Ni Uno Más
Equitable Cancer Care Access Now!
Join our ¡Ni Uno Más! (Not One More!) Campaign
El Centro believes all individuals, regardless of language, place of birth or documentation status, deserve to be fully accepted and belong in communities where they live, work, play and pray.
We advocate for ALL in our community to access healthcare services they need not just to live and survive, but to thrive. However, we know today not all in our community have the same access to healthcare, especially cancer care. There will always be people who will never qualify for public insurance and will remain “uninsurable”. Nevertheless, they should not be turned away from care after receiving a life-threatening cancer diagnosis or only feel valued as a patient if they are able to pay.
This is what has been happening and continues to happen at our nationally accredited, regional cancer center, the University of Kansas Cancer Center (UKCC), and we ask you to join us and say ¡Ni Uno Más! Not One More!
Frequently Asked Questions
How long has this been an issue?
In 2016, we noticed an increasing number of clients contacting us for help finding cancer care treatment. Many were told they needed to apply for financial assistance as a first step to getting care. However, we saw firsthand the denial letters sent to clients, stating they were denied for financial assistance because at the time of the service they were not a “citizen” or “permanent resident”. Several were simply told they needed “at least $200,000” if they wanted to start treatment.
Why just call out The University of Kansas Cancer Center?
UKCC is known for being our regional cancer center, the first place many providers refer cancer patients too. Many oncology providers we have spoken to over the years who do not directly work at UKCC have also stated that they follow the protocols, policies, and procedures of UKCC, as they have some sort of affiliation with the center. UKCC is also one of the best resourced cancer centers in the area with promising new treatment options, technology, and expert providers. Who wouldn’t want to go to UKCC for their cancer treatment?! We want equitable access to treatment at UKCC, so ALL in our community can get their care there, especially our Latino immigrant community within the service area of UKCC.
Where’s the data? Do we know how many?
While we have gathered some data in the past and have investigated the possible number of uninsurable individuals within the region, there is not a single data source that can tell us how many. During 2017-2019, we tracked at least 50 individuals who were assisted by our Health Navigation Program or referred to us for help from other partners. Many of our community clinics and FQHCs can tell how many uninsured patients they have in a year that are diagnosed with cancer, but to know if they are ineligible for insurance or not (or their immigration status) is not something typically tracked by the clinics. Even if there was data available, data does not solve the inequitable policies that create barriers to accessing treatment. If these barriers persist, we will continue to see disparities, regardless of if it is just 5 people or 50 people a year.
Would expanding Medicaid help solve the problem?
While expanding Medicaid in Kansas makes sense economically and is the right thing to do to increase access for 150,000 residents in our state, it is only a small part of solving the problem. There will always be a group of individuals and families in our community who are not eligible for the Medicaid program because of their immigration status. Many families who are seeking asylum have already been waiting a few years for their date in immigration court to present their case because our system is backlogged. These families are not eligible for Medicaid under the current eligibility guidelines in Kansas. These individuals and families will remain uninsurable and will be self-pay when needing healthcare services. Expanding Medicaid would help with reimbursement of services at UKCC, as more patients would have insurance coverage. This could potentially allow more funds to be allocated to financially assist patients with affording cancer care at UKCC.
Does this just affect Latinos?
Cancer affects all groups and demographics. However, for anyone diagnosed with cancer who is uninsured on the day they are diagnosed, there is a 50% decreased likelihood that they will be alive 5 years from that day. This is “an astounding statistic”, as stated by Dr. Roy Jensen, the Director of UKCC at the Medicaid Expansion Rally in March 2023. That is why making improvements to remove barriers for all who are not eligible for insurance is so important, because it will help make improvements for all who might be uninsured at some point in their cancer journey.
So why now?
In October 2016, El Centro began to address this issue by convening a group of community partners concerned about the individuals being turned away from care. We held conversations with administrators from UKCC and the University of Kansas Health System about the issue, yet we continue to hear from community members who are having difficulty in accessing care. Many of them are referred to El Centro from the financial counselors at UKCC for financial assistance towards the down payment for their treatment. While our committee took a rest during the pandemic to work on issues around COVID-19, cancer did not rest and the inequitable access to care continues to cause delays in treatment, only worsening health outcomes and likelihood for reaching the 5-year survivorship goal.
Stories from Our Community
In December 2022, I was being treated at the Family Health Care clinic. I was suffering from a certain medical condition, which did not improve with the medicine that the doctor was giving me at that time. That is why the doctor referred me to another place, to have a colonoscopy done. Through the colonoscopy they found out that I had cancer.
With help from the clinic, they made me an appointment with KU. I was finally able to see a specialist after a couple months. Since I do not have medical coverage, a financial advisor contacted me letting me know the amount I needed to pay to start my treatment. $53,000.00. When she told me the amount, I was shocked and worried since I didn’t have any of that.
This whole situation has caused me great worry and stress, aside from my concerns about my cancer diagnosis. After a couple of months, I was able to come up with $26,800.00, just a little more than half of what I had to pay. This was mostly through family and friends loaning me the money to help me raise the funds. Strangers not related to me held a fundraising event and were able to raise $1000.00 to help me. I also had the support of organizations such as the Mexican Consulate and El Centro.
It took about 4 months from the day of my diagnosis until I was able to start my radiation and chemotherapy treatment, because if I didn’t pay at least half, I couldn’t get medical care at KU. Up to this moment, they have not made any other charges for what remains of my debt. I told the social worker that I am not working now as my treatment leaves me exhausted, tired, and without strength. In July I have an appointment with a surgeon to see if the treatment is working or if I will need surgery. As for now I feel tired, physically and emotionally. I never imagined that this could happen to me.
Join the Campaign
We no longer want anyone to go through what those brave members from our community who shared their stories above had to, just to get treatment started. Too many members of our community are going without the care they need because of inequitable policies within our local healthcare systems. Together, we must hold these institutions accountable as we continue to address disparities and gaps in health outcomes and social determinants of health.
Please join El Centro and community in demanding that UKCC and the University of Kansas Health System (UKHS) change their financial assistance guidelines and policies to make cancer care access equitable for all, not just those with insurance or who can afford it.
By signing-on to our petition letter, your voice will be heard in telling UKCC, UKHS, and the National Cancer Institute who accredits UKCC, that enough is enough. We need equitable access to cancer care now!
Donate Directly to Care Costs
El Centro is one of very few places that directly assists community members with paying towards their cancer care and treatment.
You can help too, by donating to our Ni Uno Más fund so we can continue to help those falling through the gaps in our healthcare system.
100% of all donations will go to helping our community pay for their care.