Woman With Colon Cancer Turns To Pasta Fundraisers To Finance Chemo After Insurers Deny Her Coverage

One of the worst abuses of the private insurance industry is its practice of excluding people with certain pre-existing conditions from coverage, effectively denying them the right to get adequate health care coverage because covering them is not profitable enough.

Iowan grandmother Deb Robben knows what life is like with a pre-existing condition. Four years ago, she shopped the insurance market, looking for a company that would cover her. Unfortunately, after a lengthy search, she was unable to find a single insurer that was willing to offer her coverage; the companies denied her coverage because they considered the benign cysts in her breasts to be a pre-existing condition.

Last December, Robben was diagnosed with colon cancer. Because she has been unable to obtain insurance, she has had to pay the costs for treatment out-of-pocket. For chemotherapy treatment alone, Robben expects to pay almost $2,000 a month. “She’s only two months into chemo and already she’s at $50,000. Oh my, what is another four months going to bring,” says Melissa Gradischnig Nelson, a friend of Robben.

In desperation, Robben’s friends and family have turned to local fundraisers to try to pay for her treatment. Over the weekend, they held a $5-a-plate pasta dinner in the hope of putting “a dent” in Robben’s massive health care bills.


Local news station WHO-TV recently interviewed Robben, who told them, “It’s kind of hard when you can’t get insurance. To say, lady you’re going to die or figure out how to come up with the money. It’s not right.” Watch it:

As Think Progress has reported previously, women face especially high barriers to being approved for coverage by health insurers. The insurance industry has in the past refused to cover maternity care, disqualified women from coverage who’ve had a Caesarean-section pregnancy, and considered domestic abuse a pre-existing condition.

It is worth noting that the United States is the only developed country without a universal, cradle-to-the-grave health care system. Nowhere else in the industrialized world would a woman have to turn to holding pasta fundraisers to get the money to pay for her chemotherapy.