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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Financial help available to cancer patients

Cancer Defeated Publications

Sources of Financial Help for
Uninsured Cancer Patients

    You probably know that cancer brings bills that can be a crushing burden to the cancer patient and the whole family. Can the uninsured patient get any financial help? The answer is yes, but you need patience and perseverance.

    Fortunately, there are many non-profit organizations whose focus is to provide various types of assistance to cancer patients. Let's take a look and see what kind of help you can get. . .

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    I'll speak about the conventional sources of health insurance in a moment. Those may be of limited use, especially if you prefer natural or alternative treatments. So let's look first at what's available privately. . .

    The Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition is a group of 14 member organizations that focuses on educating cancer patients and providers about available financial resources.

    The group also provides advocacy services to people burdened with the costs of cancer treatment and care. That's important, because many people have already piled up massive bills in the conventional medical system before they give up on it and turn to alternatives.

    The CFAP's current lineup of member organizations includes:
  • American Cancer Society
  • CancerCare
  • CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance Foundation
  • Chronic Disease Fund
  • HealthWell Foundation
  • The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  • The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Co-Pay Assistance Program Lymphoma Research Foundation
  • The Max Foundation
  • National Organization for Rare Diseases
  • National Marrow Donor Program
  • Patient Access Network Foundation
  • Patient Services Incorporated
  • Sarcoma Alliance
    Each of these organizations provides various forms of financial assistance, including services and products at reduced costs.

    The services will vary depending on locations served and the needs of the individual. For this reason, it is best to contact each organization to determine what is available for your area and level of need.

    Considering the sponsors involved, I doubt if they'll help you much with alternative treatments. But they provide other help that's not medical in nature. And if you're pursuing a combination of conventional and alternative treatments — and especially if your caregiver's name is followed by the magic letters "M.D." -- you might persuade them to help you out on the medical side, too.
What are some examples of services
that may be covered?
    I can't say these services will be available for everyone, but here are just a few examples of aid that may be available:
  • The Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA) program consists of drug companies, health care providers, patient advocacy organizations, and community groups. They help search more than 475 public and private patient assistance programs to find assistance for cancer patients who don't have prescription drug coverage.
  • The American Cancer Society has established "Hope Lodges" throughout the United States. These housing units give families a place to stay when a patient must receive cancer treatments far from home. They also provide free wigs to cancer patients.
  • The Corporate Angel Network provides free airfare to cancer patients who can walk and travel without life-support or medical attention.
  • The Brenda Mehling Cancer Fund (BMCF) is for patients aged 18 to 40 and provides assistance with daily needs not covered by insurance. A typical amount is $600 that can be used to cover medical co-payments, rent /mortgage, transportation, car insurance, repairs, and groceries.
  • The Breasts Friends Hat Project provides free hats to women being treated for cancer.
  • Cleaning for a Reason partners with maid services to offer four free monthly house cleanings to help women undergoing cancer treatment.
    This list represents just a few of the resources that can help ease the financial burdens cancer patients experience. You'll find more examples at the

    If I had cancer and needed help, I'd explore these outfits to see what's available. Will they give a free wig or a hat, or cleaning services, or help with car insurance or repairs, or free airfare. . .if you're seeking alternative treatment? I don't know, but it can't hurt to ask.

    And this would be a good time to invoke your own "don't ask, don't tell" policy. For example, if you're flying to one of the excellent alternative cancer clinics in Nevada or Arizona or California, there's no particular reason to tell the charitable organization that it's for alternative treatments. These clinics are run by licensed M.D.'s — and I would hope your choice of caregiver is your own business.

    May you or someone you love find an abundance of resources to help you cope with the many challenges of battling cancer! If you know anything about the organizations above or have received assistance from them, please post your experiences on our Facebook page or write me at

    Meanwhile, what kind of help can you get from conventional insurance?
Welcome to the health insurance wonderland
    A study sponsored by the American Cancer Society of nearly 4 million cancer patients found that the uninsured are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at its advanced stages. We can guess why: not having insurance, they delay seeking help.

    Big mistake. When cancer reaches the advanced stage, it's more expensive to treat and — more important — the patients are less likely to survive. So the outlook is not encouraging for the uninsured. The time to think about insurance is BEFORE you get sick.

    But even the insured are at risk of being underinsured when expensive medical care is required. Insurance doesn't cover everything. So make your plans for a rainy day before it starts raining. And your plan should include putting something aside to pay the deductibles and other expenses that insurance won't cover.

    Ready to seek insurance? Let's look at the options. . .
You might qualify for one of these programs…
    Health insurance in the U.S. comes in the following four broad categories:
  1. Employer sponsored—in this system, lower-risk participants help subsidize the expenses for sick, high-risk participants; unfortunately, not all companies offer benefits. And some workers may not be eligible for coverage, or may choose not to participate, or cannot afford their share of the premiums.
  2. Medicare—this federally funded program is designed for citizens age 65 or older or for citizens of any age with certain disabling conditions. Medicare includes coverage for hospitalization, doctor visits and prescription drugs. To determine your eligibility, visit
  3. Medicaid—this program is funded by both federal and state funds; benefits vary from one state to another, but Medicaid typically pays the medical bills of certain low-income and needy people. Because coverage varies by state, you must check your eligibility at
  4. Private, non-group—individuals or families pay for their own insurance coverage; traditionally people seeking this type of coverage paid higher rates for not being part of a group and faced denial of benefits
    It almost goes without saying that none of the options above provides significant coverage for alternative or natural treatments. Coverage is available for the traditional triad of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

    BUT there's some hope. As I said, there are integrative physicians with the magic letters "M.D." and some of the treatments they use — such as low-dose chemotherapy — are probably covered by insurance. You may have to pay for the nutritional supplements or for alternative treatments such as ozone therapy or UV blood irradiation -- but the chemo, the diagnostic tests, the bed, the food and the doctor's fees should be insured, it seems to me.

    There's more: Cancer patients often have been denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. And cancer patients who do have insurance often pay high premiums or pay for insurance that won't cover cancer screenings, treatments and follow-up visits.

    That may be changing.

    The Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, is intended to make healthcare more affordable and available, including to people diagnosed with cancer. My understanding is that, under this law, beginning in 2014, a person who's already been diagnosed with cancer mustbe granted coverage. I don't know about the costs, I haven't delved into that — but you canget insurance.

    Some of the law's key provisions include:
  • Ending lifetime limits on benefits
  • Limiting out-of-pocket costs and deductibles
  • Ending higher charges for people based on their health status (beginning in 2014)
  • Helping low- and moderate-income families buy insurance
  • Preventing insurance companies from ending benefits when a person gets sick
    If you play it right, it looks to me like the uninsured person, even one who prefers alternative treatments, might be able to get significant financial help from both public and private sources.

    Best thing of all is to avoid cancer in the first place, so you never need financial aid or insurance. Our last issue talked about a tip that can help you do just that. If you missed it, scroll down and read it now.
Cancer Defeated Publications

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