“The successful treatment of my cancer through proton therapy means that I am living proof that proton therapy is a legitimate, safe and effective cancer treatment – and one that insurers should cover if they truly care about the wellbeing of the people they insure. ”
After being treated for Sarcoma Cancer in 2015, I was in remission for two and a half years, and I was elated to be cancer free. Unfortunately in January 2018, my elation gave way to the familiar feelings of anxiety and sadness when I discovered a lump in the previously-treated area. After rounds of tests and biopsies, I was diagnosed with a recurrence of sarcoma cancer in March 2018.
After speaking with my oncology surgeon and radiation oncologist, it became clear to me that proton therapy would be the ideal course of treatment for my cancer. Learning about proton therapy through the descriptions of my healthcare team made it clear to me that the way in which proton therapy would target the tumor without harming vital organs in the area made it the most appropriate method of treatment in my case.
While speaking with my healthcare team, I learned that this treatment is often not covered by insurers – even though it is FDA-cleared – but I was reassured when the radiation oncologist told me that his team would work with the insurance company to get the treatment approved. As expected, I received several rejection letters from my insurance company. I continued receiving rejection notifications even though I had made the choice to begin my first week of the treatment in hopes that the denial would be overturned. My anxiety continued to build as I questioned how I would be able to cover such an expensive treatment if my gamble didn’t work out.
Thankfully the coverage for my proton therapy treatment was eventually approved by my insurance company, but it was only approved because my healthcare team actively advocated on my behalf in negotiations with the insurance company. I consider myself truly lucky to have worked with healthcare professionals clearly committed to putting their patients first in an environment where insurers repeatedly prioritize their own interests over those of the patients they claim to be assisting. Not all patients are as lucky as I have been, and I can’t imagine having to battle cancer andmy insurance company all on my own.
Insurance coverage and the financial burden of the physician-recommended course of treatment should be the last thing on the minds of cancer patients when determining the most appropriate treatment for their case. Patients should be allowed to prioritize their road to recovery ahead of negotiating with the insurer they already paid to cover their care.
The successful treatment of my cancer through proton therapy means that I am living proof that proton therapy is a legitimate, safe and effective cancer treatment – and one that insurers should cover if they truly care about the wellbeing of the people they insure. If you believe, as I do, that insurers should make it easier – not harder – to access lifesaving cancer treatments like proton therapy, then I encourage you to join me in advocating for policies that provide fairer, faster, and more transparent coverage decisions. Fighting cancer is hard enough on its own, and patients shouldn’t be expected to fight their insurance company as well.