Getting Help With Cancer Costs

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A previous article mentioned that the sudden increase in cancer medication costs have become a huge financial burden for cancer patients and their families, preventing them from getting the care they need. A related study found that people with cancer were over 2.5 times more likely to file for bankruptcy than people without cancer.

Cancer patients and their families find themselves faced with many costs – chemotherapy and radiation treatments, oral medications, maintenance meds, travel and lodging expenses for those who need special consultation, oncologist fees, hospital fees, dietary needs, tests and examinations. Health insurance usually covers some of these costs, but most patients will find that insurance companies have limits on what they will pay for – which usually include such small things as over-the-counter meds and large items such as high-end specialty and designer drugs.

Fortunately, there are many organizations that can help alleviate some of the costs, and communities willing to share this burden.

Before seeking help though, patients need to make at least a basic effort to forecast how much money they’ll need over time based on their doctor’s diagnoses and recommendations.

Cancer.Net provides a comprehensive FAQ page on financial considerations for cancer care, including which questions to ask and tips on organizing resources and cost information. CancerCare has a list of sources of financial assistance, including government aid. Some medical centers have housing ready for cancer patients, and CancerHawk has listed several options for free and reduced-cost housing. For travel costs, The American Cancer Society and The National Patient Travel Center have programs for aid in this area, a list of which can also be seen on CancerHawk.

For treatment costs, patients may consider joining clinical trials which are free. The National Cancer Institute has a guide to finding the right cancer treatment trial. The Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition, Give Forward and Cancer.Net all provide resources that can help with cancer treatment costs, as well as provide information on support groups.

It is tragic that it is necessary but cancer patients should do everything they can to understand their rights and benefits under the law, such as unpaid leaves or health insurance coverage. Because of the high costs many insurance companies put up roadblocks to adequate care so understanding the law can go a long way in navigating the financial hurdles.  Patients can talk to social workers, health care providers and financial counselors to check on eligibility for financial aid or to develop payment plans. It would also help to reach out to banks and loan companies to let them know about the evolving financial situation then negotiate on payments to avoid being constantly hounded by creditors.


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