YOUR LETTERS: Ironworkers Local 396 saved my mother’s life


I am the daughter of a proud union Ironworker.

My stepdad, Ed Tucker, was a Merchant Marine, a Marine and a Local 396 Ironworker. He was a proud American and a proud Union member. He passed away and my Mom was covered by his retiree health insurance coverage from Local 396 and United Health Care.

The beginning of May 2020, I noticed that my Mom hadn’t been feeling well and she was losing weight. I insisted she go to the doctor for a check-up.

On May 4, she went to her primary care physician and got a blood test and a CT scan. May 6 the doctor called and told her there were spots on her liver and her lung and referred her to an oncologist at Mercy South. May 8 at 10 a.m. we were sitting in the oncologist’s office and he told us that she had Stage 4 cancer on her liver and her lung and that he wanted her to get an MRI. He called Big Mercy and at 2:00 that afternoon she was getting the MRI.

On May 11, we were back in the oncologist’s office and he told us that she had cancer on her liver, her lung, her brain, and her spine. May 13 she went in for a liver biopsy and to have a chemo port put in. We were back in his office on May 15 to discuss treatment options. May 19 she started chemo and weekly has been receiving treatments and visiting her oncologist.

The reason I listed all those dates is that I want you to notice that – within only TWO WEEKS – she was able to get tested, get diagnosed and receive treatment. All this while COVID was grinding things to a halt. There was no waiting, no hesitation.

The oncologist was surprised that we didn’t have to fight to get her approved for treatment. He told us that most every other insurance company would have DENIED treatment (her diagnosis was that bad). But, United Health Care approved it. Not only did they approve it, they covered it.

Did you know that the chemotherapy drug, Paclitaxe, costs $7,456.23 for 128 mgs? Did you know that Pembrolizumab (an immunotherapy drug) costs $39,101.81 for 200 mgs?  Every week that she goes for treatment the cost is between $15,000 and $50,000. Every week!

The cost for an MRI and CT scan was $9,777.78. She has needed three of these so far.

In the last 16 weeks, with doctors’ visits, tests and treatments, her medical bills have added up to over $300,000!!!

Mind blowing, right?? But, thanks to the union, she won’t have to sell her house and everything she has to pay medical bills. She has had to pay $0. Yep, you read that correctly –
ZERO dollars.

The oncologist told me that without treatment she may have one to three months but WITH treatment she may have up to 18 months.

I am an only child and having this extra time with my Mom is priceless. And I have God, Ironworkers Local 396 and United Health Care to thank for that.

A thankful union daughter
(Lauren Marshall is a Labor Tribune advertising representative.)


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