The American health care system is, unfortunately, very expensive. Cancer or another serious illness can lead to financial catastrophe for many families. Don’t despair. We can help you get the resources you need. Elisabeth Russell, President, Patient Navigator LLC

Cancer and chronic diseases impose heavy economic burdens on both patients and their families. For many people, a portion of medical expenses is paid by their health insurance plan. For those without health insurance or who need financial assistance to cover health care costs, resources are available, including Government-sponsored programs and services supported by nonprofit organizations.

Cancer or disease treatments include expenses that insurance doesn’t cover, such as transportation, child care or basic living expenses such as food and housing. If the patient must stop working, the financial repercussions are even greater. Some relief is available, but it takes some work to figure everything out.   Your navigator can build a plan for you.

This Roadmap is divided into four sections:

  • Finding Assistance for Medicine and Treatment
  • Finding Assistance for Practical Needs (including travel and housing)
  • Finding Assistance with Benefits or Entitlements
  • Websites We Like

Finding Assistance for Medicine and Treatment

  • Public hospitals and some nonprofit hospitals provide a safety net for anyone who needs care. Call your local hospital and ask to speak with a social worker about any “charity care” or “indigent care” programs. Your local health department can direct you to services in your community.
  • Pharmaceutical assistance programs can provide help with prescription drugs. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance can help find assistance from pharmaceutical companies as well as state programs that include assistance for the uninsured. Call 1-888-477-2669. A physician or medical social worker can help you find out whether a specific drug might be available at a reduced cost. Most pharmaceutical companies will have a section titled “patient assistance programs” on their website.
  • You can find co-pay relief programs for medicines to insured patients who financially and medically qualify. For a detailed chart of programs see CancerCare’s “Financial Help for People with Cancer” fact sheet.
  • The Chronic Disease Fund is a non-profit charitable organization that helps underinsured patients with chronic disease, cancers or life-altering conditions obtain the expensive medications they need. 1-877-968-7333
  • NeedyMeds is a web-based information resource for people who need assistance paying for health care. It has information on patient assistance programs that provide free of low-cost medicine to people who are uninsured or underinsured.
  • RxHope helps patients obtain free or low-cost prescription medications. (732) 507-7400
  • The Patient Advocate Foundation offers counseling about financial issues, among others; 1-800-532-5274.
  • The Colorectal CareLine offer assistance to colon cancer patients at 1-866-657-8634.
  • The Co-Pay Relief Program has limited payment assistance for those who qualify. 1-866-657-8634.
  • The CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance Foundation provides co-payment assistance for patients who have been prescribed chemotherapy but are unable to afford the out-of-pocket costs or co-payments required by their insurer or Medicaid. 1-866-552-6729.
  • The Candlelighters® Childhood Cancer Foundation (CCCF) offers support to families, including a list of organizations to which eligible families can apply for financial assistance. 1-800-366-2223.

Finding Assistance for Practical Needs

  • The United Way in your community may have an information and referral line. In some communities. The information line can be reached by dialing “211”.
  • Other community voluntary agencies and services organization, such as the Salvation Army, Lutheran Social Services, Jewish Social Services and Catholic Charities may offer help. You find them on the Internet or your phone book under “social service,” “human service” or “community” organizations.
  • National advocacy groups, such as the National Brain Tumor Society and the Lymphoma Research Foundation Patient Services can sometimes provide financial assistance. Local branches of the American Cancer Society also offer several programs to help patients, including Hope Lodge, Road to Recovery, Tender Loving Care and more.
  • The LIVESTRONG™ SurvivorCare partnership between the Lance Armstrong Foundation, CancerCare and the Patient Advocate Foundation provides financial assistance to cancer survivors. 1-866-235-7205 or 1-866-673-7205.
  • CancerCare operates the AVONCares Program for Medically Underserved Women in partnership with the Avon Foundation. It provides financial assistance to low-income, under- and uninsured, underserved women throughout the country who need supportive services (transportation, childcare and home care) related to the treatment of breast and gynecologic cancers. 1-800-813-4673.
  • State and local social services agencies can provide help with food, housing, drugs, transportation and other medical expenses for those who are not eligible for other programs. Contact your state, county or local agency.

Finding Travel and Housing Related Assistance

Finding Assistance with Benefits or Entitlements

It is important to apply for any benefits as soon as possible. A hospital or community social worker can direct you to the proper government agencies. Most entitlement programs take time to process your enrollments forms, so begin this process right away.

  • http://www.benefits.gov is the official benefits site of the U.S. Government, with information on over 1,000 benefit and assistance programs. Users may complete a questionnaire on the website that identifies Government benefits for which they may be eligible, along with information about how the user can apply. 1-800-333-4636.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is a good place to start. Call 1-877-267-2323. Medicare can be available to people with any age with permanent kidney failure or disabled people under the age of 65. Eligibility requirements are strict. Your physician’s office will need to be involved with this process. Medicaid is a jointly funded, Federal-State health insurance program for people who need financial assistance for medical expenses. Medicaid requirements are set by each state. Check your state’s or county’s Medicaid office or the telephone directory for a local number. You can also investigate food stamps or other public assistance with your local social welfare agencies.
  • The Veterans Health Administration Cancer Program offers cancer treatment to eligible veterans and their dependents at a VA Medical Center. Other services are also available under certain circumstances.
  • The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is a Federal-State partnership that offers low-cost or free health insurance coverage to uninsured infants, children and teens. 1-877-543-7669
  • The Social Security Administration administers Social Security Disability and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program which provides payments for aged, blind and disabled people with little or no income. 1-800-772-1213.
  • Eldercare Locator is a referral service provided by the U.S. Administration on Aging, which is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This service links callers with state and area agencies of aging who can refer them to local agencies that provide a wide array of senior services. 1- 800-677-1116.

Final Suggestions

Make sure to review your health insurance and other insurance policies, such as long-term care, to fully understand your coverage. Ask you insurance company if they can assign you a case manager to help you.

If you need help with hospital expenses, ask to speak to a financial counselor in the business office of the hospital. Make sure to do this early in the process, not after the bills start to arrive.

Don’t forget the power of using your local elected officials. Their constituent services staff can often break bureaucratic obstacles you face with a phone call or letter.

Websites We Like

The American Society of Clinical Oncology has published a new patient guide to financial help, “Managing the Cost of Cancer Care”.

Learn the vocabulary of cost-related terms in this guide by reading Cancer.Net’s “Glossary of Cost-Related Terms”.

CancerCare, a national non-profit organization, offers extensive information on financial assistance, including some assistance programs and access to a database of resources.

The Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition offers a searchable database by diagnosis and type of assistance needed.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology website includes an extensive list of financial resources.

The National Cancer Institute publishes many fact sheets to connect with other organizations offering support and resources.

This My Patient Navigator™ Roadmap draws on the information provided by several organizations, including CancerCare and the National Cancer Institute. Details about the programs described herein can be found by clicking on the respective links.

We encourage you to read these documents for additional information and to investigate the resources best suited to your needs. Your navigator can do this for you.