Financial, physical, and emotional costs add up
Kathryn E. Vinson, MS, CCRC
When I was diagnosed with cancer, just as every other warrior I was left with some scars. Some are physical such as the scar that goes across my throat, some are emotional with the fear of a recurrence with every blood draw or ultrasound. I was fortunate at the time to be covered by my husband’s insurance through his work, but many aren’t as lucky, or may be covered, but with extremely high deductibles. The scars of a financial hardship can last for decades, well after the cancer has gone. Let’s talk today about those costs.
Our perception of having “good insurance” can change dramatically when we go from taking the kids in for a sore throat a few times a year, to going into specialist after specialist, with hospitalization charges, imaging bills, and pharmacy co-pays. Some interesting research has come out showing the extent of financial hardships.
In August of 2017, Forbes reported that on average, a US cancer patient pays $703 out of pocket – every month – for their treatments. For many, this is greater than 10% of their monthly income, putting these fighters in the “underinsured” category. In the study reported by Forbes, researchers from Duke University found that some patients and families are spending 30% and even more of their monthly income, despite being insured. These researchers have deemed this the “financial toxicity” of cancer treatments. The sad fact is that the majority of those surveyed – 60% – were covered by private insurance, while the remaining were on Medicare or Medicaid.
The University of Michigan recently released a study showing that early stage breast cancer patients have tremendous worries about their financial health. While a good portion of oncologists report that they have staff that engage with patients on finances, sadly only 73% of patients reported receiving help from their doctors.
Forbes goes on to tell us that the team at Duke is frustrated as well. Dr. S. Yousuff Zafar says “The ACA (Affordable Healthcare Act) dramatically increased access to health care, but it didn’t do a lot to decrease cost sharing.” So, the access is there, but the cost is still high.
These numbers are heartbreaking. What can we do?
We can come together as cancer warriors.
The American Cancer Society projects that there will be almost 1.8 million new cancer cases in the United States alone in 2018. Let’s talk about some of the resources that we have compiled here to help alleviate the financial burden of treating these diseases.
Scoot over to our page for Financial Help. There you will find tabs for caregiver assistance, help for parents of pediatric cancer patients, help with the cost of your prescriptions, mortgage help, travel and hotel help, and even crowdfunding.
On our page for Local Cancer Resources, you may find a link to a city near you. Under many of these, we have found professionals and organizations that can help you file for and fight for disability benefits, if you are so entitled.
College scholarships are available also! Kids of parents that have had cancer, as well as kids that have had cancer may be eligible to apply. A quick search with your favorite search engine will turn up tons of results. Cancer Horizons also will be awarding one $1,000 scholarship to a student that has fought cancer. You can find our application here and remember to get your application in by October 1st.
If you or a loved one are fighting cancer, remember that you are not alone. The financial burden of this fight can be extreme, but there are a lot of wonderful folks out there that are quite literally waiting to help you. Don’t be shy or feel awkward about asking for help – its what they are there for.
As always, much love, abundant blessings, and many prayers to all of the cancer warriors and their families.