Tips and Resources for Coping With Cancer Treatment Costs

There are many resources available to help patients with cancer navigate and pay for treatment.
WHILE IT’S CLEAR THAT cancer drugs can be very expensive, there is assistance available to patients when it comes to deciding whether to take such treatments — and getting the funding to pay for them.

“Patients need to really be diligent in asking ahead of time what their out-of-pocket costs are going to be, and what resources are available to help them make informed treatment decisions, and also to receive help with this out-of-pocket cost,” says Linda House, president of the patient advocacy group Cancer Support Community. A first step for insured patients is to find out exactly what their health plans will cover, according to the Cancer Research Institute, a nonprofit focused on immunotherapy. It also can be helpful for patients to check in about money and payment options with their doctors or the social services or financial departments at their hospitals, since price reductions or payment plans may be available.

“Help is available, especially in the area of paying for drugs, in a way that may not be available in the area of copays for other services,” House continues. “Our organization and others can help them find those resources.” Further, Cancer Support Community can help patients make educated, shared decisions with their health care professionals about which treatments to choose. In a meeting with Cancer Support Community experts, patients can explore that issue via the “Open to Options Treatment Decision Model.” Through this process, they can identify their goals in seeking therapy and consider treatment benefits in relation to risks such as side effects and financial toxicity, House says.

Such meetings are free and can take place over the phone or in person; to set one up, patients can call the organization’s Helpline at 888-793-9355.

Here are more resources that can help patients sort through cost issues:

Assistance for the Uninsured

• Medicaid programs may be able to help those who can’t afford insurance or care. Contact your local or state Department of Social Services, or welfare office.

• Partnership for Prescription Assistance, at, helps qualifying patients who don’t have prescription drug coverage to get their medicines for free, or nearly for free.

• The Veterans Administration may be able to help those who have served in the military, or their dependents.

Help for the Elderly and Disabled

• BenefitsCheckUp is a program of the National Council on Aging, whose aim is to help patients over 55 years of age to pay for prescription drugs, health care and other needs. Reach them at 571-527-3900, 1-800-677-1116 or

• Medicare may be able to help. Call your local office of the Social Security Administration.

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Financial Topics CURE discussion group.
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