Tonawanda News

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February 16, 2014

HIGH COST OF HEALTH CARE: Tough choices, fundraisers filling the gaps for some

Tough choices, fundraisers filling the gaps for some


Tonawanda News — •••

Sam Giambattista says he’s been lucky. He’s been battling stage four lung cancer for two years, and after being on disability for a year, he was forced to go on Medicaid. That helps with the medical bills and a supplemental insurance policy covers most of the rest of the expenses of his care, but not all. He has to pay about $400 every 28 days for his maintenance chemo-therapy. His insurance covers the rest of the $30,000 treatment price.

But, when he was first diagnosed at the Cleveland Clinic, the cost of his initial care was $17,000. None of it was covered by their insurance. He and his wife, Patricia, used the money they’d saved for a vacation in Italy to pay for his care there. 

Sam, a carpenter, and Patricia, a dental assistant and personal trainer, are getting by. “Luckily, we’re not at the point it’s catastrophic cut back here and there, but it’s no big deal,” he said. 

“I’m truly blessed,” said Sam, who noted that recent tests are showing his tumor has shrunk and that staff at the Roswell Park Cancer Center clinic in Amherst are touched by the miracle of his wellness.  “Every time I go for my chemo, the chemo nurses see me and they cry,” he said.

But, he continues to be amazed at the cost of health care. He was stunned when told that a prescription for a drug to calm stomach ulcers caused by the chemotherapy, would cost him more than $500 out of pocket. Recently, during an out-of-town visit, he spiked a fever of 102, potentially dangerous for a cancer patient. The bill for his emergency room visit totaled $10,000. He was grateful that most was covered by his Medicaid and supplemental insurance. However, he believes something needs to be done to curb the cost of care.

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