On August 20, 2005 my wife and I sat in the office of a world famous surgeon from Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Saturday appointment struck us as an unusual time to meet with such a prestigious doctor. The hospital was like a ghost town – darkened hallways, empty offices and a skeletal staff poised at the main entrances for security. To our surprise, there were several families going in and out of the doctor’s office. He appeared without the traditional entourage of receptionists and assistants. Chipper and buoyant, the doctor greeted us with a glow and a smile.
Despite his cheerful demeanor, he delivered a very intimidating message – a 15 percent chance of surviving esophageal cancer - if they followed the traditional approach to treatment. After that initial prognosis, we had a constant tug of war between my family and the insurance company. The insurance company dictated the location of my tests and their costs. This did not seem overbearing until my first chemo treatments were called “experimental” and nearly $10,000 of expenses were racked up in less than two weeks by various additional, preliminary procedures.
It seemed to us that during the first month of my treatment, more hours were spent working on the nuances of the insurance puzzle than the actually treating me. My problem was that postponement or denial of treatment meant possible death. I, like thousands of others, could not have survived a six-month delay of the special care Hopkins offered. In fact, if I had been treated at a different local hospital, I would probably not be writing this article. I would not have died from cancer, expiring because of a lack of timely medical attention.
Hopkins eventually assigned a team of five doctors to manage my case because of the danger and the complications that ensued. The rationed health care approach of a government funded health care system would have undoubtedly blocked my last chance for survival. I cannot help but feel concern for the thousands of others who will be caught in the same position in the decades ahead.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.