They survive cancer. But will they overcome their medical bills?

A 30-year-old Lee County woman has her whole life ahead of her, but the weight of the world is on her shoulders. Corrine Tempera is $700,000 in debt after surviving a deadly form of cancer.

“Every single hour of the day,” Tempera said, “I’m worrying about how I’m going to pay for my next doctor’s appointment.” She has insurance, but the medical bills keep adding up. Because of the costs, she has moved back in with her father.

Tempera is not alone.

Dianira Rivera is in her late 30s. She is a high school teacher and tennis coach in North Fort Myers. After weeks of migraines, Rivera learned she had brain cancer at the beginning of October. She told WINK News that surgery was $200,000. She was also billed thousands of dollars just for staying in the hospital.

Rivera said the insurance companies are still negotiating how much of that cost she will have to pay. Meanwhile, the bills are adding up as Rivera prepares to endure weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. “I’m just trusting God,” she said, “that He’s going to guide me through the process.”

Rivera is grateful for the support her students and the North Fort Myers High community are showing her. It includes a fundraising campaign set up by a friend to raise the thousands she will need to cover necessary expenses.

But Caitlin Donovan, with the National Patient Advocate Foundation, said it should not be that way. “People shouldn’t have to resort to a GoFundMe to pay their medical bills,” she said. Donovan explained that patients, like Tempera and Rivera, can negotiate with the biller to reduce the cost of their medical bills.

She said patients can also try and work out a payment plan that fits their budget. If you have to keep up treatments, do your research with insurance networks. You could end up with an out-of-network provider at an in-network facility, which is the origin of lots of those exorbitant medical bills.

Those are the bills that weigh heavily on patients like Tempera. “I can’t buy myself a car right now,” Tempera said. “I can’t even buy dinner. It’s taking a huge effect, and it’s going to affect the economy.”

It is affecting the economy and the young woman’s future. Now, it is Tempera’s second chance to live and shine a light on an issue that she and Rivera said we all need to fix. “Trying to keep myself positive that everything’s going to be okay,” Rivera said.

Check out the links below for resources to manage your medical bills:

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