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    No.151: Financial Assistance for Cancer Patients 101

    Financial Assistance for Cancer Patients 101

    “Financial toxicity” is used to describe the financial burden imposed upon patients receiving breast cancer treatment. It is not uncommon for a cancer diagnosis to sadly result in personal bankruptcy, and history shows us that a large number of people are affected by the treatment-related harm caused by the high cost of care. 

    So in the event that you or a loved one have been diagnosed with cancer, it is completely understandable that you might have some concerns regarding healthcare costs. 

    There is no doubt that medical bills can be quite expensive when paying for cancer treatment. Monthly copayments, out of pocket costs, being underinsured, and keeping up with day-to-day bills while undergoing cancer treatment can be overwhelmingly difficult and quite frankly, unfair. 

    Unfortunately, this high cost was all too real for Nikki McCoy, an employee engagement specialist who was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in June 2021.

    “One day we had about a dozen bills stacked in front of us, and I think it finally hit us that we would need to accept help,” McCoy said. 

    Financial assistance can help lessen the financial and overall stress associated with being diagnosed with cancer. There are different financial assistance options for people with cancer, including financial aid, grants, government assistance, transportation, housing, and more. 

    Keep reading to find out how to get financial assistance for cancer patients, as well as ways to cope with financial obligations that come along with a diagnosis.

     

    Financial Assistance Resources for Cancer Patients that You Should Know About

    The cost of treating cancer is high. Cancer patients face a variety of different types of expenses, including medical costs, non-medical expenses (such as transportation costs and childcare), and general daily living expenses. 

    “When you take a look at the day-to-day bills, coupled with the incoming medical bills, it piles up fast,” McCoy said.

    AnaOno has broken down the main costs associated with a diagnosis, and how to help alleviate those.

    Medical and Treatment Assistance for Cancer Patients 

    The stress of diagnosis and treatment plans can be overwhelming, so it’s helpful to know where you can receive financial assistance with treatment and medical bills. Check out these resources below. 

    • The Assistance Fund:  Financial assistance is provided to cover costs not covered by insurance with additional help from their Patient Advocates. Check your eligibility,  here
    • My Hope Chest:  A National Social Service Organization that provides breast reconstruction for uninsured or underinsured survivors. Check out the candidate criteria,  here
    • Pink Daisy Project:  They assist with short-term problems by giving gift cards for gas, groceries, and restaurants for breast cancer patients under 45 who are undergoing treatment or reconstruction due to breast cancer. Email  info@pinkdaisyproject.com to apply.

    Free Emotional Support for Cancer Patients

    Cancer patients have a lot on their plate, and oftentimes, mental health is put on the backburner. While taking care of your body is incredibly important, it’s crucial to remember that having cancer takes an emotional toll, as well, and having and receiving support for this is incredibly important. Check out the free resources below that you can utilize to get emotional support. 

    Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE)

    FORCE has a free Peer Navigation Program which connects people with Peer Navigators who can review topics with you such as treatment, paying for screening and risk reduction, and so much more. Check it out,  here

    Imerman Angels

    Using a personalized one-to-one connection with a cancer survivor, Imerman Angels' mission is to offer comfort and understanding to everyone affected by cancer. Request a free mentor from their Mentor Angel program,  here

    Food Assistance for Cancer Patients

    • Food Banks:  There are several food banks around the country which offer assistance to those receiving cancer treatment, for example, MSK’s Food Pantry Program in New York City (646-888-8046). Find a local food bank near you,  here.
    • Magnolia Meals at Home:  Magnolia  Meals at Home is a meal delivery program that provides healthy meals to cancer patients and their families so that they may spend more quality time with one another. This program is currently found in areas in New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire, and in Boston. Found out if Magnolia Meals at Home is in your area,  here
    • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP):  With SNAP benefits, you can purchase things like fresh fruits, vegetables, and bread for your household. If you meet certain income and resource requirements, you are eligible for SNAP, as are households with elderly or disabled members. Find out if you are eligible,here

    Housing Assistance for Cancer Patients

    Transportation Assistance for Cancer Patients

    • Mercy Medical Angels:  They provide transportation to cancer patients by partnering with volunteers and both private and commercial transportation companies. In order to receive complimentary transportation, fill out the request form  here.
    • PALS (Patient AirLift Services):  Free flights are arranged for medical patients requiring medical diagnosis, treatment, or follow-up and can’t afford transportation.
    • CancerCare:  Assistance is offered for transportation, home care, and child care for women who qualify. Call  800-813-HOPE (4673) to apply.
    • Meals on Wheels: Get free transportation for things like doctor appointments. Find a provider near you,  here
    • Air Charity Network: This charitable organization provides access for people seeking free air transportation to specialized health care facilities or distant destinations. Find out if you qualify,  here
    • American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery Program: Get free transportation to and from treatment if you have cancer and do not have a ride or are unable to drive. Call  1-800-227-2345 for more information about the program. 
    • Angel Wheels to Healing: They provide medical transportation to medical care via gas cards, bus or train tickets, or in the air with flights flown by volunteer pilots or the commercial airlines. Request assistance,  here
    • Good Days:  Good Days pays patients' travel costs when they need medical care as part of their Travel Assistance program. Apply using  this form
    • Medicaid:  You may qualify for rides in a taxi, car, van, or public transportation if you have Medicaid. Ask your Medicaid caseworker if you're eligible.

    Financial Assistance for Living Expenses for Cancer Patients 

    Pink Aid’s Pink Purse

    Breast cancer patients in need are offered emergency financial assistance through  Pink Aid's Pink Purse. The Pink Purse was created with the help of Pink Aid’s passionate supporters to provide emergency financial assistance to individuals experiencing breast cancer treatment. They assist with non-medical household expenses, such as:

    • Rent 
    • Utility Bills
    • Phone and Cable
    • Food Cards
    • Transportation 

    It is available for breast cancer patients who are in active treatment, which the Pink Purse defines as the period after a positive breast cancer diagnosis and during therapies being administered, including surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation. Please note that active treatment does not include long-term hormonal therapies like Tamoxifen or Aromatase Inhibitors.

    Get more information and apply for aid from the Pink Aid’s Pink Purses,  here.

    Patient Advocacy for Health Literacy

    While programs that assist with the financial burden of having cancer are certainly helpful, it is important that patients advocate for themselves in an effort to reduce financial toxicity. Information is power, so be sure to work on bettering your understanding of the cost of cancer treatment and where to turn for help when the price tag is overwhelmingly high. 

    Physicians, oncologists, and providers must also be knowledgeable and ready to speak on the cost of cancer so that the patient knows the cost burden straight away. 

    “I wish healthcare was different in our country, but since it's not, we have to tap into our communities to help with care and costs,” McCoy said. “We need to reach rural areas and isolated individuals and use the internet and technology to the best of our ability.”

    Additional Resources for Cancer Patients

    McCoy also said that if you are experiencing financial stress due to a cancer diagnosis, consider finding and accepting help to arrange things like meal trains, crowdfunding and sourcing, and networking with social services that help people living with a cancer diagnosis.

    We hope that this guide will help you reduce financial toxicity that normally surrounds a cancer diagnosis. In addition, please note that many of AnaOno’s products designed for people who have had a single or double mastectomy (with or without construction) may be eligible to receive a post-surgery bra or mastectomy bra, breast forms, and more with a qualifying prescription from your doctor. Fill out our form,  here, and our insurance specialists will work with you to see what products of ours may be covered.

    Dana Donofree

    Dana Donofree

    Founder and CEO of AnaOno. After a diagnosis of breast cancer in her late 20’s, Dana took her own lived experience and fashion design background and (re)designed intimates for those that have undergone breast surgery. Dana’s story has been published around the world in outlets like New York Times, BBC, Huffington Post, The Today Show, and more.