Yes, but be prepared to spend a lot of time and energy finding out where and how to apply for help. Start with these simple strategies:
1. Ask your doctor about costs at the same time that you discuss treatment options.
Too many cancer patients don't bring up financial concerns, and they miss out on valuable help and advice. When patients mention financial constraints right from the start, it helps doctors be mindful of what is and isn't likely to be covered. Also, when the medical staff know that a patient is worried about money, they're more likely to refer the patient to outside services that may be able to help.
If you have big hospital costs that you anticipate having trouble paying, ask to speak to a financial counselor in the business office of the hospital. Many hospitals will help you set up a monthly payment plan so you're not hit with an enormous charge all at once.
2. Start local, then move outward.
Many times the best way to access financial support starts very close to home. Many hospitals and cancer centers now have libraries or offices where you can research grants made by local organizations. Some of these are for cancer patients in general, and some are for patients with specific types of cancer. There are also local grant-making organizations that will fund home nursing, hospice, transportation, and other services.
Many HMOs and insurance companies have financial assistance available specifically for their patients. In addition, many states have a hotline, often known as "First Call for Help," that serves as a clearinghouse for nonprofit organizations funded by United Way. You can find the number for your area by searching on *United Way*, *First Call for Help*, and the name of your city or county.
3. Research financial aid available from national cancer organizations.
There are many organizations that provide assistance to cancer patients based on proof of inability to pay. These may cover all types of cancer or just certain types. One way to start is to look at the lists of organizations provided by the National Cancer Institute, as well as at CancerNet, which is run by the American Society of Clinical Oncology. A few of the best general cancer organizations to start with are:
- CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance Foundation: This service of CancerCare offers grants for those with breast cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, and pancreatic cancer. Call (866) 552-6729 or visit www.cancercopay.org.
- Healthwell Foundation: This nonprofit offers help with insurance co-payments, premiums, and out-of-pocket costs for a wide variety of cancers. Call (800) 675-8416 or visit http://www.healthwellfoundation.org.
- The Patient Advocate Foundation's Co-Pay Relief Program: This program, aimed specifically at those with insurance, including Medicare Part D, helps patients diagnosed with many types of cancer, including brain tumors. Call (866) 512-3861 or visit http://www.copays.org/.
- Patient Services Incorporated: One of the earliest co-payment assistance programs, PSI offers financial assistance for many chronic illnesses, including some cancers. Call (877) 250-2350 or visit www.patientservicesinc.org/.
4. Research aid available for cancer patients with specific types of cancer.
Many foundations and nonprofits have made it their mission to help patients battling one particular type of cancer. Start your research by searching on the type of cancer you or your family member has, along with terms such as financial assistance, financial aid, and co-pay assistance. A few to start with:
- The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Co-Pay Assistance Program: This program helps with both insurance premiums and co-payments. Call (877) 557–2672 or visit.
- AVONCares: This joint program provides financial assistance for the treatment of breast, cervical, and ovarian cancers. Access it through CancerCare.
- The Pink Fund: This relatively new organization helps women and men cope with the costs of breast cancer treatment. Visit http://www.thepinkfund.org/.