Getting Real about the Impact of Cancer on Finances-a Texas Resource

When people get real about the impact of cancer on their bodies, relationships, careers, and energy, I hear amazing stories of suffering and resilience.  I am always inspired by the ingenious ways people survive and how they sometimes find support in surprising places.  It’s not unusual to hear that a good friend you counted on doesn’t show up for you while you are in treatment, but you are delighted by a new friend and caring connections coming from people you don’t know as well.

This week I’m sharing a guest blog post from my friend Julie Sullivan, a longtime Wednesday Wellness Warrior, who wants to get the word out about an important financial resource in Texas that some people don’t hear about.  Please share this information with others who could use it.

The Story of Self Employed Artisans 

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October of 2013. (Stage IIb, ER+, HER-2+) My treatment plan included a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and Herceptin therapy.

My husband and I are both self-employed artisans and our annual income is low, so I visited with the financial advisor at the large, well respected oncology center in my community to see about any financial aid resources. We were not eligible for assistance through this center because we have money in savings, own a home and have retirement savings. The financial counselor had me screened for Texas Medicaid benefits through a phone interview with a third party. I was declined due to retirement savings.

All of this was happening just before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would go into effect in January, 2104. Then an information bombshell hit: my center (and my oncologist) would be refusing to accept insurance plans through the ACA!* For many years we had been purchasing costly private health insurance with very high deductibles. The financial relief I anticipated through the ACA was now ripped away.

Devastated, I contacted the Breast Cancer Resource Center who put me in touch with Community Action, Inc. of Central Texas, an organization that is a Breast and Cervical Cancer Services contractor authorized to accept my application for Texas Medicaid for Breast and Cervical Cancer (MBCC).

I applied and was accepted. (Applicants must go through an authorized contractor; one cannot apply directly to MBCC.)

Unlike traditional Texas Medicaid, the MBCC program allows for recipients to have retirement savings and own a home yet still receive benefits. It is income based, not asset based.

MBCC has been a financial life saver for my household.

We spent nearly $20,000 out-of-pocket (deductible and co-pays) in just those last two and half months of 2013. I knew I faced treatments throughout 2014 (Herceptin until December 2014) and reconstruction surgery in 2015. With private health insurance and no relief from an ACA plan, these expenses would have forced us to either sell our house or bankrupt our retirement savings.

Instead, throughout 2014 and 2015 my treatments and surgeries were paid for through MBCC. It also paid for an unrelated emergency appendectomy in the midst of cancer treatment!

One final, and very important point is this: Your cancer treatment provider will not screen you for MBCC, they will only screen for traditional Medicaid. You must seek this benefit on your own. (This experience taught me that providers look for the best payment options, not all the payment options.)

I hope the information from my story might benefit you or someone you know.

Texas Medicaid for Breast and Cervical Cancer

There is a lot information online about MBCC. A recipient must be an uninsured Texas resident—and also a legal U.S. resident—between the ages of 18-64 and not eligible for traditional Medicaid.

Briefly, the income requirement per household is up to 200% of the federal poverty level. Household income means all income received by any persons living under the same roof. In my case it was just my husband and me. If an applicant has a working adult child living in the home, that income would be included in the household income.

For example, for a single person this is income of $1,980 per month or $23,760. For two people, annual income of $32,040, for three it is $40,320 and so on.

Applicants must provide necessary documentation—including proof of income—and complete some paperwork.

Helpful links:

Texas Benefits website

—Click on “Health Care”

—Under the Health care for women section, click on Medicaid for Breast and Cervical Cancer.”

MBCC financial eligibility requirements.

Breast Cancer Resource Center (Austin, Texas)

Community Action, Inc. of Central Texas

*My Oncology Center changed course in February, 2014, and began accepting ACA health insurance plans.