Where can I find financial assistance for my cancer treatments?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

At 54, single, no family, and unemployed after a 35 yr career as a paralegal, I was recently diagnosed with terminal stage 4 lung cancer that has spread to multiple areas in the brain. I am very blessed to receive charity treatment, but there are times I can't afford to keep an appointment or pay the utilities. State and Fed agencies all have told me I am not eligible for ANY assistance (medicaid, SSI, etc) because of the amount of my unemployment - which is my sole means of support. Having been denied disability, it was necessary to hire an attorney on a contingency basis, but as I expected, nothing happens very quickly with our government. My oncologist informed last week that she is looking into hospice for me, with 6 months at the best. I am having a difficult time accepting all that has happened so quickly in the last 5 months, and I get blank stares when I ask questions. Being independent for so long, it is extremely hard to ask for help - but at this point in time, I'm more than willing to BEG for financial assistance with co-pays and pain meds, but after all the rejections, I'm not sure there is anybody to whom I could turn. Have you any advice or recommendations, bearing in mind that 6 months isn't very long to find some relief. Thanks to all.

Expert Answers

Andrew Putnam, M.D. is a Palliative Care physician at Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and Yale University.

When looking for financial assistance with cancer treatment, the clinician who can likely be the most help is a social worker. In addition to many other skills, A good social worker knows the ins and outs of methods of payment as well as different agencies and groups.

Ask your oncologist if there is a social worker whom he or she uses. If not, ask at the hospital to which your oncologist admits patients. There are free lance social workers in many communities who can be hired to help, but that may be challenging given your financial circumstances.