April 8, 2021

Okemos woman with terminal cancer having trouble with insurance

OKEMOS, Mich. (WLNS) — Most people have had to go through the run around with…

OKEMOS, Mich. (WLNS) — Most people have had to go through the run around with an insurance company for one thing or another at some point.

Generally speaking, it doesn’t happen while fighting for your life, but that’s exactly what 74-year-old Joan Jonckheere is going through.

The Okemos resident was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2019 and has since had chemotherapy, radiation and even had one of her lungs removed. Jonckheere’s diagnosis is terminal, but with the help of her oncologist, she found a drug that could help prolong her life.

The issue is the price tag. It falls in a bit of a gray area between her prescription insurance and her medical insurance and if not covered would be $15,000 per month. So, this 74-year-old, who lives alone has spent weeks looking for answers and hopes to help others avoid the same headache.

“People on the end stage of life shouldn’t have to go through this,” Jonckheere said. “I don’t know what we can do government wise or nation wise, but this just isn’t right… If there’s enough people that get together and lobby or something to get the drug companies so they don’t charge so much.”

Helping is something the retired nurse has always done. Even with this diagnosis she — with the help of a few friends — has made more than two-thousand masks during the pandemic for her church.

She also used to have a business making Care Bears — stuffed animals who she dressed in clothes of someone who recently died to give as a memento to a grieving loved one.

“I’ve always wanted to give back,” she said.

After three weeks of back and forth with her insurance, getting denied twice in the process, Jonckheere found out Tuesday morning her insurance will be accepted. However, it will still cost nearly $4,000 per month.

And she has good insurance — Blue Cross, Blue Shield for her medical and United Health for her prescriptions — but knows others aren’t so lucky.

“Not everybody has the energy, the support system and doctors maybe that will do all of that (and help),” Jonckheere said. “How many people can one, afford the 15,000 let alone the 4,000? So (I hope we can) do something in the government to get these costs down so people in their last stage of life don’t have to take on a part time job to figure out, negotiate all of this.”

For now, Jonckheere syas she’s grateful for the time she has. Tuesday afternoon she took part in a virtual line dancing class after her doctor appointment. Her book group is later this week. In the end, her goal remains the same as it ever was.

“That’s the point,” Jonckheere said. I want to help other people.”