Everyone needs quality and affordable healthcare coverage, but it is particularly important for those with and at risk for lung cancer. If you are uninsured or need a plan that works better for you, you can enroll in coverage through Healthcare.gov from November 1 - January 15 (even later in some states). Two of our volunteers, John and Tammie, shared their stories about how quality, affordable healthcare coverage was so important in their journeys with lung cancer.
John Anderson III was diagnosed with ROS1 lung cancer while working a job that didn’t offer benefits. Luckily, he was on his wife’s insurance at the time. “Having health insurance, I think, really saved my life because my cancer was so aggressive,” John said. “They diagnosed me on Thursday, and I was on the operating table that next Monday. They took my left lung, and I don’t know if I would’ve gotten that kind of attention if I didn’t have such good insurance.”
Before he remarried, John had been without health insurance, and he remembers feeling constantly anxious. “It was scary. I was really hoping that nothing would happen to me,“ he remembers.
John is the first to admit that finding healthcare coverage and working through all the paperwork can be daunting, but he also believes that it is one of the most important things you can do. “Don't be dismayed or disheartened because the first time it can be difficult, confusing, all that paperwork. Just keep trying. Reach out to your local clinic. Talk to a family member that's been through something heavy in the hospital. They would know because of what they've been through. But don't give up.”
“I think about how scared I was in that office, waiting for the diagnosis, getting poked at and getting cut up. If I had not had insurance, I'm telling you right now, I would not be sitting here before you.”
When Tammie was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in January of 2019, she was shocked. At 46 years old, Tammie was very healthy without a history of lung disease, and yet now she was thrust into a world of doctors and expensive procedures. Before her diagnosis, Tammie was enrolled in affordable insurance through Healthcare.gov because she was working as a freelance writer. Unfortunately, under the plan she had chosen, her cancer center and providers were out of network.
Luckily, about a year after Tammie’s diagnosis, open enrollment came around. “I did some research and opted to change my healthcare. I found a higher premium, but much lower deductible plan, which also included all my providers, treatment facilities and services as in network. So, although I'm paying higher premiums monthly, my out-of-pocket costs are much, much lower,” she said.
Tammie is glad she did her research because it helped her find a plan that fits her particular situation. “You can input your current medications, physicians or providers to see if they are in-network. I used the Healthcare.gov helpline, customer support, and I also called the insurance companies themselves. I called my providers and I talked to the healthcare facilities that I went to make sure that the plan was going to be considered in network for all of my providers,” she explained.
That is her biggest piece of advice to those looking into new healthcare. “Research your options and make sure that you're making the smart choice and can get the coverage you need. Check your numbers and ask questions, it is ok to do that,” she said.
More than 34 million Americans live with a chronic lung disease, which makes it critical for them to have quality and affordable healthcare. If you are uninsured or need a plan that works better for you, head to Healthcare.gov –before January 15, 2023. But before you do, the American Lung Association has tools and information to help you choose a plan at Lung.org/openenrollment, including updated FAQs about the enrollment process and infographics to help patients choose a healthcare plan.
Blog last updated: August 25, 2023