Get a Second Life
July 22, 2010
An Effective Complement to the Pap Smear
July 22, 2010
HPV Vaccination Recommendations
July 22, 2010
Resources
July 21, 2010
A Study of Dietary Prudence
November 18, 2009 – Kathy LaTour
Debt Collection: Playing Fair
July 21, 2010
Fast Facts: John Plumb Sr.
July 21, 2010
Bearing the Bankruptcy Burden
July 21, 2010 – Teresa McUsic
Debt-Fighting Strategies
July 21, 2010 – Teresa McUsic
What to Watch For
July 20, 2010 – Debra Wood, RN
Web Exclusive: Possible Barriers to Palliative Care
March 10, 2008 – The American Cancer Society
Recommended Resources
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Doctors in Training
March 10, 2008 – Joanne Kenen
Now That I'm An Adult
March 10, 2008 – Claudia Craemer-Meihsner as told to Eric Ness
For When It Hurts
March 10, 2008 – Joanne Kenen
Cancer Around the World
March 10, 2008 – Jo Cavallo
Making a Difference
March 10, 2008 – Jo Cavallo
The High-Risk Crowd
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Risk Factors: Close to Home
March 10, 2008 – Nicole LeBrasseur, PhD
What's Behind the Screen?
March 10, 2008 – Nicole LeBrasseur, PhD
Long-Distance Lifesavers
March 10, 2008 – Marc Silver
Intimacy Issues
March 10, 2008 – Curtis Pesmen
Protecting Yourself
March 10, 2008 – Katy Human
Schools Get Schooled on Parents with Cancer
March 10, 2008 – Erik Ness
DES Exposure: Questions and Answers
March 10, 2008 – The American Cancer Society
Are Public Awareness Campaigns Effective?
March 10, 2008 – Lacey Meyer
The New Specialty in Cancer Care
March 10, 2008 – Joanne Kenen
Below the Surface
March 10, 2008 – Nicole LeBrasseur, PhD
Another Deafening Silence
March 10, 2008 – Betty Ferrell, PhD, RN
How Out-of-Towners Stay in the Loop
March 10, 2008 – Marc Silver
Are Minorities Benefiting From Prevention Priority?
March 10, 2008 – Jo Cavallo
Marriage and Cancer?
March 10, 2008 – Curtis Pesmen
On the Defensive
March 10, 2008 – Katy Human
Breast Cancer & Lung Cancer
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
When the Ordinary Becomes the Ideal
March 10, 2008 – Linn Kurkjian
Straight Talk
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Dieting Away Cancer?
March 10, 2008 – Lena Huang
Message from the Publisher
March 10, 2008 – Susan McClure
More Radiation in Less Time
March 10, 2008 – Laura Beil
Letters from Our Readers
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Friend in Need: Chemo Duck
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Breast Cancer Risk May be Overstated in BRCA Carriers
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Q&A: Predicting Breast Cancer Recurrence
March 10, 2008 – Len Lichtenfeld, MD
Journeys Through Cancer: Art of Healing & Hope
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Cancer on $5 a Day (*chemo not included): How Humor Got Me Through the Toughest Journey of My Life
March 10, 2008 – Kathy LaTour
Exploring the Origin of Childhood Leukemia
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
We Can Weekend
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Seventies Musicians Linked by Cancer
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Insurance for Clinical Trial Care a State-by-State Battle
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Get a Second Life
July 22, 2010
An Effective Complement to the Pap Smear
July 22, 2010
HPV Vaccination Recommendations
July 22, 2010
A Shot at Prevention
February 04, 2008 – Don Vaughan
Prevention in America
February 04, 2008 – Lovell Jones
Resources
July 21, 2010
Reel-Life Cancer
February 04, 2008 – Lacey Meyer
Voices
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Defining Perceptions
February 04, 2008 – Debu Tripathy, MD
A Study of Dietary Prudence
November 18, 2009 – Kathy LaTour
Gastronomical Distress
February 04, 2008 – Claudia Boynton
Debt Collection: Playing Fair
July 21, 2010
Fast Facts: John Plumb Sr.
July 21, 2010
Snippets
February 04, 2008
Snippets
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Bearing the Bankruptcy Burden
July 21, 2010 – Teresa McUsic
Currently Viewing
Debt-Fighting Strategies
July 21, 2010 – Teresa McUsic
Here We Go Again
February 04, 2008 – Kathy LaTour
Snippets
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Shining Light on Detection
February 04, 2008 – Laura Beil
Preparing for the Breast Cancer Paradigm Shift
February 04, 2008 – Lillie Shockney, RN
Diagnosis: Critical Mass
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Part of the Grand Experiment
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Snippets
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The Healing Zone
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Surviving With A Plumb
February 04, 2008 – Jean Nash Johnson
Letters
February 04, 2008
Figurative Testimonials
February 04, 2008 – Karen Belfer
Relay for (Second) Life
February 04, 2008 – John V. Wood
Shouldering Debt
February 04, 2008 – Teresa McUsic
Heart & Lung Watch
February 04, 2008 – Debra Wood, RN
Web Exclusive: Possible Barriers to Palliative Care
March 10, 2008 – The American Cancer Society
Recommended Resources
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Doctors in Training
March 10, 2008 – Joanne Kenen
Now That I'm An Adult
March 10, 2008 – Claudia Craemer-Meihsner as told to Eric Ness
For When It Hurts
March 10, 2008 – Joanne Kenen
Cancer Around the World
March 10, 2008 – Jo Cavallo
Making a Difference
March 10, 2008 – Jo Cavallo
The High-Risk Crowd
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Risk Factors: Close to Home
March 10, 2008 – Nicole LeBrasseur, PhD
What's Behind the Screen?
March 10, 2008 – Nicole LeBrasseur, PhD
Long-Distance Lifesavers
March 10, 2008 – Marc Silver
Intimacy Issues
March 10, 2008 – Curtis Pesmen
Protecting Yourself
March 10, 2008 – Katy Human
Schools Get Schooled on Parents with Cancer
March 10, 2008 – Erik Ness
DES Exposure: Questions and Answers
March 10, 2008 – The American Cancer Society
Are Public Awareness Campaigns Effective?
March 10, 2008 – Lacey Meyer
The New Specialty in Cancer Care
March 10, 2008 – Joanne Kenen
Below the Surface
March 10, 2008 – Nicole LeBrasseur, PhD
Another Deafening Silence
March 10, 2008 – Betty Ferrell, PhD, RN
How Out-of-Towners Stay in the Loop
March 10, 2008 – Marc Silver
Are Minorities Benefiting From Prevention Priority?
March 10, 2008 – Jo Cavallo
Marriage and Cancer?
March 10, 2008 – Curtis Pesmen
On the Defensive
March 10, 2008 – Katy Human
Breast Cancer & Lung Cancer
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
When the Ordinary Becomes the Ideal
March 10, 2008 – Linn Kurkjian
Straight Talk
March 10, 2008 – Erik Ness
Dieting Away Cancer?
March 10, 2008 – Lena Huang
Message from the Publisher
March 10, 2008 – Susan McClure
More Radiation in Less Time
March 10, 2008 – Laura Beil
Letters from Our Readers
March 10, 2008
Friend in Need: Chemo Duck
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
www.cancer.gov/bcrisktool
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Breast Cancer Risk May be Overstated in BRCA Carriers
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Q&A: Predicting Breast Cancer Recurrence
March 10, 2008 – Len Lichtenfeld, MD
Journeys Through Cancer: Art of Healing & Hope
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Cancer on $5 a Day (*chemo not included): How Humor Got Me Through the Toughest Journey of My Life
March 10, 2008 – Kathy LaTour
Exploring the Origin of Childhood Leukemia
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
We Can Weekend
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Seventies Musicians Linked by Cancer
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington
Insurance for Clinical Trial Care a State-by-State Battle
March 10, 2008 – Elizabeth Whittington

Debt-Fighting Strategies

Advice from advocates on how to avoid debt and get help with bills.

BY Teresa McUsic
PUBLISHED July 21, 2010

Healthcare advocates say one crucial thing to do before entering the hospital is to check whether labs, doctors and tests are “in network” for your plan. Just because the hospital is part of your insurance network does not mean that the other services you receive are. Use hospital social workers as a resource early in the process if you suspect financial problems will arise. 

Also, it’s important to shop around for care if you have time before your procedure and ask for an estimate upfront. Look for state or county-run hospitals, or not-for-profit providers, which tend to offer more free care and provide payment plans for patients. Also look for free clinical trials through the National Cancer Institute’s website at www.cancer.gov.

If your treatment causes unmanageable medical bills, there are also a number of strategies you can use:

First, be sure hospital charges are accurate. Errors in medical accounts can often be caught if you call them to the attention of the hospital’s billing department. Also, check that your insurance is covering everything it’s supposed to cover, and don’t be afraid to file an appeal if necessary. Request one case manager at your insurance company to handle your needs.

Access public and private programs. You may qualify for government programs such as Medicaid, the state Children’s Health Insurance Program or Social Security Disability. In some cases, coverage can be retroactive. Also, grants of private assistance to cover medical bills may be available through a local hospital or charity group or national organizations. (See “Resources” sidebar.)

Talk to providers directly and ask for discounts and extended payment plans. They often will not offer unless you ask. For ongoing costs, see whether your doctor can write prescriptions for extended periods to cut down co-payments, and ask about other cost-saving strategies. Many doctors will work something out as long as you pay consistently. Also, see whether the clinic has drug samples or other discount coupons.  

It’s important to shop around for care if you have time before your procedure and ask for an estimate upfront.

Avoid medical credit cards. Advocates say these cards are increasingly being pushed on patients upfront as healthcare providers partner with credit card companies. While the cards have an appealing start-up with no fees and zero interest rate, the cards often go to much high interest rates and fees after the grace period. Putting the medical expenses on a card also eliminates your ability to negotiate with your provider for discounts or extended payment plans.

If you own your home, call your mortgage lender early and try to work out new payment arrangements. Some people might consider downsizing their home or taking a second mortgage, reverse mortgage or home equity loan to cover medical expenses. However, experts warn this should be a last resort and done cautiously, because you are trading secured for unsecured debt.

Deduct medical expenses from taxes. Don’t forget, you can deduct the part of medical and dental expenses that are more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income from your federal taxes. For a list of acceptable medical and dental expenses, go to the IRS website at www.irs.gov and search for Publication 502.

Consider more drastic options. Creative fundraising efforts are often successful. Go to local media for publicity. In addition, filing for personal bankruptcy can discharge expenses owed a provider, as well as credit card debt.  

Continue the conversation on CURE’s forum. >>
Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the CURE discussion group.

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