Get Top-Notch Chemotherapy Treatment

By Health Monitor Staff
Reviewed by John D. Hainsworth, MD, and Roy S. Weiner, MD

Cancer treatment can take a big chunk out of your bank account—one in every seven cancer patients spends more than 20% of his income on health care and insurance, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Bankruptcy rates are nearly twice as high for cancer patients as they are for the rest of the population, say researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. The good news? These tactics can help put a lid on your expenses, while keeping your treatment on course.

Get a break on medical bills

  • Ask about payment plans. The financial counselor at your clinic or hospital can work out a schedule that can take the sting out of payments. She may also know of local organizations that can assist with treatment costs.
  • Contact a local or national organization, such as the American Cancer Society (cancer.org) for guidance. The United Way’s 211 service (211.org) offers a list of community health resources. The U.S. Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator (www.eldercare.gov/Eldercare.NET/Public/Index.aspx) can connect you with local services for cancer patients.
  • Consider setting up a health savings account (through a bank or your employer) if you’re under 65 and have a high-deductible insurance plan. It will allow you to set aside money to pay for treatment tax-free.
  • Investigate Medicare and Medicaid programs that help uninsured and low-income patients pay for cancer care.

Drive down medication costs

  • Think about participating in a clinical trial, which is often free for participants. You will most likely receive cutting-edge treatment and top-notch medical care. The downside? There’s no guarantee that the treatment will work, and you may get the sugar pill (placebo) instead of the treatment that’s being studied.
  • Get in touch with the manufacturer of your medication. Some have programs in place to provide a treatment you need for free or at low cost.
  • Contact the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (pparx.org; 888-477-2669), which helps qualifying patients get the medication they need for free or nearly free.

Spend less on travels for treatment

  • Take some care into your own hands. Ask your doctor if you can give yourself any follow-up injections to boost your red or white blood cell counts. This will also enable you to save on office visit co-pays.
  • Have your medications mailed to you. You’ll avoid a trip to the drugstore, and you’ll probably have a lower co-pay, since mail-order prescriptions usually provide a three-month supply instead of a 30-day supply.
  • Get a free ride. If you have Medicaid, ask your caseworker if you have access to a van pool or whether you can be reimbursed for treatment-related travel expenses. Also, check out the American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program, in which volunteers drive patients and their families to hospitals and clinics for treatment. Go to cancer.org for more information.

Don’t automatically accept a “no” from your insurer
If your insurer refuses to cover a claim, test, procedure or service that your doctor orders, hold off on payment and take the following steps:

  • Review your health plan benefits and ask why the claim was denied.
  • Ask your doctor to write a letter explaining or justifying the treatment.
  • Resubmit your claim with a copy of the denial letter and your doctor’s note, along with any other information that supports the use of the test or treatment.
  • If you’re denied again, speak with a supervisor at your insurance company, who may be able to reverse the decision.

Contact the consumer services division of your state insurance department. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ website (naic.org) has links to state websites.

Published March 2014

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