Some cancer survivors are eligible for government-funded health insurance, disability benefits or cash payments. While the eligibility requirements and enrollment process can be complex, and patients are often unaware of these programs, financial caseworkers and social workers can advise and help you throughout the process.
Apply to enroll in a public program as soon as you think you may qualify for benefits as many programs have waiting lists or waiting periods before benefits take effect.
Public health and financial assistance programs include:
- Medicare. Medicare doesn't cover all medical expenses, but patients can apply for supplemental insurance, sometimes called "Medigap." Call (800) MEDICARE (633-4227) or visit www.medicare.gov for more information.
- Medicaid. Each state has a Medicaid program with its own eligibility and coverage rules. Visit the www.medicaid.gov or contact your state or local department of social services (or welfare office) for eligibility requirements.
- State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). SCHIP provides free or subsidized health coverage for eligible children and is part of Medicaid in many states. Call (877) 543-7669 or visit www.insurekidsnow.gov.
- Hill-Burton Program. Federal law requires medical facilities that received federal aid for construction to offer free or low-cost medical services to patients unable to pay for treatment. Call (800) 638-0742 or visit www.hrsa.gov/gethealthcare/affordable/hillburton/.
- Veterans benefits. Call (800) 827-1000 or visit www.va.gov.
- Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)*. SSDI is an income replacement program for people unable to work because of a disabling condition. Call (800) 772-1213 or visit www.ssa.gov.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)*. SSI provides a monthly cash benefit for low-income people who are disabled, blind or 65 years or older. Call (800) 772-1213 or visit www.ssa.gov.
*See Related Links, below, for more information about qualifying for Social Security.
Obtaining or Adding to Insurance Coverage
You can also contact your State Department of Insurance to find out whether your state has a high-risk pool, a program that makes health coverage available to people considered medically uninsurable. High-risk pools generally have strict eligibility requirements and may be more expensive than other health plans.
To find consumer health insurance guides by state, visit the Foundation for Health Coverage Education.
Uninsured But Working?
If you able to work, even part-time, but can't afford to buy health insurance on your own, you still may qualify for Medicaid. Congress created the Medicaid for the Working Disabled category in 1997, and each state can decide whether to opt in. Currently, 42 states offer a Medicaid for the Working Disabled option. The idea is to encourage people with medical conditions to continue working, if they can, without fear of losing their Medicaid health insurance because they make too much money. It allows people to continue working while meeting their medical needs. In some states, you could earn up to $60,000 a year and still keep your Medicaid insurance.
- The Medicaid for the Working Disabled category may be an option to consider if you:
- Have a blood cancer diagnosis
- Have a full- or part-time job, or are self-employed
- Meet your state's income requirements
- Need health insurance
Medicaid covers hospital stays, doctor's visits, lab tests and prescription drugs. In some states, Medicaid also covers transportation to and from medical appointments, dental and vision care, and home care assistance. Co-pays are low or none at all.
Some states also allow you to receive Social Security Disability insurance, to work, and to receive Medicaid at the same time. Finally, the definition of "disabled" that Medicaid uses for this program is more flexible than what Social Security uses.
For more information, visit www.medicaid.gov, which has a useful "Medicaid Information by State" tool or visit your local Medicaid office and ask about the "Medicaid for the Working Disabled" program in your state. Or contact your local LLS Chapter.
To access additional services, visit the National Cancer Legal Services Network at www.nclsn.org/members-directory.
Medicaid for the Working Disabled section reviewed by: Brian J. Cohen, Staff Lawyer (LegalHealth), New York Legal Assistance Group. April 2013.
- Insurance Coverage
- Managing Insurance and Expenses During Illness
- The Affordable Care Act
- Financial Support
- Download or order The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s free booklet, Cancer and Your Finances
- Read about Medically Qualifying for Social Security with Lymphoma or Leukemia