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Cancer patient paid into health plan, but University of Chicago gave him the runaround on treatment

Cancer patient's fight for treatment gets runaround from University of Chicago Medicine
Cancer patient's fight for treatment gets runaround from University of Chicago Medicine 03:09

CHICAGO (CBS) -- An Indiana man is facing two battles: one against cancer, the other for the right to get treatment.

It has nothing to do with insurance. Christopher Walter said he's willing to prepay up front, even if it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, but just got the runaround from University of Chicago Medicine.

After he was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer, Walter was prepared to make the 100-mile trek each way from his home in Nappanee, Indiana, to the University of Chicago Medical Center, because of the Hyde Park hospital's reputation for beating cancer.

"The national average for cure of squamous cell cancer is 85%. University of Chicago's 95%. Why would I want to go anywhere else?" he said.

Instead of traditional insurance, Walter has Medi-Share, a Christian-based health sharing system, where members pay a monthly share and essentially pool their money to cover medical bills of everyone who uses the system.

Walter, a father and husband, said the University of Chicago accepted this payment for the initial consultation with multiple doctors.

"Here's the funny part. They had no trouble taking my money and treating me for a consultation," he said.

Walter said Medi-Share essentially provides a blank check for treatments. Plus, he said he would prepay out of his own pocket if needed.

"To save my life, I'll get it. Yes, I do have it," he said.

And it was flat out no?

"It's like pinning down Jello with them," he said.

Technically, Medi-Share is not insurance, and Walter is considered ''self-pay.'' That means, according to the hospital's website, he has the right to receive a ''good faith estimate,'' but he said that's not what happened after his repeated calls to the hospital.

"'We can't give you an estimate. You have to get what's called the CPT codes – the insurance codes – for what it is.' I said, 'Wait a minute, I have to get the CPT codes? How in the world would I know what those are? Shouldn't you get those?' It's like a vicious cycle," he said.

Walter turned to CBS 2 after a month or so of back and forth, because time is of the essence.

"I'm willing to pay you today. Every day you delay care, my cancer gets worse. It does not go away. So every day, you're making my situation worse by delaying this," he said.

University of Chicago refused repeated requests for comment.

Walter has since learned Sloan Kettering in New York will accept his self-pay status. He plans to seek treatment there, despite being 800 miles away.

After CBS 2 reached out to the University of Chicago, Walter said they called him back and provided an estimate and told him they would care for him, but after the runaround he got, he is going to go to Sloan Kettering.

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