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Tips and Resources for Easing the Financial Burden of Cancer Copayments

BY Michele McCourt, senior director, CCAF
PUBLISHED February 23, 2016
Cancer is an expensive illness, and even if a patient has a good insurance plan, the cost of cancer treatments can still be a financial burden. Many still face out-of-pocket costs in the form of high premiums, deductibles, copays and coinsurance for their medical and prescription benefits. These costs are compounded by the fact that people with cancer and their caregivers often have to cut back on time spent at work, which means their income decreases at the same time that their bills pile up.
 
At CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance Foundation (CCAF), we speak with many individuals who face these exact challenges. However, if you are one of the many underinsured Americans seeking assistance paying for cancer treatments, there are steps you can take to help relieve some of your financial burden.
 
What You Can Do
 
Know your insurance coverage, and contact your insurance provider with any questions. First and foremost, obtain and read a copy of your insurance policy or summary description of your policy. This will outline your benefits, any coverage limits and the appeals process. Your insurance company can also be a good resource to call if you have questions about what is or is not covered.
 
Ask your insurance provider to assign you a case manager. A case manager can help you stay organized and navigate your coverage. They may also assist you by letting you know if your health care provider offers a payment plan or if special funding is available.
 
Communicate with your health care team about costs. Oftentimes, patients do not want to talk with their doctors about paying for treatment. However, talking to your health care team about financial concerns can help ensure that you have access to treatments you need.  A financial counselor may be available to you through your provider’s office or cancer center.  They will review your treatment plan and insurance coverage to let you know what your cost for treatment may be. They help to identify programs available to reduce costs without reducing the quality of care you receive.
 
Look into pharmaceutical manufacturer assistance programs. If you are not insured, or have insurance but are not covered by a prescription plan, you may be eligible to receive certain drugs free from the drug company through a patient assistance program. For those who have private insurance, drug manufacturers may provide copay cards to help pay for some medications.  Patients insured by Medicare, Medicaid or other federally funded programs are not eligible for these types of programs.
 
Reach out to nonprofit ogranizations. These organizations can assist patients in a variety of ways by offering financial assistance for treatment-related expenses, which can include assistance with insurance premiums, copayments for medications and even travel and childcare assistance to help with the additional costs associated with getting to treatment. These organizations have specific eligibility guidelines and are able to assist patients insured through a federal health care program. About 75 percent of the patients assisted by CCAF are insured through a federal health plan like Medicare.
 
How Oncology Social Workers Can Help
 
Cancer takes an emotional toll on people living with cancer and their loved ones. Struggling to meet the cost of care adds to this emotional stress. For many people, applying for aid can feel daunting, and it may not be clear who to reach out to for help. An oncology social worker can provide a framework for your experience by offering ways to cope and help initiate a frank discussion about the costs of care and other financial obligations. They can help you navigate government, nonprofit, and pharmaceutical programs, as well as other sources of financial assistance. CCAF is unique because people who reach out to us for support have access to CancerCare’s full array of services, including access to an oncology social worker.
 
Many people who receive assistance from CCAF say that our help eased an immense financial burden, and allowed them to focus on their diagnosis, treatments and time with loved ones. If you are struggling to afford copayments for cancer medications, we encourage you to reach out.
 
The CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance Foundation (CCAF) is a nonprofit organization designed to address the financial needs of underinsured cancer patients by assisting with co-payments, coinsurance and premiums that can be a barrier to patients to access their prescribed cancer treatments. To learn more, call 866-55-COPAY (866-552-6729) or visit www.cancercarecopay.org. To learn about CancerCare’s full range of services, visit www.cancercare.org.
 
 
 
 
 
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