The Recession's Impact: Closing The Clinic

60 Minutes: Bad Economy Leaves Cancer Patients Without Health Insurance In Dire Straits

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Cancer is advancing on Livia Ralphs, who was recently laid off from her job selling cosmetics.

"It goes from here to here," she explained, pointing out a bulge on the left side of her neck. "You probably see it sticking out."

"So, in terms of the cancerous growth in your neck, the doctors believe it's treatable. But you don't have a way to treat it?" Pelley asked.

"I have no funds. I have no insurance. Nothing," Ralphs replied.

Patients who got the letter, like Helen Sharp, were sent a list of private chemotherapy centers, which leaves them in essence begging for care.

"One drug is almost $50,000. Who can afford that? There's nobody that can afford that unless you're a billionaire," she told Pelley.

Some of the patients 60 Minutes met are gravely ill. But all future patients are affected, including those with early, highly treatable cancers who would benefit the most.

"Well, I'm sad. Because I know that there is room to serve patients and yet, financially, we can't afford to," UMC's CEO Kathy Silver told Pelley, as she showed him her closed chemotherapy unit, which had treated 40 patients a day for 20 years.

"You have the facility…to save lives. You have people outside the hospital who need to have their lives saved. And you just can't put two and two together?" Pelley asked.

"The financial situation that we find ourselves in caused us to make some decisions that I think all of us, to a person would rather not have made," Silver said.

There are two medical assistance programs for the very poor, like the folks who line up at a Las Vegas building before dawn to apply for state services: there's Medicaid and Clark County medical assistance.

"So if you're poor enough, you're okay?" Pelley asked Silver.

"If you're poor enough you're fine because those patients are being taken care of," she replied.

"If you're rich enough you're obviously fine. So who is falling through the cracks here?" Pelley asked.

"The patients who don't qualify for a social services type of program," Silver said.

"What we're talking about here are people who are making $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 a year and have lost their jobs and therefore lost their insurance?" Pelley asked.

"That's correct," Silver replied.

"The middle class," Pelley remarked.

"That's correct," Silver said.