On his 34th birthday — four days before his health insurance package took effect — Jason Bush was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
CSU’s graduate student health insurance would not cover the rapid series of tests and a surgery to try and remove the cancer, leaving Bush with extensive debt.
Not only did the insurance fail to provide coverage for the tests and surgery when he needed them, it also failed to provide coverage for any cancer-related tests after Aug. 24 because his ailment was considered a pre-existing condition.
“It’s a fatal disease, (when I found out I wasn’t covered) it made me very angry and frustrated,” Bush said. “I felt like I’d been misled. But I just didn’t read the fine print.”
CSU graduate students must either purchase the university’s insurance plan, provided by Summit America Insurance Service, or have a current plan that offers comparable coverage.
While this example may appear to be yet another example of the behemoth insurance industry taking advantage of its consumers, Steve Blom, executive director of CSU’s Health Network,said health care providers are legally inclined to follow the strict outlines of each individual contract.
“Insurance jargon makes (Bush’s cancer) a preexisting condition,” Blom said.
Luckily, Bush was able to receive financial aid from the Colorado Indignant Care Program, a state health insurance program that pays for a percentage of any of his hospital expenses but excludes cancer specific treatment.
“It helps defray a chunk of the expenses,” Bush said.
On Aug. 19, Bush started feeling intense abdominal pains and wrote them off in lieu of his birthday. But his mother, a nurse, convinced him to go to Hartshorn Health Center.
While he was lying on the table waiting for the doctor, Bush remembered a lump on his testes he had discovered over the summer.
After telling the doctor, he underwent tests and was diagnosed with Stage three A testicular cancer, which can be found in the male sex organs and may spread to the lungs or the lymph nodes.
Within 24 hours of being diagnosed, Bush had undergone surgery to remove the cancer that had rapidly spread through his body. He said he’d always been “healthy and active” but had known about the lump while he was working on his graduate thesis in Mexico and chose to avoid the signs.
To help cope with the financial “burden” and physical exhaustion during his chemotherapy, Bush said CSU Anthropology Department faculty members and his fellow graduate students not only accompanied him to his doctor appointments, but also started the Jason Bush Fund.
The fund raises money to cushion the costs of his treatments through benefits and online donations and has raised more than $20,000 to date, Bush said. The funds raised will help to cover the bills that are not absorbed by the CICP, and in the end, he estimates he will have to personally pay for between $30,000 and $50,000.
The Jason Bush Fund will be hosting a benefit this Saturday at Avogadro’s Number on Mason Street. The event will include a silent auction, food and performance from local bands.
Bush said he could not imagine being a cancer victim and not have the support network he was blessed with to help him manage this huge change in his life.
“I’d imagine one of the scariest things would be to not have, financial part aside, people to just cook you soup,” Bush said.
Just a week after finishing his last dose of chemotherapy, Bush said he is beginning to feel better every day and getting back into his “normal routine” by working on his thesis. He said the entire experience of learning about his cancer and the “emotional rollercoaster” of cancer treatment has humbled him.
“This could have been largely avoidable. The thing about being young is, you take for granted invincibility,” he said, later adding that he would encourage young people to not discredit the physical signs of a problem and consider the possibilities.
“Because I sure as hell didn’t until I was forced to.”
Senior Reporter Kirsten Silveira can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.