Obtaining Financial Assistance for Cancer Therapy

Last Modified: November 1, 2001

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Question
Dear OncoLink "Ask the Experts,"
A doctor has asked, on behalf of a patient who cannot afford treatment for diagnosed cancer, where to apply to find financial assistance.


Answer
If the patient is being evaluated by a physician who is affiliated with a hospital-based practice, they may have access to social workers who could provide advice and assistance. The social worker will work to assess the patient's financial needs and direct them to the appropriate local resources. In addition, the social worker could also address the patient's psycho-social needs and concerns which may relate to their financial situation.

If the patient is being evaluated by a physician who is part of a free-standing practice, the physician may be able to direct the patient to their State Department of Health or the Federal Department of Health and Human Services. These offices are generally listed in the "Blue Pages" of the local telephone directory. Representatives of Medical Assistance will work with the patient to complete the required application(s) which determine the patient's eligibility.

The patient should also contact the local chapter of the American Cancer Society. Although they typically do not provide direct financial assistance, they may maintain a database of local resources for cancer patients.

Another potential source of reduced-cost care may be available in hospitals or clinics that have a residency training program. Many of these facilities operate clinics in which medical residents (i.e. - licensed physicians participating in specialty training) provide care under the direct supervision of an attending physician. Often, these clinics provide services at significant discounts to patients.

Finally, the patient may be eligible to participate in "Pharmaceutical Reimbursement Assistance Programs", pharmaceutical industry sponsored programs which provide cancer-drugs at reduced cost to patients who are in need.