By Amy Singer
United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades
Imagine receiving a cancer diagnosis. Your mind races with thoughts about treatment and surgical options, the survival rate and the potential impact on your quality of life.
Fortunately, advances in medical care and technology mean that most types of cancers can be successfully treated if diagnosed early enough.
Unfortunately, cancer treatments often come along with significant financial burdens. Radiation, chemotherapy and surgery are not elective procedures for cancer patients. What happens if an individual needs treatment to survive, but is uninsured or underinsured and unable to afford the life-saving treatment?
A patient’s ability to pay should never dictate the level of care that he or she receives. WeCare was created as a program that connects qualifying individuals with medical care free of charge by tapping into a network of generous providers.
One of WeCare’s most active volunteer providers is Advocate Radiation Oncology, which operates eight cancer treatment centers across the region.
“Advocate has made it our stance from day one that we will take care of every patient no matter their financial standing or ability to pay,” said Dr. Arie Dosoretz, managing partner for Advocate Radiation Oncology. “WeCare helps ensure that we never have to turn away people who need treatments to save their lives. We have the ability and resources to help them, and it’s our honor to partner with United Way to offer the highest quality of care. Our skill set and knowledge allows us to help people get healthy. That is our calling as physicians.”
Many medical providers offer free services on an individual, case-by-case basis. WeCare, which is contracted through the Florida Department of Health’s Voluntary Health Care Provider Program, relies on referrals from providers, specialists and hospitals. Patients can qualify within income levels not exceeding 200% of the federal poverty limit, have no health insurance, and live in Lee, Hendry or Glades counties, among other requirements. Any medical provider can refer to the WeCare program and does not need to be contracted to refer a patient to the program.
WeCare has grown to include more than 300 providers representing a variety of disciplines within medicine. In addition to cancer treatments, qualifying patients have undergone surgeries and cardiological testing, received prescription medications and completed other treatments they otherwise could not afford.
To date, Advocate has offered cancer care to 66 patients through WeCare. These services are valued at more than $1.2 million.
Cancer care is one of the most referred services for WeCare, but the program needs additional providers offering services in dermatology, gynecology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, neurology, otolaryngology and other specialties.
“The WeCare program is well-organized and well-managed through United Way,” Dosoretz said. “They determine who qualifies for assistance so our team can focus on providing the care these patients need. I would encourage other providers in Southwest Florida to consider WeCare; ethically and morally it’s the right thing to do.”
To learn more about WeCare, please visit UnitedWayLee.org/WeCare.
About the Author
Amy Singer is director of the WeCare program for United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades. Providers can register for WeCare by calling Amy at 239-433-7585 or emailing Amy@UnitedWayLee.org.