Health & Family

Cancer patient saw costs jump

Retired Charlotte florist Jimmy White and his wife, Martha, paid more than $8,000 for his cancer therapy in pill form even though insurance had paid the entire cost of chemotherapy by injection. White is diagnosed with amyloidosis.
Retired Charlotte florist Jimmy White and his wife, Martha, paid more than $8,000 for his cancer therapy in pill form even though insurance had paid the entire cost of chemotherapy by injection. White is diagnosed with amyloidosis. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Jimmy White of Charlotte is an example of a cancer patient whose out-of-pocket bills jumped when he switched from injections to pills.

Although he is covered by Medicare and his out-of-pocket costs would not be affected by a change in state law, his situation is similar to that of privately insured patients who would benefit from the proposed “oral chemo parity” bill.

In 2013, when White, 75, got chemotherapy injections to treat his rare cancer, Medicare and private insurance covered the entire cost – $3,360 per week over nine months.

But when the retired florist switched to cancer treatment in pill form, he had to pay out-of-pocket, anywhere from $500 to $2,500 a month. Over that time, he and his wife, Martha, paid more than $8,000 for Revlimid.

He has changed to another drug, Pomalyst, also in pill form. It will cost the Whites $800-900 per month out-of-pocket. And he’s not sure if it will improve or extend his life. His application for financial assistance from the drug company had been rejected until Tuesday, when he learned it will pick up the cost.

Until then, Martha White said, “You just wonder, do you want to deplete your life savings?”

Karen Garloch: 704-358-5078, @kgarloch

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