Manatee County commissioners meet cancer patient who needs their help

skennedy@bradenton.comJune 26, 2014 

Cancer patient Edin Gonzalez attributes his life saving cancer treatments to the current availability of indigent health care funds provided by Manatee County during a meeting with commissioner Robin DiSabatino. The county is slated to run out of money next year to fund patients in need like Gonzalez. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald

PVIDELA@BRADENTON.COM Buy Photo

MANATEE -- Cancer patient Edin Gonzalez accompanied Manatee Memorial Hospital chief Kevin DiLallo in discussions Wednesday with county commissioners about financing care for those without health insurance.

Gonzalez has a unique view of the situation as his cancer care has been partly paid for from county funds expected to run out in 2015.

"I'm thanking them," said Gonzalez before meeting with commissioners. "They have these funds or I wouldn't be here right now."

Gonzalez, a tile installer whose company did not offer health insurance, said he has never been sick and never consulted a doctor in more than 30 years of working in the Bradenton-Sarasota area.

"He's a typical case," said

DiLallo before meeting with commissioners individually at the county administrative building in Bradenton. The visits are slated to continue through the end of this week, DiLallo said.

The commission is expected to decide by the fall what to do about paying for health care for people like Gonzalez next year.

Gonzalez, 48, of Bradenton, a U.S. citizen born in Texas, said he began to feel symptoms of illness three months ago, and consulted a doctor at the nonprofit Manatee County Rural Health Services.

The doctor referred Gonzalez to a surgeon who diagnosed Stage 4 colon cancer and sent him to a cancer treatment specialist.

He is now getting inpatient and outpatient chemo treatments at Manatee Memorial to slow the growth of the cancer.

He is one among 17 chemo patients being treated there who were without money or health insurance this quarter, according to a computerized sheet DiLallo provided. The cost of the chemo treatments alone came to $167,512.

Gonzalez's hospital bills are paid for partly with county money from the dregs of its health care fund. County money for doctors has already run out for this year, so much of that care has been given away free, said DiLallo.

Gonzalez said the federal-state health insurance Medicaid program finally accepted him Friday as a patient. He did not qualify previously, but does now because he is disabled, he said.

He investigated the new federal Affordable Care Act for health insurance, but could not afford its $200 monthly cost, he said.

DiLallo said his for-profit hospital company will submit a plan soon to continue some form of payment through the county for those who otherwise would go without medical care.

And Gonzalez, a father and a grandfather, said he will hope for the best.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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