Financial Assistance for Cancer Patients
It can be difficult for someone diagnosed with cancer to navigate the various financial resources available to him or her. Even with private health insurance, government-funded insurance plans and nonprofit aid, most cancer patients still need additional financial assistance.
A National Concern
A 2011 study by Duke University showed the average cancer patient in the US pays over $8,500 a year in out-of-pocket medical expenses not covered by insurance. Besides the cost of treatment and procedures, additional expenses such as transportation costs, expensive diets or physical therapy add to the staggering bill.
What’s worse is that cancer expenses often affect the financial well being of the cancer patient and his or her family. Bankruptcy is one of the most common ways large medical bills can hurt an entire family. And studies have shown that bankruptcy rates are nearly double among cancer patients one year after diagnosis than they are for the general population.
Resources for Cancer Patients: Why it pays to ask
A 2013 study found that most cancer patients would like to speak with their doctors about the cost of their treatment, but many often don’t for fear it will compromise their care.
However, there are benefits to speaking up. The same study found that patients who do bring up the subject of finances believe the talk with their doctor helps decrease costs.
If you’re having trouble wording your financial concerns, here are some easy ways to bring up the subject of costs as you develop your treatment plan:
- “I’m worried about how much cancer treatment will cost. What resources are available to me?”
- “I know this may be expensive. Where can I go to get an idea of the total costs of treatment?”
- “Will my health insurance pay for this treatment? How much of the total costs will they cover?”
- “I’m concerned about the cost of this treatment. Are there other treatments options you would recommend that are less expensive?”
If you have questions about financial assistance programs specific to you, speak with your doctor or hospital social worker – the hospital business office should have helpful information and additional resources.
Local services or volunteer organizations may also offer financial assistance, but may have limited resources.
Government and Pharmaceutical Assistance
Government healthcare programs also provide financial assistance for cancer patients. Some, like the Social Security Administration and the US Department of Health and Human Service, offer help in the form of entitlements primarily for low-income households, the elderly and the disabled.
Pharmaceutical companies and drug manufacturers can also help with insurance reimbursement, referrals to co-pay relief programs, applying and providing discounted or free medications for patients who are not eligible for other assistance.
Contact the Partnership for Prescription Assistance for more information about which drug manufacturers have the medication you need and what they can do to help.
Another useful resource for cancer financial assistance is CancerCare, which also offers additional support to cancer patients, including counseling, support groups and co-payment assistance.
Cancer fundraising with GiveForward
In addition to these resources, starting a GiveForward fundraiser for a loved one battling cancer can help raise additional money for cancer treatment while providing a platform for friends and family to give financial and emotional support. Friends and family can leave encouraging words and the patient can post photo, video and text updates to keep their loved ones in the loop.