How does someone afford the best lung cancer treatment on Medicare?


How does someone afford the best cancer treatment on Medicare without wiping out your entire savings? My husband age 79 has a tumor on his right lung that is thought have spread to his left 10th rib (bone destruction). Several enlarged lymph nodes in this chest. Lung Biopsy on Monday. He also has been in a walker since he lost the use of his legs 3 yrs ago. I'm only 62 and not in great health myself ( rare autoimmune disease that painful). We have 2 15 yr old disabled dogs. It's hard for me to care for my dogs and my husband since I'm in constant pain and suffer from chronic anxiety and depression which I'm being treated for but lately it's hasn't been helping. We live conservatively because he knows I will need to survive on his 401k. Right now I purchase health insurance at group rates through the company he worked for, but only if he's alive. Buying health insurance on the open market will be unaffordable for me given my age and not being eligible for Medicare yet. I'm not entitled to any of his retirement checks from previous jobs, because he activated his retirement at age 59 and he was married to his previous wife when he did that. Under federal law she would get his retirement. So his 401k is what I would have to live on. We have been married for 19 yrs. My fear is and his fear too, is in order for him to get treatment for his cancer, it will wipe out our savings and I will have nothing to live on. I'm scared to death of losing the love of my life, but I want the best possible treatment for him, but I'm so afraid of how I'm going to be able to live if our finances get wiped out . He has about 200k in his 401 and I have a small IRA . I feel guilty for even being concerned about myself, especially if he chooses not to be treated because he doesn't want me to worry about how I'm going to survive. He's like..a very unselfish man. I don't know how much his treatment will cost and I realize it all depends on how long he will need treatment for and what kind. I really just wanted to vent here and don't expect much advice. I just have no family or friends to lean on to even have help caring for him in our home and I know what nursing homes cost of it gets to the point where I can't care for him. I know I need to trust God and I'm constantly praying for His Peace and trying to give all my burdens to him, but I keep taking it back if I feel overwhelmed. Can anyone else relate?

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So sorry about his pension. I know of men who put their wife as survivor and the wife died before he did but company wouldn't change his pension to a higher amt. My brother gave his wife their savings plan which amt to a lot so she would not get his pension.
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JoAnn29..ive been off work for 15 years but not for disability. The work credits for disability have to occur in the last 10 yrs. I wouldn't quality for SSI becasue of our assets and income.
But yes..i plan on making an appt with SS . I have my own work record , and My husband started collecting his at 62. I know my benefits will be higher as a widow, but I understand it's a complex formulary.
We hired an attorney years back about getting the survivors pension benefit switched to me.
He wrote a letter to his former employees retirement benefits dept, and included a copy of his divorce decree which stated she wasn't entitled to his retirement so he requested a change, but it can't be done. The retirement center provided the attorney with a copy of the rules of irrevocable and that those rules trump the divorce decree. His ex-wife has since remarried so she won't get it either. Sadly he took a reduction in his pension checks so she was able to collect something if he died.
I have since did a lot of research and even read cases in different states where this same situation was fought in the courts and it could not be overturned! Fair? sucks!!
The only thing my husband was able to change me on, was the company provided 10k Life Insurance benefit. That's the only life insurance he has. After his divorce at age 58, he swore he would never marry again and so he terminated a few other policies he had.
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Lots of great advice Veronica91 and GardenArtist..thank you so much!
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Thank you CountryMousse..good advise I needed to hear
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You do receive SS? At 62 you can start drawing won't get as much as you would at 66. Does he get SS?
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With all ur problems u don't get Social Security Disability? With disability u get Medicare and Medicaid. I would check into that pension thing. Does ur husband have former wife as his survivor on his pensions. Does his divorce decree says she gets it? Did she remarry? If she remarried may not be entitled to his pension. I have never heard of a Federal Law saying this. I have heard of a pension being split upon divorce. I would really look to the divorce decree. If I am right and she isn't entitled to it if she remarrys but he put her down as a survivor he can change that. Companies usually will not honor a pension payout for a remarried spouse.
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Adding to CM's and Veronica's advice, I think this is how I'd address the situation.

The Diagnosis:

1. After the lung biopsy, have a good discussion with the oncologist, asking what the options are (probably chemo and radiation, which I wouldn't recommend as I saw the devastating effects of it on my sister), ask what stage it is, and how far it's metastasized.

2. Some oncologists have social workers; if not, there might be one at an affiliated infusion center, where chemo would be administrated. I doubt you would have to agree to chemo to consult with an SW, who could more than likely help you with a guide to what Medicare would or would not cover. This could help you "get a handle" on what the financial exposure would be.

3. My sister's bone metastasis spread to her spine, which affected her ability to walk. The frustration and depression this caused was indescribable - she used to be a runner. Inability to walk or just stand changes the dynamics of a person's life.

4. Research your area and try to find a Gilda's Club for support, of medical concerns, family concerns, for activities with other families in similar situations, and just for companionship. Ours was excellent; although it's been about 15 years, I still feel it's an good resource of support and knowledge.

5. Ask the oncologist if palliative care is an option.

Your Medical Care:

6. After you have a handle on his medical costs, calculate the costs for you to live alone, and determine how far his 401K could take you. And as Veronica advises, evaluate your own financial situation, specifically living elsewhere or staying where you are.

7. It's often recommended to move to an apartment or other living abode, so be sure to factor in those cost if that's a consideration. I could NEVER live in an apartment again and put up with someone else's noise, so for me it would be cheaper to live alone. And remember that if you now own your home free and clear and move, you might end up with mortgage payments, based solely on your own financial situation.

These are tough evaluations to make; do it little by little so it's not overwhelming.

Other issues:

8. Some senior centers have social workers; you might want to contact them for recommendations on services available in your area.

I hope for your's and your husband's sake that you're able to achieve some peace and quiet time, and come to some workable conclusions.
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First fall your husband is elidgeable for Medicare and can purchase supplementary insurance. In which case his treatment will only be the co-pays which although not cheap will not wipe out your savings.
As far as you are concerned in three years you can take Medicare plus a supplementary if you wish. When your husband dies you would be entitled to a portion of his SS.
What caused hubby to loose the use of his legs.
I hate to say this but your husband and your heath comes before the disabled dogs. I too am an animal lover but it has to be humans first if you can't give them proper care. talk to hubby's Dr and ask about in home care. You may be able to get a CNA for 3 days a week for a couple of hours which will at least help with bathing changing bed etc.
There will be costs associated with your husband's treatment there is no denying that but please don't go into this with false hope and agree to outrageous treatment which may only give him a few more months of unpleasant life.
It is already suspected that hubby has lung cancer which possibly has spread to a rib and some lymph glands. Once cancer spreads to bone it is a very serious condition and tough choices have to be made. Treatment with RT and Chemo is rarely pleasant.
Your husband is the important person here and the best choices have to be made based on the evidence, his decisions and the Drs recommendations. No harm in seeking a second opinion before making any decisions.
This is not going to be easy for either of you but try and keep an open mind and follow the Lord's directions.
Get the facts about your retirement income , talk to SS, be realistic about what you can afford in living expenses. For example should you keep a car or use taxis or public transport. Write stuff down but caome back to it later because something new will jump out at you. try not to panic and seek professional help if needed.
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I wonder if you are perhaps not seeing the important false belief in your thinking: that "the best" medical care a) must be the most expensive; and b), sadly, can necessarily save your husband's life provided every penny you have goes towards it.

I do not for a second think you are wrong, let alone selfish, to include your own future wellbeing in the decisions that have to be made. You can't live on fresh air. Your husband does not want to leave his wife to face hardship.

But don't concentrate on the money, especially not for now. Concentrate on the clinical and care decisions to be made. You don't yet have all the information you need but it won't be long until the results are in and then you can form a plan based on facts, not anxieties.

Meanwhile keep venting here, and I'm so sorry for what you're both going through.
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