Managing Insurance and Expenses During Illness
Healthcare providers don't always ask their patients about their insurance coverage or ability to pay out-of-pocket for cancer care. And many patients are reluctant to share personal financial information with their healthcare providers. However, it's important to resolve financial issues that increase stress and limit access to needed treatments, prescription medications or support services.
Discuss payment options with members of your healthcare team or the treatment centers' patient financial services department. Patients and providers can work together to devise ways to reduce costs without compromising treatment. Ask your providers about:
- switching from a brand name drug to the generic
- reviewing a medication list to see whether you're taking nonessential drugs
- enrolling in a Prescription Assistance Program (PAP)
- referring you to a public agency or a social worker
Social workers and caseworkers can:
- help you better understand your insurance coverage
- submit claims
- refer you to assistance programs to help meet the cost of remaining bill
- offer guidance on submitting the necessary paperwork for Medicare or Medicaid
If you have concerns about housing expenses, visit the People with Disabilities section of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website for helpful information.
Find an Advocate
Staying on top of bills, dealing with insurance and managing other financial matters takes time and energy. A friend or loved one who can be your advocate from diagnosis to recovery is extremely valuable. An organized and reliable advocate can help manage your financial health while offering ongoing emotional support.
Getting Help from Family and Friends
Delegate time-sensitive tasks to reliable family members or friends who can be counted on to be thorough and meet deadlines. Ask them to help with:
- setting up a record-keeping system to track bills and submitted, pending and paid insurance claims
- calling public and private agencies to determine eligibility for financial assistance, entitlement programs and other benefits and services
- gathering documents to support insurance claims and appeals
- following up with the insurance company
- organizing fundraising efforts
Getting Help from Professionals
The professional counselors who staff national organizations that support people with cancer can give you expert advice on how to:
- preserve your assets
- reduce your debt
- access community resources
- handle employment issues
- reduce insurance problems
- use legal remedies, if and when necessary
This type of guidance can be invaluable in helping patients learn how to advocate for themselves more effectively. Organizations that can help you navigate the healthcare system include:
- CancerCare. CancerCare is a national nonprofit agency that provides free services, support, information and practical help to anyone affected by cancer. The organization offers guidance on financial issues and gives financial assistance to help with some costs. Visit the CancerCare website or call (800) 813-HOPE (4673).
- Patient Advocate Foundation. Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF) draws upon the expertise of case managers, attorneys and doctors who work with patients and their insurers, employers and creditors to resolve insurance problems, job discrimination issues and debt crisis matters. The PAF website features a comprehensive state-by-state directory of financial resources for housing, utilities, food, transportation, medical treatment and children's needs. Visit the Patient Advocate Foundation website or call (866) 512-3861.
We're Here to Help
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS's) information specialists (800-955-4572) offer guidance about health insurance, government programs, disability benefits, financial assistance programs and health advocacy. LLS chapters' patient services staff can help patients and caregivers connect with LLS programs and community resources.