 each, and a PET scan is higher.

Cancer is a VERY expensive disease. I had my original diagnosis (IIIC) 8 1/2 years ago and have had 2 recurrences and the costs have been in the hundreds of thousands when all added up. When you have an advanced stage, there is a very high probability you will get a recurrence.

You must find a way to talk to the people at the hospital, or some charity group or any kind of financial aid group. You might find a doctor willing to help, but the facility costs and chemo, etc., are separate. My cousin got stage 4 breast cancer while in between jobs with no insurance. One doctor refused to treat her. Another wonderful one told her he would take care of her and she could pay him whatever she could as they went along. She's still paying him 10 years later. She eventually did get on Medicaid though for all the other costs.

I really hope you find a way to help your mother. I'm sorry she has this disease and that you are in this situation. I wish you the best of luck.

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Definately reach out to every possible charitable option available!!!! If you sign as the payor responsible for the charges, depending on how treatments go, you could be looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars. If your mother in stage 3c ends up in a continuous cycle of treatments, plan on $100,000+ per year. Keep in mind that a lot of the drugs your mother will take are "platinum" based. It is very expensive!!! So take advantage of the charitable programs through hospitals, facilities, and organizations rather than personally becoming liable. I admire you for taking care of your mother!

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This may be a little off the topic, but if your mom hasn't had surgery yet, how have they staged her to stage 3 already?
Jeanie

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I find it interesting that your mom's immigration status is cause for medicaid denial of her medical costs. I'm in California, and we constantly hear that even undocumented (illegal) immigrants are eligible for government paid medical care. Recently one of these people even got a liver transplant. Maybe you can talk to an immigration attorney about this.

We're talking about a ton of money here. My insurance company was billed over $150,000 for the initial surgery and 6 chemo treatments. Of course, they only got about 1/3 that amount because of the contract between ins. companies and hospitals. But private pay patients are billed the full amount, and maybe given a 20% discount if they pay promptly. Not fair, but there it is.

As a previous poster asked, I too am curious how your mom was given a stage diagnosis before surgery.

I wish you good luck, and please keep us posted.

Emily

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The problem is that my mom is here in the USA as a legal visitor. So she is a documented alien, instead of an undocumented alien.
In addition, I am in the process of applying for her permanent residency. So she is in between immigration status'es
As a documented alien she doesn't qualify for the benefits of undocumented aliens unfortunately. so following the law is actually hurting us.

the way she was diagnosed is that I know of a cancer surgeon and he looked at her reports and diagnosed her.
I wanted her to have the best care and I didn't want to think 2 years down the line that I didn't get her operated in the US for the sake of money.
but the costs mentioned above are way above my capacity

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I think you really need to be sitting down with the doctors/hospital financial office and I too am skeptical with the staging. Staging is done during surgery as that is the only true way to see what has or has not been affected by cancer, how it has spread etc. I think too that you will find the cost varies from place to place. My surgery /hospital stay alone was $80,000 which doesnt include the cost of pathology reports, follow ups with the surgeon , anesthsiologist etc. Each chemo was $1900.00...thats one treatment, every 21 days for 6 rounds. There was lab work done every week for the same period of time , there are ct or pet scans done after chemo, there are prescriptions to fill to help you through all of the side effects, ongoing oncologist followups, surgeon followups....it goes on and on. I was diagnosed 8-28-08, had surgery, finished chemo, still getting scans and I would estimate to date being close to $200,000.00. The cost doesnt end with chemo so you really need to seek assistance to help you through this process. I wish your mother well and send prayers that she will be able to get the care she deserves.

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I hate to be Debbie Downer here, but maybe you should investigate surgery and chemo in her native country. If her native country has a gyn/onc, then he/she might be able to do it if you send whatever scans, tests, etc that were done here. Also, maybe Carbo and Taxol are available in her native country. I have no idea where your mom is from, and I do know that medical care is clearly below par in many other countries, but financially I would think that she would be eligible for more financial assistance in her native land than she will get here.
Surgery is really the only way to know the stage.
As kalo mentioned, OC is not really curable unless caught in the very early stages, and she will need on going tests, scans, appointments, followups, etc for all her life. I only had a 9 month remission and now have to do another surgery and then chemo or maybe radiation. I am Stage 3C. So, this will bankrupt you.
It must be agonizing to know that you don't have the ability to really help her.
Jeanie

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I had my treatments at University of Kentucky Hospital, no port, just IV's every month, my bill showed the treatments with all the anti-nausea, steroids, etc., and the carboplatin/taxol, it all was about $2000 each time. Hope that helps. My surgery for a 3 day hospital stay was about $16000, total hysterectomy and cancer staging. Hope this gives you some idea. I didn't have good insurance, paid very little, let my hospital bill go to collections and then they gave me a 20% discount to pay it off, and it did not go on my good credit rating.
Bev

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blacksea_turtle, can you maybe email me at pranavd@gmail.com? or can you give me your email, I would like to explore the charity organizations route, to check if they can cover the cost of treatment beyond my affordable limits?

thanks everyone. I'm contacting all the doctor offices to check if they can offer me some help financially. I'm told that if i pay cash, I can get some discount. time for me to start selling assets.

Thanks everyone for the lightning fast replies and offers to help. I sincerely appreciate it.

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I'm so sorry to hear about your mother's situation. She's lucky to have you on her side.

Here are some resources that may be helpful:
* "Financial Assistance and Other Resources for People With Cancer" - from the National Cancer Institute - includes info for the uninsured
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Support/financial-resources

* Benefits Checkup - from the National Council on Aging - takes about 20 mins to go thru the online survey that can help you find "programs that can help you pay for prescription drugs, health care, meals, utility bills, and more." The survey does account for people with different immigration status
https://www.benefitscheckup.org/index.cfm?gohome=true&partner_id=0

* Obtaining Financial Assistance for Cancer Therapy - from U Penn's Oncolink
http://oncolink.org/experts/article.cfm?c=4&s=33&ss=113&id=1084

* Cheaper drugs from Canada - my oncologist's office gave me a booklet for them
http://www.jandrugs.com/
There seem to be a lot of resources for free/cheap drugs.

I found these on the Web but can't vouch for them:
* http://www.needymeds.org/ - help with drugs lists of government resources

* Partnership for Prescription Assistance
http://www.pparx.org/
"helps qualifying patients without prescription drug coverage get the medicines they need through the program that is right for them. Many will get their medications free or nearly free."

* RxAssist
http://www.rxassist.org/
Another website that says it can help get free/discounted drugs

Best wishes.

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thanks mimzi for taking the pains to carefully list out all the organizations I can approach for help. i appreciate it.

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You have already been subjected to many cost estimates of surgery, tests, treatments, etc. I would add one more thing to keep in mind - healthy eating costs for your Mom once she gets surgery and starts chemo. If you can keep her white and red counts up by foods and supplements (I ate a lot of liver and anything with iron in it and took echinacea tabs and acidophilus tabs) instead of getting the supplemental (and evidently very expensive) shots that might help. But of course the healthy foods also tend to cost more, so you might keep that budget item in mind. Do let us know how it goes and thoughts and prayers are with you both.

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Hi blacksea_turtle

Can you please provide your email ID?

I have similar situation my mom has been diagnosed with breast cancer with no medical insurance and on non-immigrant visitor visa.

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Clinical trials might be a good avenue. What is her native country? Many countries like Canada and Great Britian have nationalized healthcare which is free to its citizens I believe. Those are the alternatives that I know of...some of the other girls might have some suggestions.

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