The Continuing Price Of Being Sick

Here are some tips to shopping for medical insurance until the day free federal healthcare becomes effective.

Larkspur-Corte Madera editor Derek Wilson writes a column called "Tick Tock..Time of My Life" that chronicles his days living with Stage 4 carcinoid cancer. Here's his latest entry.


I am The Mayor!

Everyone on Foursquare probably knows someone who is "the mayor" of something. Around here, you could probably even be the Mayor of Greenbrae. That might give a smile to Larkspur Mayor Len Rifkind and his cohorts on the City Council — including Brad Marsh, who lives in Greenbrae.

Being the Mayor of Larkspur … or Corte Madera … or any town is hard enough. With Foursquare, you can be the mayor of a handful of places however, as long as you check in often enough.

I am the mayor of the Marin Cancer Institute on Foursquare. It seems like sort of a dubious honor, but I'll take it. I can't, however, take any credit for the success of the Institute.

The Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons
has granted its Outstanding Achievement Award to the Greenbrae-based Marin Cancer Institute.

The Marin Cancer Institute certainly deserves the distinction, with its top-notch medical team, but especially for the services it offers patients: nutritional advice, counseling, massage therapy and more. There are some changes coming to the Institute as well, it seems, with plans to develop new spaces for lectures and demonstrations on nutrition.

With any hope, this recognition will also bring an influx of funds. It's little secret that I'd like to see Marin General Hospital and the Cancer Institute promote more a financial aid fund for cancer patients.

Maybe that can be my next mayoral campaign promise: Financial assistance for those in need.

Every time I open my mail I'm reminded of just how expensive it is to be sick. I have a great insurance program through my work but still I have trouble paying my medical bills when a single trip to radiology costs more than $300.

I can only imagine how tough it is for folks who don't have insurance. A lot of people are cutting back on expenses and, unfortunately, medical insurance is sometimes considered a luxury that they just can't afford. However, we can't really seem to live without it.

Here are a few tips from the American Cancer Society's website for uninsured patients:

• An independent broker may be able to help you find a reasonable benefit package. Group insurance is better for most people than individual insurance.

• Getting a job with a large company is the surest way to get access to group insurance.

• As of 2010, your state should offer some type of Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) to cover people who have not had insurance for 6 months or more and have cancer or another pre-existing condition. Also, some states have health insurance options for low-income residents, in which the state pays for part of the coverage.

• Find out if there are health maintenance organizations (HMOs) or health care service plans in your community. You can sometimes get very good coverage through these plans. Many have an open enrollment period each year during which applicants are accepted regardless of past health problems.

• If you have been covered under your employer-sponsored plan for at least one day you should be able to keep your medical insurance through COBRA. Your employer should be able to tell you, in writing, about your COBRA option. For more information, please see the section, "COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget and Reconciliation Act of 1986)"

• Find out if you can apply for group insurance through fraternal or professional organizations (such as those for retired persons, teachers, social workers, realtors, etc.). Look for a "guaranteed issue" plan.

• Look into Medicare, which covers most people who are 65 or older, or children who are permanently disabled and have been getting Social Security benefits for 2 years.

• See if you are eligible for state or local benefits, such as Medicaid if you are in a low-income bracket or are unemployed.

• If you are employed, don't leave your job until you have found out if you can convert your group insurance to an individual plan. Some group plans have a clause that allows people to convert to individual plans, but premiums may be much higher. These individual plans usually must be applied for within 30 days of leaving a job. (This is different from COBRA, which allows you to stay with the group insurance but only for a limited time.)

In looking at insurance options, find out about differences in coverage. Ask about choice of doctors, protection against cancellations, and increases in premium costs. Find out what the plan really covers, especially in the event of a catastrophic illness (a serious illness, like cancer, that can add up bills quickly). How much will the deductibles and co-pays cost you? (Sometimes higher deductibles go along with better or more complete coverage.)

For more information on cancer and carcinoid cancer, consider these sites:

Carcinoid Cancer Foundation

Caring for Carcinoid Foundation

Carcinoid Cancer Awareness Network


Stanford Medicine Cancer Institute

Cedars-Sinai Hospital, Los Angeles

Marin Cancer Institute

University Hospital, Basel, Switzerland

Jimmy V Foundation

American Cancer Society

beatricepeyton May 08, 2012 at 10:16 AM
Small business owners and individuals are becoming more and more frustrated trying to get health insurance, best way to find is shop around and check prices i would recommend "Penny Health" to anyone.


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