Non-Traditional Methods to Pay for Cancer Care Pays Off

Patients battling cancer get financial assistance from friends, family, social media and non-profit organizations.

Part of the fight against cancer is finding a way to cover the enormous cost of treatment. Many people immediately think of direct costs, such as insurance deductibles and medications. However, indirect costs, such as those for travel and lodging, additional child care, modifications to the home or workplace, and other daily living expenses, are often substantial—and may present challenges for patients and families who are already under tremendous financial pressure.

Unfortunately, these expenses often pile up over an extended period of time due to the long-term nature of most cancer treatment, and they usually doesn’t subside once treatment is over. There are alternative ways to access established avenues of financial support, as well as fresh funding strategies made possible by social media and innovative fundraising websites.

“I think one of the most important things is, don’t ignore the bills that are coming in. Be proactive and reach out, you may be surprised at what might be offered to you,” says Erin Moaratty, chief of mission delivery at the Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF), a nonprofit that helps patients navigate the paths to financial assistance.

[Wondering if you should apply for disability?]

Institutional, government and nonprofit organizations provide help and financial assistance to patients in need, but it does take some legwork to find and apply for these resources. However, help is available to assist patients in making the connection.

[Find resources to ease financial burden of cancer]

About 21 years ago, Charlene Wilverding was diagnosed with oligodendroglioma, a type of brain tumor. Initially treated with radiation, the cancer went into remission. Fifteen years later, the tumor grew back. At that time, she had chemotherapy—paid for by her husband’s insurance—that resulted in a six-year remission.

When the tumor recurred a second time, her circumstances were different. Her husband had lost his job and they were struggling financially. Now on Medicare, Wilverding was told each treatment would cost $453 out of pocket for her co-payment, and she would need numerous treatments.

“We just didn’t have the money. We were already preparing to declare bankruptcy, and the bank had already foreclosed on our house,” she says.

When Wilverding contacted PAF, her case manager researched co-payment assistance programs and located two national programs that could help her. Ultimately, Wilverding was approved for assistance through the drug’s manufacturer, which saves her $5,436 a year. “I’m glad there are people who care enough to help, otherwise I would be dead, I guess.”

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