Assess your situation. If you are uninsured or have poor coverage, it's likely you will need assistance with medical bill reduction or added insurance coverage. Questions to ask your physician: Will you need a significant amount of time off work, either for yourself or caring for a family member with cancer? Are you going to need transportation help, such as for frequent radiation therapy?
Start local for assistance. Begin with your health-care provider. Ask for referrals to hospital social workers or finance advisors. Also seek referrals to local city or county agencies. Some cities or service groups have local patient funds for a variety of financial needs (utilities, prescriptions, etc). Members of houses of worship or service organizations should consider asking for assistance from these groups.
Discuss your situation with your employer. The FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) allows for up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off work per calendar year for certain conditions, such as cancer (or caring for immediate family members). The employer, under FMLA, must maintain health benefits throughout the leave. Some prerequisites apply. Also, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), patients may qualify for flextime at work while undergoing treatments.
Go national for funds. Contact the Hill-Burton program (1-800-638-0742) to see if a nearby hospital is participating in this federal grant program. Hill-Burton allows construction money for hospitals that receive funds in exchange for reduced or free services for patients who cannot pay.
Another national source, CancerCare (1-800-813-4673) offers limited grants for patient costs related to transportation, child care and home health care. Through its partner, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, patients can receive additional services, such as medication, female prosthesis and hormonal replacement. Ask about CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance Foundation information. NeedyMeds (http://www.needymeds.org), an internet-based group, provides assistance for the uninsured and will supply resources for finding low-cost or free medical services.
Others to investigate are Medicaid (http://www.cms.hhs.gov/apps/contacts) which offers part-time nursing, medical supplies and equipment, and Medicare (1-800-633-4227) for federal health insurance. Veterans or their dependents may contact the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) for medical assistance and treatment by calling 1-877-222-8387.
Consult health-care providers for agency contact information regarding the specific type of cancer diagnosed. Many groups offer assistance for certain cancer patients, such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) or the National Brain Tumor Society (NTBS). These give limited, but vital, patient assistance. Be aware that medical bills often can be negotiated down significantly. Ask a family member to seek financial aid on your behalf. Click on the National Cancer Institute link below for expanded resources. Concentrate on healing.
A cancer diagnosis is stressful and challenging. Along with treatment options, tests and outcomes, patients must also face financial issues. Due to rising health-care costs, a patient can easily meet insurance deductibles and co-payments, perhaps for multiple years. Some individuals may have no health insurance at all, and fear the financial burdens treatment imposes. However, a variety of local, federal, agency and medical assistance programs are available to ease fiscal concerns.