A cancer diagnosis requires a financial action plan as well as a medical one. Budgeting for health care costs and ensuring your family’s security require planning regardless of income. Dealing with financial issues can significantly add to the stress of a cancer diagnosis and this may be a good area to delegate to someone else, like a trusted family member or friend, or a certified financial planner sensitive to cancer issues. Many medical care costs can be defrayed by insurance and various aid programs that can cover medicine, travel and/or housing costs.
Insurance and medical coverage
Financial assistance for cancer treatment and other services is available to people at various income levels and in many situations. Of course, in our health care system, insurance makes a big difference in cancer care. If you do not have insurance there are several ways to get it:
1.You can buy group insurance through an employer or other group (ie. union, church or civic group)
2. You can buy individual insurance. While these policies tend to be more expensive many states have “high-risk pools” to serve high-risk individuals who do not have access to group insurance. Information on these pools can be found at the National Association of Health Underwriters http://www.nahu.org/consumer/hrpguide.cfm.
3. Finally, you can get coverage through federal and state programs that are available for qualified cancer patients. Each program has its own rules and requirements. A good place to start looking for information on these options is to contact the social work department at the hospital where you are receiving care. Other useful resources can be found below.
Understanding Your Coverage and Claims
Even if you have the best insurance coverage, you will likely be responsible for deductibles, co-payments, hospital bed rentals, some at-home nursing care, certain medications, and some services. Read your plan carefully and talk to your provider about your cancer diagnosis and what exactly will be covered. Navigating the complexities of individual insurers can be daunting and may require a degree of persistence.
Most of the time, people receive the care they need, but the potential exists for disagreements over the services that will be provided or paid for by health plans. Should this happen, you should know that all health care providers are required by law to follow state and federal rules for handling their enrollee’s complaints. Many states have legislated additional procedures outside of the health plan, called “external reviews” or “independent reviews,” to provide an unbiased way to resolve disputes between patients and their health plans. More information on claims and legal assistance can be found under “Legal Assistance and Advocacy”
A Note About Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are an important treatment option for many people with pancreatic cancer. There are different financial implications when a patient is on a clinical trial versus when they are treated with “standard” regimens. If you are thinking about participating in a clinical trial, you should discuss the financial aspects of this decision with the hospital financial counselor or billing staff. Your physician and research nurse may also have important information about various options.
The National Comprehensive Clinical Network (NCCN) is a not-for-profit alliance of 21 of the world's leading cancer centers, and is dedicated to improving the quality and effectiveness of care provided to patients with cancer. They have a wonderful resource page of information addressing financial issues for cancer patients.
Cancer Net (Managing the cost of cancer care) offers a comprehensive overview of the financial costs of cancer care in the United States, including why it's important to talk openly with your healthcare team, what costs to expect, which questions to ask, and more.
The Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition (CFAC) is a coalition of financial assistance organizations joining forces to help cancer patients experience better health and well-being by limiting financial challenges. The Web site offers a resource directory to find assistance, and a reading room to learn more about finding assistance.
National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation The financial assistance program is a program that has been put in place to assist those with pancreatic cancer to help cover basic cost of living expenses.
NCI Department of Veterans Affairs
1-877-827-1000 (VA Benefits)
1-877-222-8387 (Healthcare Benefits)
For more information on Medigap policies, you may call 1-800-633-4227 and ask for a free copy of the publication “Choosing a Medigap Policy: A Guide to Health Insurance for People With Medicare.”
Social Security Administration
Social Security has an obligation to provide benefits quickly to applicants whose medical conditions are so serious that their conditions obviously meet disability standards which include pancreas cancer
American Cancer Society
ACS offers a wealth of information for cancer patients and limited assistance to help cover certain cancer-related expenses.
CancerCare offers limited financial assistance to pancreatic cancer patients.
Cancer Care - A Helping Hand
The resources guide for people facing financial challenges. Order copies of "A Helping Hand" completely free of charge today at www.cancercare.org/publications/order. supply is limited.