Cancer can be a financial burden for patients and their families due to the increased medical and prescription expenses incurred. In addition, unanticipated costs such as childcare, employment, transportation and household expenses all contribute to the need for financial assistance for cancer patients. The key to navigating the financial issues is communication. First and foremost, be willing to communicate with your physicians about your financial assistance needs. They are your healthcare team and can refer you to resources available in the hospital’s business office. Ask them about the expected costs for your care before you begin treatment, if possible.
More costs may be incurred during and after treatment that were not initially planned, and your health care team should be willing to respond to your questions at this later stage of the treatment process in addition to the initial discussions. If you have private insurance, communicate with your health insurance company by first reviewing your policy, and then calling them to find out which costs are covered in your particular plan. If you have government insurance, such as Medicaid and Medicare, contact them to get specific answers about assistance.
There are also groups of organizations which offer financial help and resources for cancer patients. Check out the web regularly for information and updates on financial assistance. Helpful online sites include CancerCare, a national nonprofit organization providing free, professional support services for anyone affected by cancer: www.cancercare.org. The American Cancer Society’s site www.cancer.org can help with general topics, such as navigating health insurance plans, how to deal with problems paying your medical bills, and legal issues to consider when dealing with cancer. The National Cancer Institute also provides information at www.cancer.gov.
Another resource is the Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition: www.cancerfac.org. Individual cancer treatment centers also have their own websites which can provide helpful information. A final suggestion is to search the web for your individual cancer type, where you may find targeted information for financial assistance that could be useful. Online message boards and websites of individual cancer centers are also helpful. Simply knowing that you are not alone is valuable in itself.