Survivorship

Managing Ongoing Financial and Insurance Challenges

When you were first diagnosed, you likely turned your primary energy to fighting the cancer and trying not to worry too much about the cost; however, it is difficult not to be overwhelmed by the financial costs associated with treatment. Unfortunately, the financial aspect of cancer can have a huge effect on your overall health, happiness and well-being during and after cancer treatment — most times well into survivorship.

Even people with good health insurance coverage may have difficulty affording treatments and other non-treatment-related costs. These include direct medical costs, non-medical costs, such as transportation, child care, lost time from work and daily living expenses, that can become a burden during treatment. You can also expect some ongoing costs for follow-up care appointments once treatment ends and you are being monitored as a survivor.

As some of these bills add up, you may find that you need assistance. Many organizations and resources are available that can provide help with covering these costs. See Financial Resources for a list of groups you can consider reaching out to if the need arises.

Types of Cancer-Related Costs

The cost of treating cancer is different for every person. The expenses you had depended on your diagnosis, your recommended treatment plan, your follow-up care and your level of insurance coverage. A recent study found that nearly one-third of cancer survivors experienced financial difficulties after being diagnosed and treated. A financial difficulty was defined as borrowing money, declaring bankruptcy, worrying about paying medical bills, being unable to pay for medical visits or making financial sacrifices.

Unfortunately, a study found that cancer survivors spend between $3,000 and $4,000 more annually than their healthy peers who have never had cancer. These extra expenses are attributed to the follow-up care and ongoing screenings needed to ensure health.

Talk To Your Health Care Team

Cancer-related costs can add up quickly, so it’s vital to talk to the members of your health care team about the cost of your cancer care as soon as possible. They understand that treatment can be expensive and may create financial hardship, so don’t be embarrassed to bring it up. Be sure to talk to the financial staff/counselors at your doctor’s office and at the hospital about your insurance policy and out-of-pocket expenses. Some facilities may be able to arrange a monthly payment schedule or offer you a reduced rate.

Social workers, advocates, financial counselors and patient navigators at your medical facility can also refer you to organizations and charities that may be able to help. Advocacy and nonprofit groups can point you toward sources of assistance. Federal laws offer benefits, protect you from the loss of health insurance and guard against discrimination on the basis of your health. Medicare programs may assist with costs such as monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-pays. In addition, you may have to adjust to a permanently reduced income if you aren’t able to return to your regular work hours.

Don’t forget your family and friends. They can help you search for financial assistance and offer advice on what would be most helpful for you. They can sometimes be a great resource to help you stay organized, research and gather information, or contact additional resources.

Increasing your knowledge of financial matters, including understanding your insurance, restructuring your budget and seeking assistance, can help you take control of your financial situation.

 

Managing Paperwork

Being well-organized with your cancer-related paperwork is integral to handling financial matters. Here are three tips for getting started. Remember, the most important thing is that your system is easy for you (and anyone helping you) to use.

  1. Designate one place in the house to do all of your paperwork-related tasks. This area should have a desk or table, a chair, a computer and printer (if you plan to pay bills online or store your paperwork electronically), and a filing system. Resist the urge to simply place everything in one file labeled “cancer” or “insurance,” as it will quickly become too large to manage.
  2. File new information as soon as you can. That not only reduces the possibility of misplacing something, but it also keeps paperwork from piling up, which can be overwhelming. If you fell behind during active treatment, work to get caught up when feeling better. If you need to, address one financial task per day so it is not overwhelming. When a new bill arrives, be sure to note directly on the bill the date you received it and attach any related papers, such as copies of claims or correspondence about it. Put the bill and attachments in an “Unpaid Bills” folder until you pay it, at which time you can move it to the most appropriate folder. Schedule this work for a time of day that’s best for you, both in terms of your schedule and how you feel.
  3. Create a file for supplemental paperwork, such as a monthly budget worksheet, dates of office visits or diagnostic tests, a list of medications you’re taking, insurance-related correspondence, contact information of all of your health care providers and a list of expenses that are not reimbursed by your insurer.

Additional Resources

 

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