Financial Assistance Resources For Cancer Patients

by Jane Ashley

Perhaps you’ve never heard the term – financial toxicity – the National Cancer Institute defines it as the problems a patient encounters due to the cost of medical care. Cancer patients are two to three times more likely to file bankruptcy as healthy people.

Financial Toxicity

Why? Even with insurance, the cost of cancer care, along with related expenses, is beyond what anyone expects. Until we’ve received our first bill, we have no idea what cancer care costs.

Health Insurance – Does It Protect A Family?

The answer is yes and no.

About 40 percent of employers only offer a high deductible health plan (HDHP). That translates to a minimum deductible of $1,350 for an individual or $2,700 minimum deductible for a family. Many employer plans only offer still higher deductibles, sometimes as high was $5,000 for an individual and $13,000+ for a family plan.

Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans have 20 percent copays which add up quickly for people over 65.

The max-out-of-pocket offers some protection, but again, most patients are shocked by how much these limits are. Maximum-out-of-pocket is the maximum a patient must pay before the insurance pays 100 percent. For 2020, the limits are $6,900 for an individual plan, and $13,800 for a family plan. Medicare Advantage plans have a $6,700 max-out-of-pocket for in-network and $10,000 for out-of-network.

With families struggling to make ends meet because of wage stagnation, most have little or no emergency savings to cover deductibles and max-out-of-pocket expenses like these.

Health Versus Illness

What about Indirect Expenses?

We as cancer patients incur many indirect expenses in additional to the medical care that insurance covers.

Gas, going to-and-from treatment, and parking fees
• Reduced income - patients may no longer be able to work full-time due to side effects from chemotherapy or radiation or may have to go on disability (short-term due to surgery or long-term due to severity of cancer effects)
• Second opinions – cost of travel (perhaps including airfare), hotel and meals
• Supplies, not covered by insurance, like lotions, ointments and balms for radiation side effects or compression hose for blood clots
• Nutritional supplements and costs of special foods
• Fertility preservation for young adult patients

The Good News Is That Help Is Available

Financial help with copays and other expenses is available. Your cancer center may offer financial counseling or have a foundation to help their patients with copays. Other patients have to be proactive and search for themselves. Listed below are some excellent sources of financial help.

This list is not a complete list of all sources of financial aid, but it’s a good start. Don’t suffer — be proactive and ask for financial assistance. Copays are expensive and beyond what many working families or retirees can afford.

The Assistance Fund
TAF manages over 40 funds to help patients with copay assistance, healthcare expenses and out-of-pocket insurance premiums for eligible plans. Cancer is one of the serious illness covered by TAF.
A comprehensive online resource for potential government assistance programs (searchable by state location).

Blink Health
A network of over 57,000 pharmacies where patients can save up to 95 percent on prescriptions. This is especially helpful for those with no insurance or who have high deductible policies or expensive copays for higher tier prescriptions.

Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition
CFAC helps cancer patients with a wide variety of assistance from copays and genetic testing to dental and meal delivery.

Family Reach
Boston office 857-233-2764
New Jersey office 973-394-1411
Family Reach is a national organization that works with more than 400 top-tier hospitals and cancer treatment centers to help patients before they reach the financial breaking point. They help through planning, education and direct financial assistance.

Friends of Man
Friends of Man provides mobility equipment, prosthetics, glasses, dentures and hearing aids for patients who are referred by professionals, including caseworkers, case managers, health care workers, social workers, counselors, teachers, and clergy.

Good Days
Financial assistance with copays, travel cost and even premium assistance for patients facing extraordinary financial stress.

Money Doesnt Grow On Tress

The Healthwell Foundation
Financial assistance for some kinds of cancer.

Hill-Burton Program
800-683-0742 or 800-492-0359
The Hill-Burton Act provided funds to modernize hospitals after the end of World War II. There are about 140 hospitals across the U.S. that provide free care to citizens with incomes below the Federal Poverty Level and reduced cost to patients who make up to two times the Federal Poverty Level.

This website provides help finding financial assistance for medications, including oral chemotherapy. Needy Meds provides a free drug discount card that provides up to an 80 percent discount — good at thousands of pharmacies throughout the U.S.

Patient Access Network Foundation
Provides financial help for copays or when deductibles reset at the first of the year. This organization helps those who are commercially insured or have Medicare. Check to see if there are funds available for your kind of cancer. They help patients with incomes up to 500% above the Federal Poverty Level.

Patient Advocate Foundation
Provides case management assistance, has a copay relief program, and has access to financial aid funds. This organization even serves as a liaison between patients and their insurance companies, employers and creditors to mediate insurance issues, employment problems caused by the patient’s illness, and debt resolution related to their health situation.

Rx Outreach
Non-profit pharmacy that ships to patients throughout the U.S. Substantial savings on many oral chemotherapy drugs.

Zichron Shlome Refuah Fund
This fund helps children and adults with cancer, including their families. They provide financial help for medical and practical household expenses, including for rent, utilities or housekeeping.

The hours that you spend in researching these financial help options is time well-spent. You’ll save yourself hours, days, and weeks of worry so that you can concentrate on your health instead of wondering how you are going to pay for what insurance doesn’t cover.

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