Denied Healthcare on His Deathbed – One Family’s Struggle with Cancer


For Rico McPherson and his small family, life had always been about giving, but on August 7th of 2013, they were reminded too harshly that life does not always turn out how it should. Rico was diagnosed with stage four cancer of the liver on August 7th, and then denied healthcare because of preexisting conditions. Rico who spent his life donating his time and skills while expecting nothing in return, was told that because he already had diabetes and an artificial heart valve, he did not qualify for health coverage.

Rico studied to be a hairdresser and quickly turned his chosen career to the benefit of his community.  He spent a year fitting and making wigs for cancer patients in the Oncology department of the UW Medical Hospital before moving on to volunteer at the Bailey Boushay House, a local charity dedicated to helping Aids/HIV patients. There, Rico volunteered one to two times per week for five years, cutting hair, bed-washing hair for sick patients, and providing comfort and entertainment whenever possible.

Later, when Rico pursued his dream of opening his own salon, he continued his dedication to helping others. Rico put together numerous events to raise money for, and provide for the needy.  Ongoing ‘First Time Friday’s’ offered $20 haircuts to anyone who walked through the door, with the proceeds going to local charities. Rico would occasionally close the doors of his salon to the public, instead inviting local shelters to bring struggling adults in for days of pampering and care, where beauticians would treat their guests like five star clientele, offering makeovers, haircuts, manicures, facials, and even styling lessons. Those men and women, who were admitted free of charge, were given a friendly smile, and a package including shampoo, conditioner, and cosmetics to take home.

As a family, Rico, his wife, and their young son, also gave back to the community. Their holidays were filled with not just gifts for family members, but care packages, food, and haircuts for families in shelters, and the many people still living on the streets of Seattle.

Rico was diagnosed with cancer on August 7th, but quickly found that not all souls were as giving as his own. With an estimated 3-6 months to live without treatment, and 6-12 months with treatment, his situation was critical. Rico’s small insurance provider, Realtors Core Beachstreet would only cover a scant $75 for a $3,000 CAT scan, with similar ‘coverage’ offered for emergency room visits, hospital stays, weekly visits to the SCCA, and ICU stays.  The family attempted to obtain health insurance from many insurance companies including Blue Cross and Group Health but was denied coverage, the grounds, nothing more than those of his pre-existing conditions that had prevented him from getting most insurance coverage in the past.

Rico was again denied aid when he approached the Social Security office. When, not qualifying for Medicare or Medicaid, Rico went to DSHS and UW Medical Assistance, he was again denied the help he needed.  After applying to every company in the area and with Obama Care not going into effect until January 2014, Rico and his family were left without hope, having been turned down at every turn.

On August 20th, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance offered 100% coverage for the chemotherapy drug, Nexavar, which Rico needed. While a Godsend to the family, the drugs were started a full week after the doctor in residence, Dr. Bill Harris, had recommended and a week later, Rico’s health took a turn for the worse, resulting in a nearly three week stay at the UW Medical Hospital. There, Dr. Harris deemed that his cancer had now progressed too far for chemotherapy to prolong his life, and ended the treatments, giving Rico just three weeks to live.

Rico is now at home, utilizing Hospice care as a more affordable alternative for the medical attention he needs, most of which is not covered by his insurance. His wife has taken a leave of absence from her job in order to spend time with her husband of thirteen years, and care for him on his deathbed. Now, his only worry is that his wife and ten year old son will soon have to face the financial burden of his illness alone. Denied healthcare, Rico has now resorted to pleading for aid, in the hopes that his family will not be financially destitute after his death.  With his diabetes and artificial heart value, Rico has been denied life insurance at every attempt since the 1970s.

He, and his family, are accepting donations on Go Fund Me, where friends, family, and caring strangers have already begun to band together and offer aid to this family in need.  Help Rico and his family spend their last days in peace, love, hope and faith by making a donation today.


4 Responses

  1. Janice Branded says:

    Such a nice man. I’m so sorry to hear this story and will for sure donate to the fund for his wife and son. I have seen other women an families walk through this same situation and I have seen the goodness of others come through every time. My hope is that all those touched by him, friends and family will rise up and bless them on his behalf. No matter how bleak a situation seems… So much good can come! Big hugs being sent out!!!

  2. Pat Bradshaw says:

    This amazes and saddens me. So basically, in a nutshell, if we have good health insurance BEFORE anything bad falls our way we are all set BUT if we get diagnosed after the fact too bad. Something is wrong with this picture! Wishing Rico and family love.

  3. Tameka says:

    We at Fidler on the Tooth are saddened by this news. Send warm wishes to Team McPherson.

  4. Nancy Larson says:

    Thoughts and prayers to you Rico. You made this planet better!!!

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