A financial counselor can help reduce the stress of paying for cancer treatment
BY AMBER SMITH
“I don't think people really realize the ﬁnancial impact that cancer can have on them,” says Linda Naples, a ﬁnancial counselor at the Upstate Cancer Center.
Say you're 65, living on Social Security. Medicare is your health insurance, and your premium costs about $150 a month. You don't think about buying a supplemental policy because that can be an extra $200 a month.
Then you get diagnosed with cancer. Depending on what type of treatment you need, you may owe about $1,500 a month after Medicare pays its portion. Your treatment may go on for six or eight months. You could easily face an $8,000 bill.
“The ﬁnancial aspect of dealing with a cancer diagnosis can be very complex and overwhelming, especially if you do not have insurance,” Naples says. “It’s my job to help minimize the confusion and the stress.”
- First, make sure you have adequate health insurance. Your age, employment status, veteran status and income level will help determine options. If you have no insurance when you are diagnosed, Naples can help ﬁnd coverage.
- Familiarize yourself with how your prescription plan works and what your insurance plan covers– and for how long. Some insurance plans include an “out-of-pocket maximum,” and once you meet it, the insurer pays the rest of your medical bills.
- Ask whether your doctors and the hospital where you get care “participate,” or accept payment from your insurance plan. If they do not, you likely will be responsible for the full cost of care.
- When treatment or medication is recommended, ﬁnd out if you need authorization from your insurer before beginning.
- Stay on top of your medical bills. Organize them in a folder as they arrive. Ask, if you need help understanding the charges.
- Know that a variety of patient assistance programs exist. Pharmaceutical companies sometimes will help pay for coinsurance. One- time grants can sometimes help with groceries, or a gas card for transportation.
The Upstate Outpatient Pharmacy offers ﬁnancial assistance and helps ﬁnd ways to offset the cost of medications. Various foundations or cancer groups may assist with insurance premiums. But none of these groups will know you need ﬁnancial help unless you speak up.
Naples suggests talking to your doctor or nurse – or to her.