According to the 2014 statistics from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program (SEER), there are 21,980 Americans across the US that are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year.
Although the number of ovarian cancer patients are significantly lower than other types of cancer, the financial burden due to cancer for these patients can be hard to overcome. The lack of support and little financial assistance options can limit women and their families in overcoming their medical financial debt.
What Are The Costs For Ovarian Cancer Patients?
Women with ovarian cancer can come across a number of medical related expenses. These medical costs can often come unexpectedly and can be a strain emotionally as well as financially.
According to a study conducted by the Duke University Medical Center and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the average out of pocket costs for cancer patients can amount to more than $700 per month. The study surveyed 216 cancer patients, including women with ovarian cancer and found that 30 percent of patients experienced their expenses as a significant burden.
This was also found in American Society of Clinical Oncology study in 2004, where the monthly costs for antineoplastic drug therapy (chemotherapy, hormone, and immunotherapy) including regular hospital visits only added up $749.
More specifically, women with ovarian cancer have substantial medical costs for surgery. For example, even with insurance, women can expect to pay 10 to 50 percent of the surgery cost, a common treatment to remove majority, if not all of the cancer. This can add up to an average monthly cost of $2,590 for ovarian cancer patients.
For ovarian cancer patients without health insurance, this can even be more straining financially. Surgery can range from $20,000 and can exceed over $200,000 depending on the complexities of the diagnosis and the stage of cancer. This was proven in a study published in the Current Women’s Health Reviews, which found that the average cost of medical treatment for women with advanced ovarian cancer exceeded $210,000. This included hospital charges of $127,000, physician chargers adding up to $25,000 and $60,000 worth of medical expenses for drugs and medicines.
Women at Inspire.com’s forum also validated the huge financial burden on women with ovarian cancer, stating chemotherapy costs ranging from $6,000 up to $16,000 per cycle. Treatment typically requires two to six cycles. Particular drugs and medicines such as Neulasta can cost $10,000 per shot. Neulasta is used while on chemotherapy in order to minimize the risk of infection as the immune system is currently weak.
Some of these medical expenses for any patient with ovarian cancer can include:
|Types of Medical Expenses|
|Travel costs: Flights to a particular state, fuel and public transport costs for hospital visits in order to receive treatment.|
|Prescription drug costs: Drugs that can assist in removing side effects and protect the immune system|
|Hospital stays: Overnight stays before and after surgery.|
|Experimental treatments: Treatments that may not be covered by your medical insurance.|
|Home health care costs: particularly for women in stage three or four.|
|Interferences : time off from work, unpaid leave or unemployment due to illness.|
|Added living and household services: Living expenses while receiving treatment such as babysitting, cooking, or cleaning.|
With all these types of medical costs to be accounted for, women with ovarian cancer can find that their medical debt can increase quickly overtime.
The combination of medical expenses, low income, co-payments and interest grown from credit card debt, can lead any family in America with an alarming amount of medical debt. The cancer-survivor advocacy group Livestrong survey also found that the medical debt continued during post-treatment with cancer survivors.
There are luckily, several ovarian cancer financial assistance options for women and their families undergoing medical treatment.
4 Ovarian Cancer Financial Assistance Resources For Ovarian Cancer Patients
1. Non-profit Organizations
There are a large number of non-profit organizations such as Cancer Care, that have be founded to assist cancer patients who require emotional, social, educational and financial assistance. Thankfully, non-profit organizations do not charge of services and can often run through the dedication of volunteers.
Advantages Of Non-Profit Organizations
The Type Of Support
Non-profit organizations have a reputation of being caring, supportive and compassionate. Their main goal is to provide support to individuals in need. One of the biggest benefits of seeking assistance from non-profits is that you are able to not only receive financial support, but also gain social and emotional support at the same time. Often non-profits will be able to provide contacts, referrals and other resources that may be out of reach for you.
Non-profits will often have relationships with health providers or provide medical treatment in-house, giving patients the opportunity to receive high quality medical treatment at discounted rates or at no cost.
Free Of Charge
Most often or not, you will also find that any services, support or help you receive is free of charge. Non-profits do not expect you to pay back any financial support received from there. This means, there are no obligation to pay anything back, there is no interest or cost to you, compared to getting financial support from credit cards, refinancing mortgages and loans.
Support For Specific Diseases And Illnesses
Compared to other government support or other means of receiving financial assistance, you will be able to find a non-profit that particularly assist people with a certain type of disease or illness. For example, there are plenty of cancer specific non-profits, and even a few only assistance patients with ovarian cancer.
Disadvantages Of Non-Profit Organizations
One of the major constrains however, of seeking ovarian cancer financial assistance through a non-profit organization is the limited funds that may be available. For example, the Ovarian Cancer Patient Charity Project‘s main goal is to provide ovarian cancer patients financial assistance. However, on their website it states that financial support is given only if there are available funds.
When seeking assistance from a non-profit organization, you will often come across the same problem of fund availability. Although non-profits are assigned to provide a service free of charge, this can often mean the running costs are not covered by any funding body. As a result, non-profits can only provide financial assistance if there are funds available. This is a common problem that can result in patients being rejected for financial support.
It can also mean that a portion or a small amount of your medical debt will be covered through financial support from a non-profit organization. This is because non-profits will generally have a cap or limit per person, in order to ensure they are able to assistance as many women as possible.
With limited government funding, man-power and a growing problem of fatigue for full-time volunteers, non-profit organizations are often limited in how much they can help ovarian cancer patients. This means, non-profits are often turning away patients in need due to the limited amount of funds and resources available.
Criteria And Requirements Before Approval For Financial Assistance
You will also find that non-profit organizations will have a criteria for eligibility of any services that they can provide. For example, proof of your income to ensure that you are a low income earner, your age, where you reside and whether you have health insurance or not. This is generally through an application form that you will submit with all your details and proof. Upon review, non-profits are allowed to deny access to services if they feel you do not fit their set criteria.
Only Gives Support To Non-Urgent Cases
Non-profit organizations generally work on a first come first serve basis, and do no prioritize patients according to their stage or requirement for immediate attention. Often non-profits will only accept patients that are deemed as non-urgent, as they do not have the capacity to provide surgery or other emergency treatment which may be needed.
2. Health Insurance
With the recent changes to the law where Americans are obligated to have mandatory health insurance as of 2014, families are greatly concerned with the monthly cost associated with it. Health insurance can be a costly expense, that many families in the past have often gone without. As of 2014, for all Americans to have some form of health insurance. For ovarian cancer patients, health insurance can assist patients in receiving treatment or lower or no cost.
Advantages of Health Insurance
A large number of treatments and medications are covered by health insurance companies. This means seeking medical assistance will come at no cost to you, or at least at a substantially smaller cost compared to having no insurance at all.
Subsidized Health Insurance
Americans also have the ability to shop around for health insurance. This means, you can find a health insurance policy that works well with what you require in terms of treatment and medication. There are also subsidized health insurance such as the government funded insurance plans that can be less costly for women with ovarian cancer but still provide huge benefits in receiving treatments at no cost.
Often the stress of illness alone can put a huge strain on the body emotionally, mentally and physically. The reassurance that you have some form of health insurance that can assist you when you need it can assist patients’ recovery and ability to overcome their illness.
Disadvantages of Health Insurance
Difficult With Pre-existing Medical Record
If you already have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer or have been undergoing treatment, your health insurance policy may be limited or rejected. One of the biggest difficulties for Americans who have pre-exisitng medical issues is their ability to be insured in the first place. It also means that the monthly cost for health insurance is increased. Even if you receive some form of insurance, these can be limited and often means you will have to cover out of pocket costs associated with your treatment.
Limitations In Treatment And Services
Each health insurance policy will have limitations of the type of treatments, medication and surgery that will be covered. For example, certain experimental procedures or drugs may not be included. This means, patients can be limited by the type of treatment received, or end up paying for the entire cost as it is not covered by the policy.
Out of Pocket Costs
Over 10 million Americans in the US who file for medical bankruptcy had medical health insurance. More often than not, even with the help of health insurance, you will still incur some form of out of pocket costs when receiving medical treatment for ovarian cancer. Although health insurance can cover the treatment, it may no cover other expenses incur because of receiving the treatment. For example, transport and accommodation cost. These expenses can be significantly high and counteract any financial aid received from a health insurer.
3. Government Entitlement Programs
Government entitlement programs offer patients with ovarian cancer financial assistance in various forms. The most common government entitlement programs available for all Americans include Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security Disability.
Advantages Of Government Entitlement Programs
Seeking assistance from the government can often mean there are unlimited resources to help you. Unlike financial assistance from non-profit organizations, if you are eligible for entitlements under a government program, you cannot be turned away.
Many other financial assistance options such as non-profit organizations may provide assistance one time only due to limited resources and availability. One of the benefits of government entitlement programs is the ability to receive financial support regularly during the course of treatment.
Disadvantages Of Government Entitlement Programs
Not Specific To Your Disease Or Illness
Government entitlement programs can often have a board spectrum of who they are able to help. This means, they have no restrictions generally on what diseases and illness you suffer from in order to receive aid. Although it can be easier to receive financial support from government entitlement programs, it can also mean that the process can be slower and time-consuming for patients, particularly who require financial assistance immediately in order to cover for the cost of urgent treatment and medication.
For instance, Medicare is only available for individuals who are 65 years or older, or who have had a disability for at least 2 years. For ovarian cancer patients, this limits the financial assistance you will be able to receive from available government entitlement programs. You will not be able to receive for example any disability benefits or even assistance from the Women’s Health Medicaid for Breast or Cervical Cancer program, which does not support ovarian cancer patients.
4. Medical Fundraising
Medical fundraising has been a proven solution for ovarian cancer financial assistance in the past. Fundraising for your medical expenses directly from friends, family and your community can help you overcome any medical debt and help you receive treatment more quickly.
Advantages of Medical Fundraising
Your In Control
Medical fundraising can be very empowering for individuals undergoing ovarian cancer. The ability to determine how the raised funds should be used means that you are in charge. Unlike other forms of government and non-profit support, you are able to allocate funds according to what you feel is best.
No hidden costs
Unlike health insurance policies, medical fundraising can help patients with ovarian cancer seek financial aid from friends and family with no hidden costs. There are services such as PeoplePledge, the offers medical fundraising platforms completely free to use. The only charge is the transaction fee, which is deducted from the funds raised. Therefore, no upfront costs or monthly costs are associated with this form of financial assistance.
Often with government programs and non-profit organizations, there is a long process and high demand. As a result, patients can expect to wait days to weeks without receiving any assistance. Medical fundraising, particularly online methods can help patients break down barriers of receiving treatment instantly.
Disadvantages of Medical Fundraising
Letting Friends And Family Know Your Current Condition
Illness is a very personal experience. You may choose not to share information about your diagnosis and financial challenges to your network of friends, extended family and your local community. Due to this, sharing personal information openly can be difficult for some people.
Relies On Your Social Network
In order for a fundraiser to be successful, a fundraiser must be able to connect with a large number of supporters. These supporters are typically your friends, family and the workplace. Individuals with limited networks and connections can find reaching their goal can be difficult. For example, individuals who are currently unemployed or have smaller social networks.
1) Financial Assistance Programs for People with Cancer
2) Health Insurance and Financial Assistance for the Cancer Patient: http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/ovary.html
4) Out-of-Pocket Costs for Some Cancer Patients Top $700 Monthly: http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2011/06/06/out-of-pocket-costs-for-some-cancer-patients-top-700-monthly/
5) Estimating the Cost of Cancer: Results on the Basis of Claims Data Analyses for Cancer Patients Diagnosed With Seven Types of Cancer During 1999 to 2000: http://jco.ascopubs.org/content/22/17/3524.full
6) How Much Does Ovarian Cancer Treatment Cost?: http://health.costhelper.com/ovarian-cancer.html
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