Cancer, like any chronic illness, can cause financial distress and even bankruptcy. It has been estimated that 1/3 of cancer survivors in the United States say they have experienced money or work problems due to cancer care. Cancer patients who have insurance say they have had to change their lifestyle and medical care due to the financial burden of treatment.
Even if your insurance plan covers big ticket items like chemotherapy, radiation, PET scans, hospital visits, and the services of doctors and other professionals, there are still “indirect costs” such as:
- travel expenses
- special equipment
In many cases cancer treatment requires patients to miss long periods of work without pay which worsens the situation. Take comfort in knowing that there is financial aid available to those with cancer. A few options available to cancer patients include:
Government Assistance Programs
When it comes to government programs, there may be a program for which you can qualify. These types of programs provide assistance with living expenses and medical bills. The Social Security Administration offers social security disability income (SSDI) for patients that meet certain requirements. Your application can be sped up if you have a diagnosis on the Compassionate Allowance list. Remember, not all government programs require applicants to be uninsured or underinsured.
Patient Assistance Programs
Drug company-sponsored Patient Assistance Programs (also known as PAPs) provide access to brand name medications to those who are under or uninsured. More than one quarter of American patients cannot fill their prescriptions or have had to reduce their dosages because of their high out-of-pocket costs. One great resource is the Partnership for Prescription Assistance. You simply tell them what medications you take and they will match you to a patient assistance program for which you may be eligible. In addition, they connect patients to free or low-cost local clinics for treatment. They’ve helped over 5 million Americans since 2005.
Fundraising & Crowdfunding
Fundraising is a great way to raise money for medical expenses. More often than not, people are able to raise the money because there are those in their community who genuinely want to help in any way they can- family, friends, neighbors and others. Cancer patients can consider starting a crowdfunding page or partnering up with a local nonprofit to raise the funds needed to take care of some, if not all, of their medical expenses.
Traveling and Housing Aid
Traveling for treatment, surgery or even a second opinion can be very expensive. Dozens of organizations offer free air travel services for cancer patients, many on private jets. The National Patient Travel Center can help you find free or low-cost travel options. There are also numerous options for free or low cost lodging. Joe’s House provides an online nationwide list of free and reduced-cost lodging facilities near treatment centers. Take a look at my blog post to learn more about ways to reduce costs when traveling for cancer treatments.
Many cancer advocacy organizations offer support to those living with cancer. They offer assistance with medical bills, child care, transportation, household help and more. There are also social workers and oncology navigators available to assist people with finding the funds they need. Our own site, CancerHawk, has extensive resources for cancer patients from financial aid information to support services to college scholarships for anyone touched by cancer.
Cancer can be an expensive illness and no one should have to struggle with their medical bills on top of the hurdles of everyday life. Financial aid is available, and if people are eligible, it can help tremendously with their medical expenses and relieve the burden of paying those costly hospital bills and accompanying indirect costs every month. If anyone happens to have difficulty finding financial aid on their own, please take a look at our financial assistance page where you can find more information on many of the programs mentioned above.
With the launch of the CancerHawk Navigator we are hoping to help all of our readers and anyone else who needs some guidance throughout their cancer journey.