You have been sick and used all your vacation and sick days. Now you find out you have cancer requiring a long course of treatment. You didn’t plan for this. You won’t be able to work and have no disability benefits. How are you going to support your family? How are you going to pay your bills? Is there any help out there for you?
The answer is YES.
If this scenario is what you’re facing, the first place you may want to start is with the nurse navigator or social worker at your treatment facility. They are the people who can direct you to the resources that are right for your situation.
Some of these resources are:
Hospital Charities or Hospital Care Assurance Program (HCAP)
A financial counselor can help answer your questions and facilitate the application process. Just because you qualified for this program at one hospital, this does not mean you are automatically enrolled at another hospital. You should seek out the financial counselor at each hospital involved in your treatment to apply for assistance.
Health Care Insurance
If you lose benefits from your employer, there are several options:
- You may be able to get on an employed spouse’s plan.
- COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act). You pay to continue your employer’s health insurance. The cost is usually high.
- The HealthCare Marketplace may have an affordable plan to meet your needs. There are community agencies that may be able to assist you in finding the right plan.
- For those with limited assets and income, Medicaid may be an option. The application process can be complex, so enlist the assistance of a social worker, nurse navigator, or your county’s Jobs and Family Services office.
Social Security Disability (SSD)
If you will be off work for at least one year or have dependent children, you may qualify for SSD. If you are at first denied, appeal. Many applications are denied at first and then go on to be approved. Those with a cancer diagnosis are now expedited. There is no payment for the first six months of disability.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Income and asset guidelines apply. If you have no income or very little income, you may be eligible for this until regular SSD is available.
Life Insurance Policies
There are options such as a loan against the cash value of the policy or selling your policy for a lesser amount. There are tax implications, so check with an advisor. There may be an accelerated death benefit if you are terminally or chronically ill.
Retirement Plans / 401(k)
You may be able to borrow or withdraw hardship money based on your circumstances. Check with your 401(k) administrator.
There are several foundations that give assistance for copays and out of pocket expenses. They may help with COBRA payments or provide grant money to help with miscellaneous costs such as transportation or childcare.
Prescription Assistance Programs
These programs may help with copays. If you are uninsured and meet income guidelines, drugs may be provided at little or no cost.
If you are a veteran and are not already in the Veteran’s Affairs (VA) healthcare system, you should contact the local VA office to find out how to access your benefits. If you already have benefits, contact your representative about what additional services may be available to you during treatment.
These are usually organized by friends and/or family. Keep meticulous records as to how the fund raising money was used. Ideally, funds should be kept in a separate bank account. This is especially important if you are applying for Medicaid.
At Mercy Cancer Center, nurse navigators are available to answer your questions and assist you in accessing various resources. For more information, please call 330-430-2788.