We frequently field inquiries about financial assistance for direct medical costs (co-pays, deductibles), related non-medical costs (transportation, gas, child care) or daily living expenses (rent, utilities). Note that MBCN does not give direct aid, and, as an all-volunteer operation, lacks the resources to provide one-on-one advice. But we wanted to offer these general suggestions–if you have a tip, please comment below!
Many agencies budget a certain amount of financial aid per year. Once they have disbursed their annual allocation, that’s it until the following year. Some national cancer non-profit groups can direct you to sources of aid in your community–but few offer direct financial help themselves. With some research, you can find sources of help in your community. If you lack the time or computer access to investigate these organizations, recruit a relative or friend to help you!
Don’t automatically assume you won’t qualify because you are working, have insurance or are too young or too old. One of our members offers this example: “I have bone mets and have been getting a monthly bone-boosting shot for years. Because I am employed and have insurance, I assumed I didn’t qualify for co-pay assistance and I never asked about it. But the drug maker actually has a program for people just like me that will save me thousands of dollars. Every penny counts–I wish I had looked into this sooner!”
Talk With your Health Care Team. Often a social worker or financial person at your hospital or infusion center can offer suggestions and direct you to local resources.
See What is Available. Cancer Care, a national organization has a very helpful booklet, A Helping Hand- The Resource Guide for People with Cancer. You can view the document online or order a copy. You can also contact Cancer Care at 800-813-4673 and speak to one of their professional oncology social workers, who will guide you through the process.
Check with Individual Pharmaceutical Companies. Almost every pharmaceutical company has patient assistance programs to help patients with the co-pay for specific drugs. The website is usually the name of the drug. So, for example, if you are taking Herceptin and need information on assistance with co-pays, go to www.herceptin.com. Similarly, for Afinitor: go to www.afinitor.com. For Xgeva, see www.xgeva.com.
Call 211. Many communities have a 211 information and referral service, funded by The United Way. Simply call 211 or go to : www.211.org to find help with food, housing, employment, health care, counseling and more. Available in English and Spanish.
Check the Database to Find Help in Your Area. The Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition (www.cancerfac.org) is a group of 14 organizations who provide a searchable database of resources available to you based on your diagnosis and zip code. You simply enter both and will then get a list of organizations who may be able to help you, including those local to your state or area.
Know your Social Security Disability Options. Many people diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, also called advanced breast cancer or Stage IV breast cancer, qualify for Social Security Disability under the compassionate allowance program. (This assumes you have the required work history.) This can be very helpful, if you are no longer able to work. Note that you need to have your own insurance coverage for a two-year waiting period before Medicare takes effect. Read more on how to apply.
Early Life Insurance Payouts. A life insurance policy ordinarily pays benefits to a beneficiary after a policy owner dies. Those benefits are accelerated if they are paid directly to a chronically or terminally ill policy owner before he or she dies. Check with your insurance agent or company to see if your policy includes or offers the option. Group policies for term or permanent life insurance may also provide accelerated benefits; check with your benefits administrator.
Note that a metastatic diagnosis isn’t an automatic entitlement to an early payout; your doctor will be asked to affirm you have a terminal illness with death expected within a specific time frame (usually 12 to 24 months). Very few benefit administrators are familiar with accelerated death benefits, it’s wise to review the policy yourself and contact the insurance company directly. Here’s what some people with MBC report.
Here is just a sampling of potential sources of help:
Help Now Fund provides emergency financial assistance to help people in active treatment with their rent and utilities: http://www.thebreastcancercharities.org/help-now-fund/
The Health Well Foundation offers assistance with copay or insurance premium payments for insured patients, based on availability of funds. They have a quick eligibility test online:
Patient Access Network Foundation provides co-pay, deductible and medication financial assistance:
PAF Financial Aid Fund Division is an independent division of Patient Advocate Foundation. It provides small grants to patients who meet financial and medical criteria. Patients who are interested in applying for financial assistance should start by calling this division toll free at (855) 824-7941.
Freebies and Discounts for Cancer Patients as compiled by 1 Up on Cancer:
See More Options Here. MBCN has a website page that also lists financial resources.
Be Persistent. You may have to make a lot of phone calls and visit a lot of websites in order to get help. There are restrictions on the type and amount of aid given and organizations often have limited funds to disburse. But hopefully your persistence will yield results and you will have some peace of mind about your financial status.
Please share this with anyone you know who is having financial difficulty because of their cancer. If you have other suggestions based on your experience, please comment below. Thank you!