Living with cancer blog

Managing the finances of cancer care

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. April 14, 2012

Dealing with the financial aspects of cancer can be an added stress during a time when you need it the least. Having cancer adds stress to your financial situation. The expenses associated with cancer care are high, usually higher than anyone anticipates. No one plans to be diagnosed with cancer, it just happens.

If you are employed and have insurance coverage, you are in a better situation for support. There are laws in place that help to protect you. Many times, your employer will offer paid sick leave for a certain amount of time. Also, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from your work and ensures that your job and health insurance coverage are protected.

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) allows you the right to continue your employee health insurance benefits for a limited time (normally up to 18 months) if you lose benefits due to a job loss.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prohibits discrimination against an employee because of health conditions and provides options for insurance coverage limiting exclusions and pre-existing conditions.

If you do not have health insurance, you may need support and assistance to cover costs. Arrange a meeting with a social worker or patient advocate to ask for assistance in navigating the system and help in finding sources of financial support. Ask the hospital about charity care programs that are in place to cover certain costs.

Explore financial support for medications from patient assistance programs (offered by pharmaceutical and biotech companies to help cover the costs of medications).

Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Ask for help. Find a social worker or advocate to assist with navigating the health care system.
  • Meet with the business office. They can help you understand and estimate costs of care at the hospital or treatment facility planning your care.
  • Be organized. Take notes and make copies of paid items. Keep a file with all of your bills and correspondence.
  • Track and document. Write down and keep all of your conversations with your insurance company.
  • Be prepared. Organize any documents you need for eligibility requirements for patient assistance programs, such as tax returns showing income levels and documentation from your health care provider.

Here are some resources:

  • Patient Advocate Foundation (www.patientadvocate.org)
  • Cancer Care (www.cancercare.org)
  • American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org)
  • The Chronic Disease Fund (www.cdfund.org)
  • National Patient Travel Center (www.patienttravel.org)
  • The Sam Fund for Young Adults (www.thesamfund.org)
  • Needy Meds Prescription Assistance (www.needymeds.org)

What have you found helpful? Please share any comments or resources that may help others.

Follow me on Twitter at @SherylNess1. Join the discussion at #livingwithcancer.

With

Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Follow on Twitter: @SherylNess1

Apr. 14, 2012