ERIC FRUHSTORFER, 64, dropped his insurance in 2002 to keep his business afloat. Three years later, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer, and his bladder was removed. Last summer, he found that the cancer had metastasized; unable to tolerate chemo, he has opted for only palliative care.
“I’d had an easy life as an executive at Van Cleef & Arpels, I’d started a multimedia production company. That worked well until 9/11, when the market got tough. I had twelve people working with me; I had to reduce it to six, and I gave up my health insurance to pay my guys. Then, in 2005, I started having symptoms. The day after Christmas, my physician said I had bladder cancer. I had three procedures, including a radical cystectomy, taking off the whole bladder.
How did I pay? In other times, I helped people through college, and the cosmos seems to be paying it back. My friends helped—six-digit figures altogether. After the third surgery, I had no money left. I got temporary Medicaid, which lapses on June 26. I am under review to get full Medicaid, which is likely, and I turn 65 in June, so I will get Medicare.
In July 2006, a cat scan showed metastases. For chemotherapy, Sloan-Kettering went down from $100,000-plus to $50,000; I had 25. And the answer was no—either the full amount or nothing. Bellevue would like you to have insurance, but they treat you with respect if you don’t. So that is where I went. Unfortunately, I got very bad infections. The choice was dying from cancer or dying from chemo. So I am beyond the reach of classical medicine. I have no idea if I’ll be here in one month, six months, a year. Statistically, it’s six months, but it was six months last year, so we never know.”