The Cost of Chemo

I’ve debated talking about costs for a little while now. I may have mentioned something back when I was having the scans done, about how expensive an MRI or a CT scan were, but I didn’t want to make it seem like I was looking for sympathy or a hand-out. I’m not. I have insurance, good insurance, that is covering my medical expenses. I’ve had to pay some towards the deductible and co-pays, but it’s such a small percentage of the entire cost of my treatment.

It’s kind of funny because when I enrolled in my husband’s health insurance plan, I complained about the monthly cost. We’re basically paying the monthly premium, without a discount, for me to be added to the company plan. It’s not terrible, especially since Brad’s coverage is free as an employee. While it is still more than we’ve ever paid for the two of us to have insurance, it’s really not that bad and I know there are people out there who have it much, much worse. I just had one of those “holy crap” moments when I saw the dollar amount and griped about it for a minute. We all like our payroll deductions to be at a minimum, you know?

Anyway…I just received the EOB (explanation of benefits) from my insurance provider for my first chemo cycle. This includes the two chemo drugs, two hormones, pre-meds, doctor visit, nurse care, labs, and the immune shot that I get in a cycle. Different people, different cancers, have different cocktails, providers, protocols, etc. so the cost isn’t the same for everyone – some may be higher, some may be lower.

So the amount billed to my insurance for my first chemo cycle, the items mentioned above, was $57,000.

Let’s put that into perspective for a moment…the median annual household income in the United States in 2016 was $56,516. Yeah. I racked up that expense in one day.

I’m having six rounds of chemo. That’s around $342,000 total (future treatments may be less since the first round did include a loading dose, so I’ll update when I get the next EOB).

And that’s just the cost of the chemotherapy treatment (one of the chemo drugs alone is $21K!). That’s not including all the diagnostic scans I had done in the beginning. It does not include the port surgery. It’s not including the six week ultrasounds and echo cardiograms. It doesn’t include surgery to remove the mass, should I need it. It’s not including the hormone therapy I’ll need over the 34 weeks following the chemo. It doesn’t include the surgery to remove the port once I’m done. That’s just the chemo.

That’s just…wow.

I am so thankful I have insurance that’s covering this. I can’t imagine the struggle for people without insurance. I’m sure there are programs out there for those individuals, but they still have to worry about it. I don’t have to worry about it, and I’m grateful for that.

When I started this journey. I had no idea how much all this would cost. I assumed it would be expensive, but I didn’t know how expensive. I didn’t know the cost of a scan, let alone chemo. I went into it blind, knowing that I had insurance that would at least cover some of the expense, and I’d find a way to cover the rest. It was cancer for crying out loud, I’d start selling off the good body parts to pay for the damn treatment. One of the financial counselors at my oncologist’s office applied for some funding for me to help with some of the out of pocket expenses for treatment, it was for five thousand dollars, and she said that when that ran out (if granted), there were more funds to apply to. I remember asking her if the chemo was going to cost more than what the grant was for. Ha. I had no clue! No clue at all. And I never asked, because I honestly didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to have something else to be anxious about.

So yeah. There you have it. ‘And I’d thought the scans were expensive…

Things to note:

  1. Yes, my insurance was billed for that amount, but because of the agreements insurances have with medical providers, there are allowable amounts and all that stuff I don’t understand, so the amount my insurance would pay (and what would be extended to me had I not already met all my maxes this year) is less than that.
  2. This isn’t a complaint post. I’m not complaining. The treatment is working. JP is shrinking. I can’t wait to see how much smaller he is on the ultrasound next week!