Thursday, August 20, 2009

Health Care Stories: East Texas

Willis shares his Tale of the $3000 Mole.

About a year ago a mole on my right forearm bled when I scratched it. I went to my GP the next day, and he said not to mess around and get to a dermatologist right away. I was able to get in the next day and the mole was removed for a biopsy.

Less than a week later the results came in as “aggressive melanoma,” which meant they needed more skin to ensure they got it all and they had to remove and biopsy “sentinel lymph modes” to ensure it hadn’t spread. In that week I went from being under the care of my GP to a situation that now included a dermatologist, an oncologist, and a surgeon. I did out-patient surgery shortly thereafter.

I had to arrive a couple of hours ahead of the surgery so they could inject the mole removal site with some radioactive dye (or something like that, it burned and hurt like hell when they did it), then wait a bit, and do a CT Scan of where the dye went so they could tell which lymph nodes to remove for the biopsy. The injection had to be done by an additional doctor.

From the CT scan, the surgeon marked on my shoulder and my armpit where the nodes were and they put me out and went after them as well as removed more skin from the mole removal site (that's a picture of the scar up top). About a week after the surgery, the biopsy results of the removed nodes and the additional skin indicated I was clean of the cancer subject to quarterly blood tests and inspections by the dermatologist.

So far I’m still clean.

The cost was about $18,000 all told. Our insurance covered it except for our deductible, which ended up being about $3000, about twice what I thought it should be. I’m not sure, but I think it was because so many doctors were involved and each of them started a new “deductible clock” with my insurance company. I say, “I’m not sure,” because the billing was very confusing and made it difficult to determine who was due what and if my portion was correct.

I’m not dissatisfied although I can’t believe how high the total was. However, had I not caught this or had I chose to ignore the bleeding mole this may have had a very different outcome. I’m very fortunate.

East Texas, USA

Please send your story to


Utah Savage said...

Please send all your healthcare stories to as well as here. Firedoglake is working very hard to get these stories to Congress by the time the recess ends. I donated $25. as well. This is the fight of our lives. We worked hard to elect Obama, and I did it with walking door to door, making small donations, making call and I'm still doing all of that now on behalf of our health and economic future. I will happily send you my health care nightmare. Now I have medicare and I want everyone to have the same public option as I have.

Paula said...

You're one lucky dude. I'm sure your doctors told you what might have happened if you had not had that surgery as quickly as you did. Your chances for living long enough to work off that co-pay were getting slimmer by the day, if not the hour.
Best wishes, and be sure to slather up in sunblock!
Paula (another lucky melanoma survivor)