By Consumers For Quality Care, on June 10, 2019
It is no secret that the health care system can often feel daunting for consumers. Research conducted by Consumers for Quality Care found that 91 percent of respondents wanted to better understand the costs of their health care; 87 percent said it is difficult to get itemized bills from hospitals; and 75 percent said medical bills are confusing. Even for those who have an intimate understanding of the health care system, it can be difficult to navigate care. Consumers for Quality Care recently highlighted the story of a physician struggling to get the care he needs covered by his insurer.
As a health care reporter, Alexandra Glorioso has a good understanding of the nation’s systems. However, that did not fully prepare her for her own battle with stage 2 breast cancer last year. Glorioso sat down with STAT to discuss her experiences and how her outlook has changed.
Glorioso’s professional experience did not shield her from the frustrating experiences that many consumers face. Glorioso received her treatment at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. In January, the center told Glorioso that it was canceling her pre-operative MRI because her insurance had denied coverage of the scan.
Like every patient ever, I get a regular stream of insurance denials on my tests. And typically I go through the rigamarole of getting my doctor to call and all that. In this case, my doctor or somebody from his office called about an important MRI I needed right before my surgery. That was a test that they needed to know where to perform surgery on my breast and my armpit to take out the tumor. It was a critical test. And, for some reason, they still denied it.
Glorioso was frustrated and tried to figure out how much the test would cost.
I was just so mad, I called Moffitt [Cancer Center] to try and talk to them about it, to try and figure out how much my out-of-pocket costs would be. And I was sent around to all these different departments and then finally to a fax machine, and just hung up. So I literally couldn’t find out how much I would have to pay for the test.
Glorioso was unable to determine the out-of-pocket cost for the test and therefore did not know if she could afford to pay for it, so the cancer center would not schedule the MRI. Glorioso says that she was furious that she would not be able to get the test she needed.
Glorioso posted about her frustrations on Twitter, where a Tallahassee-based lobbyist saw it. The lobbyist, who Glorioso did not know, knew the founder of the Moffitt Cancer Center, who put his personal executive team on Glorioso’s case. Ultimately, they were able to get Glorioso’s insurance to cover the MRI. She says that she never expected that kind of outcome from her tweet.
Glorioso says that her experience battling cancer has surely changed the way that she understands the system, both as a consumer and as a reporter.
I hate to say it, but I was a 31-year-old kid in a way. I never had a serious illness. I never had to deal with hospitals in a meaningful way. I never had to feel skeptical of my physicians. I just didn’t have that burden.