Financial Help for Cancer Patients

    Hands clasped together in support of cancer patientCancer’s devastation is nearly boundless. It threatens lives, terrifies families and drains savings, undermining even the best laid financial plans.

    But there’s help beyond medicine for those who receive this frightening diagnosis. A wide assortment of aid organizations and programs are available to assist cancer victims and their families, helping them cope with potentially enormous financial and emotional strains.

    Knowing where to find help depends on your needs. Counseling and mental health services can be beneficial even if you have a solid insurance policy to cover the cost of treatment. If you lack insurance or have a policy with a very high deductible, financial help for your medical needs can be tremendously important in helping you avoid medical debt.

    Financial Help for Cancer Treatments and Medical Bills

    For many people with a cancer diagnosis, confusion is a first response. Suddenly, the daily routine of going to work and participating in a family is overshadowed with questions about the meaning of a diagnosis, what treatment options are available and where to find the best hospitals and clinics for treatment. Unfortunately, sometimes the search includes information about hospice care.

    Cancer accounted for about $87.8 billion in healthcare costs in 2014. Most of the money was paid by private insurance companies, Medicare paid one-third of that amount, but patients still paid $3.9 billion themselves. Medicaid and nonprofits might be able to help some low-income individuals cut the bills.

    Here are a few of the organizations that can help:
    • This national non-profit organization offers an assortment of treatment and financial assistance information in person, by phone or through the organization’s website. The organization’s phone number is (800) 813-4673 and its website is www.cancercare.org.
    • AvonCares Program for Women Fighting Cancer. Offers financial aid to low-income and uninsured women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer. It is a unit of CancerCare and can be reached at the same phone number and website.
    • Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition. This group provides access to an assortment of national organizations that offer financial aid to those in need. Its website has a searchable database that links to potential sources of financial aid. The database can be found at https://www.cancerfac.org/.
    • The Samfund. Helps adult cancer patients aged 21 to 39 with medical bills, living expenses, medical costs, transportation, as well as housing and legal expenses. The group’s website is http://thesamfund.org.
    • Patient Advocate Foundation. Provides a menu of services for patients with a variety of serious health issues. The website has links to financial aid sources, including an interactive database of available financial resources. The nonprofit’s website also provides information for how to appeal an insurer’s decision on treatment payments and case management assistance. The foundation’s website is https://www.patientadvocate.org/
    • Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Provides information and financial aid for patients with blood-related cancers. The society, which has chapters around the country, can be accessed at https://www.lls.org/ or by phone at (800) 955-4572.
    • Community organizations. Community-based church and nonprofit services such as Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army can either provide direct assistance or recommend organizations the might. Search for these on line.
    • Crowdfunding websites. Consider using Go Fund Me or other social media sites to appeal directly to others for contributions to fund your medical care.

    Housing Assistance for Cancer Patients

    Some nonprofits help cancer patients meet housing costs, including rental and mortgage assistance during their illness.

    Nonprofits that provide housing assistance for cancer patients:
    • Jill’s Wish Foundation Inc. Provide grants of as much as $1,500 to cover non-medical living expenses of newly diagnosed cancer patients. The website can be found at https://www.jillswish.org/.
    • Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Provides money to state, territorial and tribal agencies that help low income families afford heating and cooling expenses as well as cover home weatherization costs. In 2017, an estimated 5.4 million households received assistance under the program. Contact state human resources agencies, the U.S. Administration for Children and Families or visit the website https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ocs/programs/liheap for more information.
    • Hope Lodge. An American Cancer Society (ACS) program that helps patients with lodging costs when they travel for treatment. Contact the ACS and find more information at https://www.cancer.org/treatment/support-programs-and-services/patient-lodging/hope-lodge.html.
    • Healthcare Hospitality Network. A network of about 200 nonprofit organizations that aid patients and families needing lodging while they are traveling to receive treatment. The organization’s website is https://www.hhnetwork.org/
    • Help Now Fund. Provides up to $5,000 for living expenses to patients receiving active treatment for breast cancer. For information, visit the Breast Cancer Charities of America website at https://thebreastcancercharities.org/
    • Joe’s House. A national network that lists cancer treatment centers throughout the country and nearby lodging that caters to cancer patients and their families. For information, Joe’s House website is https://www.joeshouse.org/
    • Ronald McDonald House Charities. Specializes in children with cancer and other serious medical conditions. Helps families with lodging and food needs while they visit cancer treatment centers. The organization’s website is https://www.rmhc.org/ronald-mcdonald-house

    Cancer Patient Transportation Resources

    Traveling for treatment, either at home or to a distant hospital, can be both expensive and logistically difficult. There’s help available from agencies and charities that offer assistance arranging and paying for transportation.

    Here are a few services that arrange transportation for cancer patients:
    • Patienttravel.org. The organization handles referrals for help getting to medical treatment centers. It helps with commercial airline tickets and connections to volunteer pilots. It also assists with arranging ground transportation by providing gas cards as well as bus and train tickets. Visit the organization’s website for more information at http://patienttravel.org/
    • Air Care Alliance. A one-stop clearing house for those needing air transit to treatment. The alliance the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and connects those in need with other organizations that volunteer air transportation help. Help is available to patients, family members, social workers, hospital staffers and others involved in treatment. For information, visit http://www.aircarealliance.org/
    • Corporate Angel Network. Nonprofit group places cancer patients traveling for treatment with open seats on both commercial and corporate aircraft at no cost to the traveler. To be eligible you need to be a patient, a bone marrow donor or recipient or a stem cell donor or recipient. You must be traveling to a recognized treatment center such as the National Cancer Institute or the American College of Surgeons. For more information contact http://www.corpangelnetwork.org/#/home
    • Air Charity Network. Charitable organization that uses volunteer pilots to transport patients from all 50 states to treatment at specialized medical treatment centers. It is open to those with documented financial needs. Contact http://aircharitynetwork.org/
    • Angel Airlines Samaritans. Uses commercial airlines to transport cancer patients to treatment at low or no cost. Patients and family members can take multiple trips for specialized medical evaluations, diagnoses and treatments. Those using the service need to show financial need and have a physician who will stipulate the need for essential medical help. Contact https://angelairlinesamaritans.org/

    Additional Organizations That Offer Help for Cancer Patients

    Though many organizations offer specialized low-cost help for cancer patients, some large charities provide a myriad of services, referrals and counseling. In many instances they provide direct financial help with bills, especially for those who can’t work or can only work part time due to their illnesses.

    The American Cancer Society is perhaps the largest focused on cancer patients, but don’t overlook other groups with diverse menus of services can be very valuable to cancer patients.

    These are some of the organizations and companies that focus on the financial and emotional needs of cancer patients:
    • American Cancer Society. This organization, founded in 1913 when cancer was almost always a death sentence, has played a huge role in turning the malady into a treatable disease. It offers a trove of information about prevention, diagnosis, treatments, patient support and cures. It is America’s 10th most popular charity, according to the Chronical of Philanthropy. The ACS has chapters throughout the country and those diagnosed with cancer should consider using its resources for an assortment of needs. To learn more visit https://www.cancer.org/
    • American Life Fund. This company specializes in viatical settlements, helping late-stage cancer patients obtain cash for their life insurance policies. This isn’t a charity, but it has extensive experience working with clients whose policies can be cashed out. Their website is found at https://www.americanlifefund.com/.
    • Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition. CFAC, through its 14 member organizations, offers financial aid and counseling to cancer patients. It provides information about the 14 organizations, including the American Cancer Society and CancerCare. For more information, visit https://www.cancerfac.org/
    • United Way. With a national network of 1,200 chapters and support from many large and small companies, nonprofit United Way is a broad-based charity that funds community organizations deliver myriad services to the disadvantaged and needy. For more information about the services United Way supports in your area, search for your local United Way on their website https://www.unitedway.org/find-your-united-way/#
    • Various church and local nonprofit organizations that help those with special needs. Organizations include Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services and Jewish Family Services. If you are a member of a congregation, ask you church about services for cancer patients.
    • Government programs. Contact Medicare, Medicaid and the Social Security Administration to discuss your eligibility for government assistance. If you already participate in agencies’ programs or are uncertain about whether you qualify, visit their websites or call local offices.
    Max Fay

    Max Fay is an entrepreneurial Millennial whose thoughtful writing shows he has a keen eye on both. Max has a genetic predisposition to being tight with his money and free with financial advice. At 25, he not only knows what an “emergency fund” is, he already has one. He wrote high school and college sports for every major newspaper in Florida while working his way through Florida State University. That experience was motivation to find another way to succeed financially and he has at Debt.org. Max can be reached at mfay@debt.org.

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