Cancer diagnosis, no insurance: Bicking’s story is familiar, scary
'It’s time for us to help her'
There are few things more disquieting than being told, “you have cancer.”
Especially if you are told you have cancer, and don’t have health insurance, or only an inadequate “catastrophic” insurance policy, that ensures a major illness will be a financial catastrophe, as well as a medical one.
That’s what Linda Bicking is faced with, after a run with her dog in January put her into the emergency room. The 55-year-old, a single mother of two adult children, works as the manager at the Print Shop on Marco Island, had a procedure similar to a colonoscopy done in February.
“Years ago, the company gave us a choice – insurance, or additional money. I’m the one who is always healthy – doesn’t get a cold, never has the flu. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink,” she said. “Now I stay up at night, wondering what did I do” to bring on the dread disease.
Adding insult to injury, Bicking said that she learned she had colon cancer from “a girl in the doctor’s office – it was a 20-second call. ‘You have cancer.’ ” She was scheduled for surgery on a Wednesday.
“The hospital said they would call Monday to go over how to prep for the procedure,” said Bicking. “The call I got was from the finance department saying I needed to put down a $12,000 deposit for the surgery. I don’t have $12,000 lying around.” She was told her surgery appointment was forfeited.
Bicking couldn’t even get her medical records until Kelly Sprigg, a friend who is a registered nurse, made some calls on her behalf. Now, said Bicking, “I am in the queue for Moffitt (Cancer Center in Tampa) to see if they will take me on as a charity case. Healthcare is a jungle. It seems to come down to who you know.”
“Linda has been such an asset to us,” said Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Dianna Dohm. “She is so creative, so easy to work with. If you are in a bind (on a printing job,) Linda will pull it out. Everybody goes to Linda.”
Bicking is another casualty of our medical delivery setup that makes obtaining preventative care prohibitive for many, and instead forces society to deal with the much higher costs of treating full-blown diseases. She is waiting for the next open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act insurance, and afraid that the provision mandating that even those with preexisting conditions cannot be turned away will be killed.
Before, she said, “I made just too much to qualify for a subsidy, and not enough to afford it. It would have been $750 a month – that’s a car payment and a house payment.” Bicking’s son Tyler lives with her, and has been working two jobs to help, while Linda continues to work full-time at the Print Shop, which recently changed ownership. She has worked for them since 1996.
“I don’t want to throw my employer under the bus,” she said. “They have been very helpful through this.”
Bicking has $50,000 in bills from emergency room visits and procedures she has already undergone, even before dealing with the unknown costs to come. They are unknown because she has been stymied in trying to get basic information on her diagnosis, treatment plan and prognosis.
“I haven’t gotten the thing that says here’s what you’ve got, here’s what we’ll do,” she said.
Sprigg and Sue Olszak of the American Cancer Society, who Bicking counts as a friend, suggested she start a GoFundMe page, and helped her set it up.
“She helps so many of us with printing,” said Olszak.
“She does so much for the community,” said Sprigg. “Now it’s time for us to help her.”
To access Bicking’s GoFundMe page, go online to www.gofundme.com and search for Linda Bicking.