Managing Financial Matters During Cancer

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Organization and help are crucial in handling finances during cancer treatment.

A diagnosis of cancer affects more than patients’ health — it also affects their money. For patients coping with cancer, simultaneously dealing with financial issues, and possibly debt, can be difficult and draining.

Cancer Support Community, which can be found at CancerSupportCommunity.org/cost, 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 (CancerSupportCommunity.org/ make-treatment-decision-right-you). Through this process, they can identify their goals in seeking therapy and consider treatment benefits in relation to their goals and concerns such as side effects and cost of care.

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

Once treatment decisions have been made, there are ways to lessen the financial burden.

Ask friends and loved ones for help. Have someone open and organize bills into categories, such as medical, household, credit card statements, taxes and so on. Also, they can look for any benefit checks and help get them deposited quickly.

Rank the bills in order of priority. For most people, health insurance premiums, food, medicines and utilities will be near the top of the list.

Negotiate for smaller payments. Often, creditors will work with patients. Most creditors prefer that people in debt make small payments rather than pay nothing at all.

Work out a payment plan. Organizations such as Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions (800-750- 2227), which offers most counseling and education services for free, can help patients negotiate a payment plan to satisfy their creditors.

Talk with an oncology social worker. These specialists can help with financial issues and might be able to point out sources of financial aid.

Ask the hospital about financial counseling. Some hospitals offer free financial counseling to patients.

Consider crowdfunding. Companies such as GoFundMe and others will do most of the work for you when it comes to raising funds online to help with your medical or everyday expenses. Some of these companies will keep a small percentage of donated funds as payment for their service.

Look for organizations that might offer you financial assistance. These can include nonprofit organizations and pharmaceutical companies. For a listing of groups that may be able to help, visit curetoday.com/journey.

MAKE A FINANCIAL PLAN

A sound plan means always preparing for the worst while hoping it never happens. When patients are going into treatment, it’s good to plan for:

  • The highest out-of-pocket medical expenses.
  • Travel costs.
  • The greatest number of hospital stays.
  • High prescription drug costs.
  • Experimental therapy not covered by insurance.
  • Home health care costs.
  • A disruption in work schedule.
  • Home services, such as cooking or cleaning.

Some of these costs can be difficult to estimate. Patients might want to discuss them with their doctors so they can plan accurately.

TO START A FINANCIAL PLAN, PATIENTS SHOULD TAKE FOUR STEPS

  1. Estimate their expenses.
  2. Identify sources of income and benefits.
  3. Manage their savings and investments.
  4. Plan their estates.

Tackling financial issues can be a challenge for anyone. Cancer treatments sometimes leave patients little energy to think about money matters. If it’s more difficult to address some topics than others, they should take on the easier ones first.

Being in treatment can mean added expenses that might be high. At the same time, patients’ incomes can go down if their work hours are reduced or they are unable to work.

Patients should make budgets using numbers that are based on the maximum out-of-pocket expenses for their existing health care plans, plus something for charges above and beyond the covered expenses.