October 19th, 2016
| Survivor: Colorectal (Bowel) Cancer
Cancer is hard. It takes guts, dedication and resilience to overcome. We have to fight every day, yet long after the cancer is gone, the medical bills can still remain. And this problem does not discriminate. Those with insurance and income may face the same financial problems as those without insurance and income.
In fact, as of ten years ago 60 percent of those families who declared bankruptcy wholly or in part due to medical bills had health insurance. Last year, medical debt became the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the US.
So let’s do everything we can to make sure our cancer experience isn’t made any more difficult by the financial matters that surround it.
1. Find Out Who Your Hospital Serves
Does your hospital serve the uninsured, the underinsured or the indigent? Public hospitals as well as some non-profits provide a safety net for those who need care, regardless of their ability to pay. Your physician can steer you in the right direction.
2. Speak With the Hospital Social Worker
Once you've found a hospital, make sure you locate their social worker. This person is usually the most knowledgeable about support sources in your community and she or he will become your new best friend.
3. Ask For Medications In Pill Form
If possible, of course. These are usually cheaper versions of the drug you need.
4. Go Generic
Ever heard "If it ain't broke, don't fix it?" If you don't need a more specific drug, you don't need to pay extra for it. These generic versions also will be cheaper.
5. Ask For a Sample
Try out a new medication before signing up for the whole supply. If it does not agree with you or work for you, you won’t be billed as you would for a full prescription.
6. Take Advantage of Medicine Assistance Programs.
Many pharmaceutical companies have set up programs to help patients get the medicine they need at low cost or no cost. Similarly, ask your Social Worker to contact programs that offer free services for cancer patients like transportation, dog walking or house cleaning.
7. Check Hospital Bills CAREFULLY.
Request an itemized bill for all expenses from all facilities. Each expense will be listed separately. You don’t want to pay for a whole bottle of aspirin when you only took three. You don’t want to pay for that box of Kleenex in your room if you don’t use it. You don’t want to pay for a CT-Scan that was scheduled but later cancelled.
8. Ask to Set Up a Payment Plan
Work with your hospital to figure out a reasonable way to pay back the bills if you can't do it all at once. Budget your cancer care as you would your groceries. Your hospital Social Worker or a Credit Counselor can help you do this.
9. Ask Your Doctor About Clinical Trials.
You may qualify for one and the cost is usually paid for by donors, foundations and research facilities.
10. Do Your Resource Research
Some cancers get special treatment. For example, if you have breast or cervical cancer, the state may pay for your treatment through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Check with your healthcare provider or Social Worker about your specific cancer. Here are some other resources you'll want to look into:
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but attention to these details can result in big differences. And please contact your trusted Social Worker or your primary care physician with questions about additional issues, including federal and state programs, Insurance Policies, Social Security or the Americans with Disabilities Act.
As cancer patients, our job is to get better. Let’s not just kick the cancer, let’s kick the cost as well!
Do you have any additional resources or tips for saving money during cancer treatment? Share in the comments below or sign up here.
Photo courtesy of Bethany Legg
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