Caring Currents

Finding Help to Pay for Cancer Care

Last updated: Mar 11, 2009

Financial Planning Process
Image by V 2 used under the creative commons attribution license.

It's bad enough when a loved one gets cancer. But no sooner does the shock of the medical news begin to wear off than the financial shock sets in. Medical costs of cancer care are astronomical, and even people with good insurance (and that's only about half of us) find themselves digging into savings -- or remortgaging their houses or running up credit card debt -- to cover co-pays and percentage costs of treatment.

So many cancer patients and their families are in financial crisis that it's become a hot-button issue. This week the American Society of Clinical Oncology unveiled a new resource, Managing the Costs of Cancer Care.

It's a good introduction to the financial hit you can expect to take when caring for someone with cancer. But of course what we in Cancer World really need is some concrete help. ASCO offers some of this in a section called Financial Resources.

The support organization CancerCare also offers financial assistance, both direct (they offer limited grants to cover insurance co-payments, homecare, transportation, and drug coverage) and indirect through tips and resource guides.

If, like most of us, you're bewildered and overwhelmed at negotiating the health insurance maze, one of the first steps I'd suggest is to contact the Patient Advocate Foundation. on the Web or by calling toll-free: 800-532-5274. They can help you understand your coverage and negotiate with your insurance company, including navigating the process of appealing an insurance decision. They can also provide referrals for families that have gotten into a debt crisis due to health expenses.

This is a big topic, and I have additional posts planned on how to get help with drug costs (including chemo drugs) and how to get help with transportation, home care, and other cancer-related expenses, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, let me know if there are any particular challenges you're facing that I (or other Caring.com members) can help you overcome.