A Snohomish County firefighter is battling both cancer and his insurance company. Dave Alberts has answered the call to save lives for 25 years and now finds himself in need of help.
In January, Alberts got the news every man dreads. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Fortunately, it was caught early.
"Had I not been keeping up with this, and I found out about it two years from now, it would probably be a death sentence. It would be terminal," he said. "It really brings you back to Earth."
The married father of four and Navy veteran is just 57. He vowed to do all he can to beat the disease, electing for proton therapy at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
Soon, though, he realized he wasn't just fighting cancer. His insurance carrier, Premera, wouldn't cover the treatment.
"I really don't understand it," said Alberts. "It doesn't make sense to me."
An appeal of the decision could take two years, and Alberts doesn't have that kind of time. Now, he is going ahead with the treatment and paying the $55,000 bill out of pocket after borrowing the money from a friend.
While it's is neither new, nor experimental, some insurance companies refuse to cover proton therapy because of its cost, as well as questions over whether it is truly more effective.
Alberts is getting the treatments an hour a day, five days per week for nine weeks. He feels great and is still able to go to work.
"It's really a no brainer," said Alberts.
A spokesperson for Premera said the carrier covers treatments for cancer that are supported by peer-reviewed clinical studies and are considered effective by the medical and scientific communities. Citing several national medical organizations, she said research hasn't shown proton treatment to be any better for treating cancer or worse for causing side effects..
But it's working for Dave Alberts.
If all goes as planned, he will be cancer free by summer, but he'll still have that $55,000 debt to repay. Friends are helping out with a GoFundMe page.
For them, it's a way to help save the life of a man who has spent his life saving others.