Cancer survivor pushing to close loophole in health coverage through 'Cancer Treatment Fairness Act'
By Tracy Jacim, Reporter
WINTER PARK, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) -- Patrick Foley is the father of 22-year-old cancer survivor Tricia Foley, and he is also the face of many families who make sacrifices so that they may be able to pay for life-saving medications for their loved ones.
"Because I was a teenager, I had all these symptoms that were written off as being a teenager," said Tricia, "so I probably had cancer close to five years before it was diagnosed."
Diagnosed with stage IV thyroid cancer, Tricia had to immediately undergo surgery to remove her thyroid and begin oral radiation/iodine treatments. But the Foley's quickly discovered that oral cancer medications aren't covered, like cancer medication administered intravenously.
With the newer, often more effective, oral medications, you pay a percentage in the state of Florida and not a flat co-pay. That out-of-pocket expense can top $9,000 to $10,000 a month.
"There are so many people whose families can't sacrifice, and their children and families can't do anything to help them, so they're just helpless," Tricia said. "It's a death sentence. They can't win."
But Tricia's family found a way. They were lucky. Tricia's mom picked up extra hours at her full time job, in order to keep the family's insurance and make some extra money. As Patrick was forced to let his small business go under, he picked up the task of caring for his daughter.
Today, Tricia is cured, but the Foley's are still crawling out of medical debt.
Patrick hasn't had the luxury of rebuilding his business. The family needed money fast, and he's taken to the road as a trucker.
Tricia said, "If the insurance companies would update this policy with how far cancer research has come, they'd give people a fighting chance!"
Twenty-one other states currently have legislation which mandates that insurance companies cover oral cancer medications and offer the same financial coverage as intravenous cancer medications.
The Susan G. Komen Foundation and other breast cancer groups, some oncologists, patients, and survivors are pushing for the same laws in Florida.
We spoke with the Executive Dir. of the Central Florida Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Stefanie Steele, who told us, "Doctors are having to put their patients on medications that they know are not the standard of care or the most effective right now."