In 1998, I was diagnosed with late-stage Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of cancer. The original course of treatment was supposed to be chemotherapy, followed by radiation; both are standard cancer treatments. However, it was determined by doctors after the chemo that the tumor on my lung didn’t shrink enough for radiation to be effective.
Thankfully, my oncologist sent me to Hackensack University Medical Center to see if I could take part in a relatively new form of treatment for 1999: the stem cell transplant. The doctors there concluded that an autologous stem cell transplant was my best bet for survival (this while I’m only 28 years old), so plans went forward. Of course, as an experimental treatment, it had to be approved by my employer-provided health insurance.
The process for the stem cell transplant required me to be hospitalized for several days while I was given high-dose chemotherapy. “Day Zero” was the day on which the stem cells are re-introduced, and then they keep you until your blood counts rise to a certain level, because the chemo essentially wipes out your immune system. (Please do not consider this a complete view of the process, since it’s been 10 years since I had it.)
On Day Zero, you literally have no immune system (post-transplant, i had to get all of my baby immunizations again… hmm, wonder if one of those vaccines gave me mental retardation… ). Since hospitals are germ-laden, the hospital typically moves patients after Day Zero to a floor in a nearby hotel kept specifically for these kind of procedures.
My insurance provider at the time, Guardian, thankfully approved the overall procedure. However, they refused to allow me to be transferred to the hotel after Day Zero. They refused, depsite the fact that putting me up in the hotel was cheaper, and better for me personally, as the risk of infection in the hospital was pretty high.
Thankfully, 10 years later I’m still here, but it goes to show that the insurance companies aren’t terribly efficient, and don’t necessarily put the patient’s health above all else.
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