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How Can I Pay for Cancer Treatment With No Insurance?

17 answers | Last updated: Apr 12, 2015
Senior Editor Melanie Haiken, who is responsible for Caring.com's coverage of cancer, general health, and family finance, discovered how important it is to provide accurate...
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First off, realize you're not alone; 45 million Americans have no health insurance. While it makes getting treatment more difficult, lack of insurance doesn't mean you can't get treated. But See also:
Is There Financial Help Paying for Cancer Treatments Not Covered by Insurance?

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you'll need to be proactive about getting healthcare, since you won't have the safety net of an insurance company and primary care doctor overseeing your treatment. Keep this mantra in mind: Your job is to get better, and to do that you need to obtain the best healthcare you can get, using the resources you have.

The first thing you need to do is find out what hospitals and medical centers provide treatment to the uninsured in your area. Every region has hospitals operated by state and local government (public hospitals) as well as some nonprofit hospitals that provide a safety net for anyone who needs care, regardless of ability to pay.

Start by contacting your local health department (in the government pages of your phone book or on the Internet) to ask what public health services are offered in your community. But don't stop there; call your local hospital and ask to speak with a social worker. Ask for information about any "charity care" or "indigent care" programs. Hospital social workers are usually the most knowledgeable about sources of support in your community.

It's also important to research hospitals that are required to provide treatment under the Hill-Burton Hospital Program. Hospitals that receive construction funds from the federal government must provide some services to cancer patients who can't afford to pay for their care. Approximately 300 hospitals take part in this program. Call (800) 638-0742 to find the closest participating hospital.

In addition, the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service can direct you to local programs as well. For more information, go to www.cancer.gov or call (800)-422-6237.

If you have breast or cervical cancer, there are additional resources mandated under the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act of 2000. This legislation extended Medicaid coverage for women who have been screened and diagnosed through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program in states that have agreed to provide this service. For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/cancer/nbccedp/index.htm or call (888) 842-6355.


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31% helpful
A fellow caregiver answered...

This is a common problem, as the previous expert has stated. There is another option available that many people may not know about. Your Life Insurance Policy can be a valuable asset to you at this time.

In many cases, people find themselves struggling to pay for the appropriate care. If you have a life insurance policy, this does not have to be the case for you. There are companies that do a complete evaluation of your life insurance policy to let you know of all your options and will also determine the value or purchasable price for this asset. In many cases, as long as you are working with a Funder, this is no cost to you. Your policy is property that you own, just like your car or your house. You make payments to car and you make payments to your life insurance policy, making it available for a cash settlement.

If you feel you would like to research this option, I am an expert in this field and would be more than happy to assist you in this important financial decision.

Kevin Swan




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writergrrrl answered...

The indigent care programs usually have a ceiling on your income. Those who are the "working poor" (have a decent job to live on but no insurance) are the ones who need to know where to go to get treatment.

I was very fortunate that I have breast cancer, not something else. In Colorado, there are funded programs to treat women with breast cancer, but not for other types. So I know several people who are struggling to get treatment and going broke trying to pay for it, while I have the blessing of having state coverage. So my question is, where do the working people with no insurance go for help paying for cancer treatments?


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An anonymous caregiver answered...

I finished my chemo treatments, then lost my job and health insurance. Melanie is right there is help no one goes without, but you have to be your own best advocate Local Cancer Society was very helpful, the Leukemia Lymphoma Society will help .. Cancer Society helps pay transportation, and helps wit housing expense. I travel 100 miles to Tucson for treatment, the Cancer Center lets me make small monthly payments. USA has the best medical care in the world.


Dkstallion answered...

The patients can look at other countries where the treatments are comparatively cheaper with equivalent standards. They can use the price parity difference among the countries to offset the cost of the treatment. There are counties where the savings might be enough to pay for the medical bills. There are countries like Brazil, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Korea, China, to name a few. Try and use the price parity benefit like any other MNC does.


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so so answered...

I wished I could tell all of you who do not have insurance how to fix it.... My second go around with cancer started in Aug of this year... This time Bladder Cancer.... I Laugh let me explain...My first round was Ovarian cancer 5 years ago ,,, It was stage 4 before it was even diagnosed...I refused Chemo went home and Juiced everything I ate. Mostly Green took resveratrol . Drank great abundance of Herbal tea. did not eat meat for two years No Milk... Yes to Almond milk... I went basically Raw food... alkaline Food Drink....and Paw Paw plant which i found at health food store,,,,,, I kept it too my self for the first year,,, Never told my family even my husband or daughter anything,,,, I knew they would want me to take Chemo... And I already found several of my friends that did died with in months of starting that Treatment... I got Well,,,,, My family started complaining I had lost too much weight and I looked anemic wanted me to eat meat ,,,,, LOL.... Bad habits come back fast... I was non Vegitarian again after I was close to Vegan for 2 years.... Lo and behold i got sick....In August I was diagnosed with a Nice big fat cancerous tumor in My Bladder,,, It Required surgery because I had to have a Catheter .. Could not Pee!!!! Yippie,,, That is great for a W omens self Esteem ... No Insurance either.... I was with a Catheter for almost 1 month and family took up a collection for me to give the Doctor 500.00 Otherwise I was just out of luck.... Needless to say I have not been to the Doctor again... Can not afford it... I do not have money....And do not want Charity... It does not make me feel good at all....( Still not over the Family and X family I had sending 500.00 here... Yes grateful, But taking help from People You know hate you is not a good feeling... ) And that will never let you live it down,,,EVER!!! despite the 500.oo they sent I now owe the Hospital close to 10 thousand.... And it was a day surgery,,,, I talked them into letting me go home....I knew i could not afford the stay.... Glad I did not stay,,,, It will take me a good long while to pay that off..... The Doctor told me 50/50 chance it will come back....Hey kids I do not like them odds...What good is a Doctor if he will not even help you till you bring money in the office and then the hospital charges all of that and sends it to the collections before they even call you???? Some say sign up for assistance,,,NOOOOO.... They want to know your checking account number how much you pay for your other bills Ect ect.... Way to much Nosey for me... I believe in Privacy and My Bills are Not Everyone else s responsibility.. I will pay it... though it might take awhile,,,, .truthfully we are back to the Herbal stuff... I know it works and I will just have to live on the green diet... I may live longer,,,They are just gonna make my family be in debt if something happens to me.... I will pay even if it is 10.00 a month till I die... Here is to your health and Drink herbal tea Paw paw is worth looking into ... Alkaline diet ... Can not guarantee anything ... But Neither can they.... That is the Truth !


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An anonymous caregiver answered...

I am a full time student,(22 years old). I have no income at this time or what so ever. A few years ago, I was diagnosed to a tumor on my upper right breast. Had it removed while I still had Medicare. Now that I am 22 and no longer have Medicare & I had also found out myself that there has been another growing lump on my right breast again. I am so worry & stress but no one to turn too, because I don't have any benefits at all. My goal was to complete nursing in the next few years and find a job so that I can get it removed, but my I am worry that it could be too late by then. If there is any program out there, please please help me out.


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An anonymous caregiver answered...

My mother in law was diagnosed with cervical cancer a few days ago. She had surgery, now she needs to start chemo. She has no insurance. We need help please!! any information for the Phoenix area??


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An anonymous caregiver answered...

@Dkstallion: " USA has the best medical care in the world..." Lol, Keep on dreaming! The medial care in the US is just the expensivest, not the best! Even cuba has much better medical care than the states!


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An anonymous caregiver answered...

USA has best healthcare in the world? Just read the comments. You have to rely on charity. People going broke. People can't afford chemo because the country can't look after its own people.


smm6485 answered...

My aunt was just diagnosed with colon cancer mets to the liver. This is her second go around with cancer as she battled breast cancer 4 years ago. She lives in Paris, France and was treated for her breast cancer over there. This proved to be very difficult because she didn't have any close family or friends by her side for this difficult time, but her husband and two little girls. This may be selfish of me but I can't help that think what is best for her this time is to get treated in the US. I don't know what her prognosis is yet but if it isn't good, she needs to be here in US with her loved ones. The only problem is she doesn't have health insurance in the US. Are there any options for her to be treated here in the US? I don’t know where to even start, but I am trying to do some research. Any feedback would be helpful. Thanks


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liz59 answered...

I was diagnosed in November of 2013 was breast cancer and had no insurance...no job. I was devastated. However, with the advent of the Affordable Care Act, I was able to get great insurance and start my treatment in January of 2014. PLEASE...PLEASE go to healthcare.gov and sign up for coverage. It was a blessing to me and will hopefully be to you also. My prayers to all of you.


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An anonymous caregiver answered...

Please if you need help paying for medication. Please use the prescription drug discount on this website. It's a big help when you save sometimes 60% of the cost of your prescription . Have one sent to you or print one out. Would prefer to have it sent to you if you don't have a color printer. The cards are free and can be used at 90% of the pharmacies across the country. It's a very big help. They also have drug price tool so you can price any meds that you have on the website to see where the cheapest discounts in your area. The site is http://www.ddnrxsavings.com/ddn6206


An anonymous caregiver answered...

Very important to note: In Florida-to be eligible for Medicaid for treatment through the Breast and Cervical Program you MUST enroll with them and have your mammogram and pap test through them. If you have your exam on your own and then go to them because you need additional testing or treatment- you have disqualified yourself.


bdkennedy1 answered...

Several weeks ago my mom's lung collapsed. No warning, nothing. Went to the hospital and found out 2 days later she had stage 4 inoperable lung cancer. She has no health insurance and makes under $2,000 a month. Needless to say the hospital bills are just not going to be paid. The first hospital stay cost $85,000. She would never be able to pay that back.

I tried to get her health insurance but at most, it only covers 80% of the bills. What's 20% of $85,000? That's $17,000 and almost her entire salary for one year.

So we have to face it - she's only at the beginning of treatment and could easily rack up $500,000 in bills. At this stage her credit is ruined.

The law says she has to be treated and she must receive the best care. It's just that no one is going to be paid for it and sometimes that's just the way it is. She's not going to die paying hospital bills.

Hopefully she can hold out until Obamacare open enrollment begins in November, which I've been begging her to do for a year.

She just didn't think it would happen to her.


cindytreadway answered...

I have obamacare and an ovarian cyst that may be cancer and ive been waiting for five months for someone to accept my insurance for surgery. oh, there was a little three week period of time where i could have had an operation but i wasnt able to do it. it's great.


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