According to American Cancer Society, one in eight women in North America will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. Each year, there are an additional 232,340 cases of invasive breast cancer and 64,640 cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer. Apart from skin cancer, breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer for women in the United States.
For women who are fighting for their lives, breast cancer is expensive to treatment, which can affect their ability to seek proper medical treatment.
How Much Does Breast Cancer Really Cost?
‘The costs of treating breast cancer in the US: a synthesis of published evidence.‘ published in 2009 collated surveys and research conducted in 29 US studies. This publication found that the average cost for women with breast cancer is as low as $20,000 and can reach up to $100,000. In some extreme cases, this can go as high as $300,000.
Unfortunately, breast cancer medical debt doesn’t stop when a patient overcomes cancer. In fact, a study published in 2013 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that one-quarter of breast cancer survivors are in worse financial positions even after 4 years of being diagnosed. This financial strain is particularly heightened for women who came from low income households of under $50,000 and/or had cancer recurrences.
The Susan Gomen Foundation believes that these medical expenses are due to a range of factors that sometimes cannot be controlled by the patient. Issues such as insurance coverage, medication costs and even transportation to receive treatment can add up more quickly than expected.
Top 10 Breast Cancer Financial Support Tips
For patients who are looking for breast cancer financial support, there are a few things to keep in mind to help you get the best financial support possible. Here are ten useful tips to help you get started to find financial assistance options.
1. Getting Friends And Family Involved
When looking for breast cancer financial support, we would often forget the most easily accessible form of assistance available. Family, friends, your local community and even work colleagues play a huge role in your life and can a supportive role when dealing with breast cancer.
We all know how financially straining illness can be as two out of five people with cancer have difficulty paying health care costs. At your time of need, friends and family are more than happy to lend a supporting hand in the best way possible.
Setting up a medical fundraiser for example, can be a great way to reach out to those that love and care about you. Fundraising for financial support to pay for surgery or treatment for example can be a proactive way in overcoming any medical debt you are currently experiencing. It is also a positive and practical way for family and friends to show their support.
2. Do Your Research
Breast cancer financial support is available in many forms. The best way to find out these options is to start researching available programs, grants and assistance schemes that may be available for your circumstance.
Particular options for breast cancer financial support can be found with breast cancer specific programs and organizations. These are your best options to find out what financial support is available for you.
It is also important to understand your health insurance and choose the right one for your needs. According to a recent ACS survey, around half of cancer patients in the United States have no clue what the terms and conditions of their health insurance plan are. This means, patients are unfamiliar with any limits, restrictions and exclusions that can affect the cost of your out of pocket expenses for treatment and medication.
Before buying health insurance, find out:
1. What breast cancer treatments, medications and procedures are covered and to what extent. Some insurers will cover certain treatments but also have certain caps and limits for expenses.
2. If referrals for specific specialists are required in order for the treatment or tests to be covered and/or if the recommendations and referrals from your doctor are covered.
3. If any non-urgent or critical treatments can be covered. For instance, therapies, cosmetic surgery and fitting for prosthetic breasts.
4. The limits and caps for each procedure and overall per year.
5. What the co-pays and deductibles are going to be.
Learning more about your health insurance options by asking a few simple questions can help you minimize the burden of breast cancer on you and your family.
3. Leverage Laws, Acts And Government Policies
There are a number of laws, acts and policies in the United States that permits the right to health care for Americans even if you are low income earners or do not have health insurance.
Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 for example, states that group health plans, insurance companies and health maintenance organizations (HMOs) are obligated to cover the cost of reconstruction of the breast removed with mastectomy, surgery and reconstruction of the opposite breast to get a symmetrical look, prostheses and treatment of any complications of surgery, including lymphedema.
These regulations and policies are in place to help you get treatment. By understanding these laws and your entitlements, you can easily reduce the cost of your medical debt due to breast cancer.
4. Use Free Resources As Your Disposal
There are ample of free resources that are available no matter where you are in the United States. Often these are one phone call away, or a quick visit to your local Department of Health and Human Services office.
Maximizing the use of these free resources can help provide greater options of breast cancer financial support that may have not been tapped into otherwise.
Most assistance programs from the government and even non-profit organizations will provide free services and support. At no cost to you, you will be able to find out your options as well as avoid paying for certain costs associated with your medical treatment for breast cancer
5. Don’t Forgo Treatment Or Medication
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s senior policy analyst, Mona Shah, MPH found that a high number of cancer patients, including women with breast cancer would often cut out prescriptions, delay preventive services or avoid doctor’s appointments because of the high associated costs.
With 25 million Americans skipping prescriptions and medication to reduce medical expenses, the short term decisions are greatly outweighed by the long term affects.
Forgoing medication, treatment or even skipping doctor’s appointments can have huge adverse affects on your health and well-being. It can even make your illness worse and more difficult to overcome. As a result, this can add further financial debt that could of been avoided with the right amount of medication and treatment.
6. Get Support Not Only For Financial Assistance
There are different types of support that you can get that can help aid in getting breast cancer financial support. It is important to keep an open mind about what is available from government programs, non-profits and elsewhere. For example, certain non-profit organizations can cover the cost of transportation or provide temporary accommodation nearby your hospital.
This can significantly reduce the cost of your living expenses as well as cover the cost of traveling to and from your hospital for treatment. The money that you would of spent for these expenses can now be reallocated to other pending medical expenses, such as treatment.
Speaking to your doctor about alternative medication instead of using brand-named drugs can help reduce the ongoing cost for your breast cancer treatment plan. You may not receive any financial assistance in a form of a grant but this option can really help you reduce your overall medical expenses.
7. Managing Your Finances
Taking measures in your own hands, financial support can be found just by managing and knowing your finances. To begin, get a better understanding of how much you earn, your current savings, your general living expenses, medical treatment costs and expected bills in the near future.
Keeping a timeline of the expenses is also important. Knowing when payments deadlines are can help you manage your cashflow and avoid any surprises in the near future.
Having an overview of the your expenses and income means you can plan a head of time. As a result, you can allocate certain funds to cover the cost of your medical expenses and seek financial support from government programs, non-profits and your hospital prior to being in huge medical debt.
Getting assistance from a financial planner can also help you be strategic about your money and the options available to you. For example, early withdrawal of your retirement plan or life insurance policy may be available at no penalty cost while having breast cancer treatment. Working out how to deduct costs from your taxes can also be beneficial and could mean that you have potential ways of getting out of medical debt.
8. Be Proactive
No one knows your financial situation more than you. Being proactive and being open about sharing your concerns and problems can make a huge difference in resolving the matter as soon as possible.
Patients who are in denial or ignore medical debt can find themselves with an overbearing bill that may resort you to forgo treatment or medication.
Instead, speaking to your hospital social worker, financial counselor and doctor are your first steps in finding the right solution for breast cancer financial support.
Being proactive can allow you to be able to negotiate your medical bills to receive discounts and reductions in the cost of your treatment.
9. Resist The Temptation of Credit Cards And Loans
It can be very tempting to resort to credit cards and additional loans in order to pay off any medical bills that you are unable to pay from your personal income. In fact, 11 million people take on additional credit-card debt to cover mounting medical bills according to NerdWallet.
However, with these quick solutions come major consequences. More often than not, patients who decide to use credit cards, loans and other interest-yielding options will have greater difficulty in overcoming their medical debt. One of the major constrains with using such options is the interest that can accumulate overtime. If patients are unable to pay off their medical debt, they will most likely be unable to pay an additional debt accumulated.
In addition, if you have unpaid credit card repayments or do not pay off at least the minimum per month, it can also have adverse affects in the future with your credit score.
Instead, find other options to pay off your medical bills. For example, medical crowdfunding your medical expenses can be a better solution that will not only allow you to pay off any medical debt, but can be saved for future medical bills that can creep up.
10. Get A Second Opinion
Patients will often be prescribed or given certain recommendations for treatment. However, it is important to keep an open mind in what information your doctor provides you.
Asking questions about other options can also help narrow down the right treatment plan for you.
Before committing to any procedure, treatment or medication, it is important to seek a second opinion. There may be alternatives for your treatment that are far less costly or that are covered by the medical health insurance you have.
Make sure you check through all medical bills that are received before paying them. Patients should not feel afraid to question or challenge expenses listed on your medical bill. There have been many cases in fact where errors or small mistakes are found on medical bills. For example, duplicates of charges or being charged for a treatment that you did not receive.
Checking for these errors can help reduce the cost of your treatment significantly. Make sure all items are listed line by line. If you notice any vague descriptions for costs seek further help on understanding what exactly you have been charged for. If you are unsure of anything get a second opinion or ask your doctor or billing department for more details.
1. Breast Cancer’s Financial Toll: The High Cost of Fighting for Your Life: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2011/10/05/breast-cancers-financial-toll-the-high-cost-of-fighting-for-yo/
2. Many Breast Cancer Survivors Suffer Financially, Study Finds: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2014/03/28/many-breast-cancer-survivors-suffer-financially-study-finds
3. The costs of treating breast cancer in the US: a synthesis of published evidence: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19354340
4. Medical Bills Are the Biggest Cause of US Bankruptcies: Study: http://www.cnbc.com/id/100840148
5. Coping With the Cost of Breast Cancer: http://www.everydayhealth.com/breast-cancer/coping-with-the-cost-of-breast-cancer.aspx
6. Financial Resources for People Living with Breast Cancer: http://ww5.komen.org/BreastCancer/FinancialResources.html
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