Never underestimate the power of caring readers.
Two weeks ago, staff writer Soumya Karlamangla introduced Los Angeles Times readers to Barbara Garnaus, a Laguna Woods resident who bought health insurance under Obamacare but who is struggling to afford it.
Garnaus, who has been undergoing treatments for uterine cancer, has a modest income and said she chose the lowest-price plan she could.
“I got the cheapest one, the very cheapest one,” she told Karlamangla. “And for me it's still not cheap.”
Though her monthly premium is low, Garnaus struggles with the co-payments. Her doctor has recommended a CT scan to check for any recurrence of the cancer, but Garnaus told Karlamangla she didn’t know how she would pay for it.
“That's the $100 I don't have,” she said.
But this is where the readers come in. Touched by Garnaus’ plight, more than 30 readers emailed or called The Times to offer to cover the co-pay for the CT scan. The notes themselves were touching and personal.
“My wife died of cancer seven years ago. I am now taking my girlfriend to the hospital every morning for the next month and a half for radiation treatments to combat breast cancer,” one reader emailed. “Can I pay the $100 for her tests?”
A couple sent a check with a note reading, “As cancer survivors who are blessed, we would like to pay those blessings forward.”
“Cancer sucks. Not being able to get doctor-recommended tests is worse,” another reader wrote. “I’m happy to be a cancer survivor helping another.”
Yet another reader addressed Garnaus directly: “You’re taking such good care of yourself. Maybe the L.A. Times readers can provide a little tailwind now. I’ve been there. Be well. Rebuild.”
Garnaus was overwhelmed by the response.
“I am so blown away by all of these donations,” she said. “Literally, there are no words. I am just sitting in amazement at these incredibly beautiful, caring, wonderful, generous people.”
She said that her doctor had recommended getting the CT scan in May, and that she now would schedule it.
“So much has come in that I am covered for all of my CT scans. I do not have to worry about that,” Garnaus said. “And if for whatever reason, because it is a highly recurring cancer that I had, I may need to do more CT scans. And I do now have the money to go forward with doing what I need to do."
She said she was sitting down to write thank you notes to the readers, “if my hand could stop shaking.”
“You have no idea what that means to me.”