6 Free Financial Resources for Cancer Patients and Caregivers
Cancer is expensive. Every little bit of it. Take, for example, a single mother who is getting ready to take her daughter to treatment today. She packs up a few healthy snacks for her child, whose treatment means she can only eat specific foods or even just meal replacement shakes. These dietary changes are critical for her daughter’s health, yet they are extremely expensive and wiping out her small food budget for the month.
The hospital can’t pay for caregiver meals, so she grabs a small meal for herself, too. Before heading to the hospital, she has to drop off her other child at daycare. On her way there, she notices her gas light blinking and knows she’ll have to fill up before getting to the hospital because she has to drive an hour each way.
At the hospital, her daughter is prescribed medicines that insurance won’t fully cover because she isn’t inpatient. After a full day of appointments, she swings by a take-out window so she doesn’t have to take her immunocompromised daughter into a grocery store. And to be honest, she doesn’t have the energy to cook anyway.
Now home with her two kids, she prepares to do it all again tomorrow.
This mom is inspired by the many patient and caregiver stories we hear every day at Family Reach. Caregivers like this aren’t the only ones experiencing these financial side effects of cancer. In 2020 alone, we supported 44,600 individuals facing burdens like these through our Financial Treatment Program.
If any parts of her story — or even all of them — are hitting home for you, know that you didn’t do anything wrong and there is help out there. Here are some free financial resources that our team of Resource Navigators recommends to cancer patients and their families.
You may have heard or seen the phone number 2-1-1 before. It’s a United Way program that directs people to local resources that can help them pay their bills, find food, access mental health resources, and so much more. Simply call 2-1-1 or visit the 211 website if calling doesn’t fit in your schedule!
2. Copay and prescription assistance programs
Even with the greatest insurance coverage or the safety net of Medicare, there are still medical expenses, such as copays for doctor visits, medicines, or procedures, that aren’t entirely covered by insurance. The good news is that there are many ways to get assistance for these expenses.
First, if something wasn’t approved by your insurance company, feel free to ask someone to take another look at your medical bills with you, such as your social worker or patient advocate. There could have been an error, and even if everything is correct, you still deserve to know why some things are approved while others aren’t.
If you know the manufacturer of your medicine, they may have assistance programs to help patients and their families pay for it. You can also ask your pharmacist if they know of any coupons when you pick up your prescription.
The Patient Access Network (PAN) also has an amazing tool called FundFinder. When you’re juggling appointment dates, names of doctors, and other support staff, it can be overwhelming to keep checking in on programs and financial assistance applications that can change in the blink of an eye. PAN saw this problem and created a solution — you sign up with your email to their FundFinder and they will alert you when a fund opens for your diagnosis.
3. Triage Cancer
As if there isn’t already enough to worry about, there are a lot of complexities to the legal and practical sides of cancer. Can you get Family Medical Leave Assistance (FMLA)? What happens if insurance denies your claim? You need your medical records, but how do you access them? Triage Cancer is a fantastic resource for answering these questions.
Founded by two attorneys in 2012, they provide free education on the practical and legal issues that arise after a cancer diagnosis. With webinars, ask-the-expert calls, quick informative videos, and so much more, Triage Cancer is a great stop on your journey to understanding all the elements of your cancer treatment.
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4. Local food banks
Food banks are a great resource if you need a little extra help with food or even household items like diapers and laundry detergent. Feeding America is one of the biggest names in the fight against food insecurity, and they partner with many food banks across the country to get food and resources to people who need it. You can use their website to find a local food bank.
You can also keep an eye out for a “mutual aid organization” in your neighborhood. These are groups focused on supporting their community with things like food pantries that have expanded in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and other natural disasters.
5. Family Reach’s Financial Guidebooks
Family Reach has a financial guidebook for every age group of cancer patients — pediatric, young adult, and adult. The guidebooks are designed to walk you through how cancer affects finances and provides some tools for navigating your unique situation. This includes:
- Costs and saving options to consider
- Easy action steps to follow
- Checklists for estimating your personal costs
- Advice from patients and caregivers
- List of vetted financial resources
You will receive your free copy of the guidebook when you apply to our Financial Treatment Program, or you can download your preferred version here.
Additionally, we also applied our financial expertise to help anyone affected by the pandemic. You can download A Financial Guide to COVID-19 here.
6. Your care team
Your hospital social worker, patient advocate, nurse navigator, and other healthcare professionals on your care team can be key people in your financial and emotional corner while you’re focused on treatment. Don’t hesitate to ask them for help, and if your head is spinning too much to think of what to ask, here are a few ideas that might help you start the conversation.
As a critical part of our Financial Treatment Program, our Resource Navigators can also become extensions of your care team. We’re all licensed social workers, and we consider where you live, how many people are in your family, and your biggest needs to recommend some specific resources outside of Family Reach services that we think could help.
The financial resources highlighted here are only a few on a long list — and our goal is to take the stress off of patients and caregivers from having to sort through all of the options. We’ll worry about guidelines, hours of operations, contact information, and answer questions like where and when to apply so you can get financial support as quickly and easily as possible.
Devin Traxler is a social worker in our New Jersey office. She is one of our Resource Navigators and enjoys working with families and social workers across the country. When she’s at home, she likes to hang out with her cat and two dogs, and work on art projects.
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