5 Places to Turn For Help With Cancer Expenses

by GregP_WN

We’ve been talking a lot about the increasing cost of cancer* and how to fix it** over the last few months. Everyone would love to see cancer treatment become more affordable, but until that day comes many of us need help to pay for treatment. The key word is HELP: We’re not looking for this guy to swoop in and save the day:


No one likes the stress and financial burden of paying for cancer treatment, but we don’t want to just pass that burden on to someone else. And given a choice, most of us would rather take care of things ourselves. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources out there that make it possible for you to get through treatment: Not with a handout, but with a helping hand.

1) Government Insurance and Assistance Programs – There are many federal and state programs that can help offset the cost of cancer treatments for low-income, elderly, and disabled patients, like Medicare and Medicaid. If you’ve collected a paycheck you’ve paid into Social Security, and it may be possible to collect benefits. Check out the Social Security Administration (www.ssa.gov) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (www.cms.gov) to learn more. All these programs come with certain conditions and strings, so talk to your doctor’s office, a Nurse Navigator, or a social worker to help you cut through the red tape.

Ssa Cms

2) Pharmaceutical Company Relief Programs – This seems counterintuitive…why would drug makers pay you to take their drug? Many pharmaceutical manufacturers acknowledge the high cost of drugs and offer a variety of financial services to help with insurance reimbursement, co-pay relief, and even discounted or free medications to patients who qualify. Obviously programs vary, but a good place to start is by checking a company’s website and looking for patient assistance programs. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance (www.pparx.org) has a list of pharma programs that may help.


3) Non-Profit Programs – Non-profits are pretty transparent about their goal (hint: It’s not to make money). The American Cancer Society is probably the best-known cancer non-profit, relying on grants, donations, and volunteers to educate and assist people with cancer. In addition to providing information about financial assistance, they also have a Patient Navigator Program to help connect you with different financial resources. When WhatNext’s own Greg P. needed expensive dental extractions, the American Cancer Society’s patient advocate program searched tirelessly for almost a year to find different resources and eventually found help for the procedure. To find more information on  patient navigators, call 1-800-227-2345.

Acs Logo

There are lots of other great non-profits out there too. Cancer.net provides links to assistance for everything from treatment costs to transportation. CancerCare has a co-pay assistance program (www.cancercarecopay.org), as does the Patient Access Network (www.panfoundation.org). Not sure where to start? Again, check with your doctor’s office, a Nurse Navigator, or a social worker.

4) Neighborhood Resources – Once you start looking around, you’d be surprised how many people in the community are eager and willing to pitch in. Look into churches or church organizations, local civic organizations or fraternities, and organizations like the United Way (www.unitedway.org) and Salvation Army (www.salvationarmyusa.org).

5) Crowdfunding – This is a new and somewhat nontraditional approach, but one that takes the same basic approach of asking your neighbors for assistance…only here, the neighborhood is the whole world. GiveForward (www.GiveForward.com) has been helping people raise funds for everything from cancer treatment to service dogs. You can start a page for yourself, a friend, or a loved one, and GiveForward keeps only a small percentage of each donation. The site also offers a separate section specifically for cancer patients . Sites like GoFundMe (www.GoFundMe.com) and YouCaring (www.YouCaring.com) operate on a similar principle.

Give Forward

For many people, just the thought of asking for financial help can be the toughest pill to swallow during treatment. No one wants to admit they need help with a financial challenge. But the reason these resources exist is because so many people have been in the same boat already. Cancer could strike anyone, so it helps to think that we’re all in this together. And as long as we’ve got each other’s back, we don’t need a Robin Hood to save us!

What other resources do you know about that can help with the expenses of cancer care? Please list in the comments below. 

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