Planning for the Cost of Your Treatment
Cancer treatment is not cheap. Even with health insurance, you will have out-of-pocket expenses for your care. It’s important to have some idea at the beginning of treatment, and any time treatment changes, what those costs might look like.
1. Understand how your health insurance works.
You need to know what your deductible, co-insurance, co-pay, and maximum out-of-pocket amounts are. Use our My Insurance Information Tool to gather these materials. Also, be sure to check your plan carefully for specific coverage information about chemotherapy and radiation.
2. Ask your healthcare provider for an estimate of the cost of each regimen of treatment you will be receiving.
Warning: this can be very difficult for many providers, as they often don’t know how to get this information. That is ok. Ask to speak with a financial counselor, navigator, or precertification coordinator BEFORE you start treatment. You may want to bring a copy of your treatment plan, including the doses of medications (chemotherapy) you will be receiving. This will help the navigator estimate costs.
3. Look at your budget.
Can you cover your estimated out-of-pocket expenses? Think about your plans to work during treatment. If you will be taking time off, do you have short/long term disability? How much of a change will there be to your income? Will your caregiver also be taking time away from work?
4. Don’t forget about your prescription, vision, and dental coverage.
Many cancer medications are given by pill and are covered by your pharmacy plan. Be sure you understand your potential costs for medications before you go to the pharmacy. The pharmacy may process things incorrectly and if you aren’t aware of potential costs, you may pay a bill you shouldn’t.
Many patients also need dental work before/after treatment. It is important to know if you have coverage for dental procedures through your dental plan and/or through your health insurance plans. Tip: some oral surgeries are covered by one but not the other.
Some cancer treatments can impact your vision. It’s important to also plan for routine vision care and corrective lenses while going through cancer treatment.
5. Don’t forget about the cost of parking, lodging, meals, wigs/head coverings, nutritional supplements, and child care.
These can add up with multiple visits to your cancer treatment center. Financial assistance to help offset these costs may be available through your treatment center and local cancer service organizations. Ask your social worker for referrals to help manage these costs.
Is there a gap between your budget and the costs of your care? Then it’s time to think about options to help pay your medical bills. These include:
- Apply for co-pay assistance.
- Ask if your institution offers charity care or discounted care for individuals who are underinsured. Many health care institutions offer these programs. They are need-based, so you must demonstrate that your income and resources are low enough that your medical bills even with insurance are not manageable.
- Negotiate a payment plan:
- Many providers/health systems are willing to negotiate a payment plan. It never hurts to ask. Call the billing department or patient accounting.
- A viatical or life insurance loan.
- Apply for Medicaid.
- Personal loans.
It’s important to get as much information about your insurance coverage, the estimated costs of your treatment, and other costs you may have during the course of treatment as soon as possible. This can help you and your family with budget planning, help identify gaps where you may need help, and get you linked with assistance early. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help with financial challenges. You may be surprised to know that assistance is out there.