When Lou Lovingood, a 63-year-old grandmother from Sweetwater, was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, she didn’t shed a tear.
Those came, she said, after receiving the first letter from her insurance company denying coverage for proton therapy, a type of radiation treatment that targets the cancerous tumor while minimizing damage to surrounding tissue and organs.
“It was the first time I had cried after all of this, after I got my first denial,” Lou said, who has now been denied twice and is appealing to her insurer again.
Ms. Lovingood had lumpectomies in both breasts after her diagnosis, and completed her 33rd and final proton treatment at the Provision CARES Proton Therapy Knoxville. As the center’s 500th patient, Lou seized the opportunity during a special celebration ceremony to share her insurance story.
My diagnosis today could be yours tomorrow,” she said. “We want the best level of care for everybody. If there is something better that’s out there, we should have the right to it. We have to stand up and use our voice to say, ‘You can’t treat us this way.’”
Lou is co-owner of Sweetwater Insurance Agency, and used savings put up for retirement to pay for the treatment. Others, she said, may not be so fortunate.
Provision has continued driving significant efforts forward towards legislation to get proton therapy covered by insurers at the same levels it covers other radiation therapies. Insurers have argued that the more-expensive treatment isn’t cost effective and is not necessarily better than traditional radiation therapies.
Provision opened in January 2014 and is treating about 80 patients a day with proton therapy. More than 44 different cancers of various disease sites have been treated. All three treatment rooms offer pencil beam scanning, giving physicians more precise capability. Lou Lovingood was the first person treated at the proton therapy center for bilateral breast cancer, and Provision plans to continue to expand treatment for different disease sites, and to offer the newest treatment techniques available.