My cancer treatment: Approved!

Insurance finally agrees to pay for life-saving therapy, but what of people who don't have my access to advocacy?

Published March 22, 2010 7:40PM (EDT)

Thanks to everyone who has worked on my behalf, the medical reviewers at Blue Shield have taken a second look at the case for proton beam radiation therapy and have approved my treatment.

 I would like to thank medical advocate Jennifer Brokaw, my superb surgical team of Drs. Christopher Ames and Vidat Deviren, colorectal surgeon Dr. Emily Finlayson, and plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. William Hoffman, and the medical experts at Blue Shield who have made what I believe is the correct decision.

Now my wife and I can begin the planning necessary for this 8-week treatment in Southern California.

As a longtime Salon editorial staffer and a great fan of the "smart tabloid" style, I loved the headline placed on my piece, "Insurance company to me: Drop dead." It was very funny and grabbing, as headlines should be.

But I also believed from the start that each individual at Blue Shield was working in good faith, and that once the medical facts had been carefully weighed, the right decision would be reached. My only concern was that under the enormous pressure of the job, these individual employees might not be able to give this complex and unusual case the scrutiny it requires.

I do fear for the fate of sick people who lack the communication skills, the research skills, access to media and the resources to call upon the necessary specialists to make sure that their cases get the scrutiny they deserve.

No matter who you are, you really have to fight for what you need. This will be true no matter what bill is passed by Congress. Healthcare is a limited resource and its distribution is handled by people who are working in a less than perfect system.

Some of us are lucky, indeed, to have access to media and expert advocacy. A just and compassionate society would make sure that all of us, especially those who cannot make the case for themselves, still get the treatment they deserve.

We should not have to fight for it, especially at the very time when we are most weakened and vulnerable. Unfortunately, our society leaves many to fend for themselves. No matter what healthcare bill is passed, we will still be on our own. It is up to us.

By Cary Tennis

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Cancer Healthcare Reform