In addition to the physical and emotional challenges of cancer treatment, the financial burden can be overwhelming. Even with health insurance, the average out-of-pocket medical expenses for a person undergoing cancer treatment are approximately $8,000/year. This doesn’t account for additional nonmedical expenses such as travel, food, time lost from work, and child care.
In order to avoid a pileup of medical bills and debt, it’s important to understand your health insurance coverage and seek financial assistance early on. Read your policy and talk to your insurance provider to learn what is and isn’t covered, and make sure you understand when and if you will need preapprovals or referrals. You should also ask if there are particular in-network providers that you’ll need to use and what to do if you plan on being treated by an out-of-network physician or facility. Insurance companies often have case managers that can help guide you through this information.
Many hospitals and cancer centers also offer financial counseling services to their patients. These counselors can help review your health insurance, provide you with an estimate of the costs for your treatment, and help work out a payment plan for out-of-pocket expenses.
Oncology social workers, case managers, nurse navigators, doctors, and nurses also have information about support services and financial resources that may be available to you. No matter your income, you may qualify for financial aid from federal, state, or local programs.
If you are not physically able to handle the responsibility of managing your finances during treatment, ask a trusted relative or friend to help. Your healthcare provider may also be able to refer you to a social worker for assistance.
Keep organized records of your medical bills, authorizations, explanation of benefits and medical insurance claims. Also, be sure to review any benefit claim denials. If you are denied benefits, you may be to appeal the decision.
Here are a few online resources that may be helpful for navigating the financial challenges of cancer care:
www.cancer.org – The American Cancer Society
www.livestrong.org – LiveStrong Foundation
www.cancer.net – The American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) patient information website
www.cancer.gov – The National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health
www.cancerfac.org – The Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition (CFAC) is a coalition of organizations helping cancer patients limit their financial challenges