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How to Create a Financial Freedom Plan as a Cancer Patient

Whether you’re currently going through treatment or heading toward remission, there’s no denying that cancer is expensive. That fact can feel overwhelming to patients since they’re already dealing with the blow from the disease itself. While so many types of cancer are treatable nowadays, the more treatment required, the more bills end up coming.

The average treatment plan for cancer patients costs about $150,000. So, it’s no surprise that a 2019 survey discovered that 63% of cancer patients and their loved ones struggled with their finances after receiving a diagnosis1.

When you’re going through any kind of treatment, the last thing you should be worried about is how you’re going to pay for it. Your focus should be on getting stronger and beating the disease. Unfortunately, medical bills are a harsh reality.

So, how can you create a financial freedom plan from the start that will allow you to feel less stressed and more focused on the success of your treatment?

Prepare Yourself for Expensive Treatment

The good news is that cancer treatment has come a long way thanks to technological advancements and research. Now, there are multiple treatment options, including several types of therapy that can help you fight the disease and take care of your mental health all at once.

The less-great news? Even though treatment options are better, they’re also more expensive than ever.

Preparing yourself for a high care cost is crucial. Is having medical debt ideal? Of course not. But, when you plan ahead and make a budget based on what you think your expenses might be, you’re less likely to be shocked when the bills start to come in. Plus, you’ll get a head start on budgeting. You can even use the 50-30-20 rule to put your money toward regular expenses (50%), wants (30%), and savings (20%). Following a method like this or another budgeting option that works for you will help you and your family to maintain your current financial lifestyle or experience few cutbacks in order to pay for treatment.

You should also base your budget on the resources you do have. Obviously, your medical expenses will look different depending on whether you have insurance or not. You might also consider dipping into other personal resources to cover some of the larger amounts. That could include borrowing from your savings, taking out a loan, or taking from your 401(k) or other retirement accounts. There might be a penalty involved if you tap into those accounts early, but if it’s the only way for you to pay off your bills while getting treatment, it’s worth it.

Work With Your Providers

It’s easy to assume that the hospital where you receive your treatment won’t budge when it comes to your treatment costs. But, it’s worth it to ask about your options.

One of the easiest ways is to inquire about hospital bill forgiveness. Talk to the hospital’s billing department about financial aid opportunities or any forgiveness programs they might have. You could qualify if:

  • Your income is below the national poverty limit.
  • Your out-of-pocket medical expenses exceed 10% of your annual income.
  • There are errors in your hospital bill.

You might also want to inquire about financing options. Not all hospitals offer them. But, if you’re willing to make regular, consistent payments toward your bill, many medical facilities will allow you to pay off your debt over time, rather than demanding the money all at once.

Even if your questions get turned down, it’s always worth it to talk to your healthcare providers and ask about any possible forgiveness plans they might have in place.

Lean On Resources

Going through any type of cancer treatment is taxing and exhausting. Organizations that specialize in working with cancer patients recognize that. So, some of them go beyond just research and moral support.

Tapping into as many resources as possible will, at the very least, give you some insight into how you can receive support. Some organizations go one step further and are often willing to offer financial assistance in the form of grants2. Not sure where to start? Some of the most prominent nonprofit organizations for cancer patients include:

  • The American Cancer Society
  • CancerCare
  • The Samfund
  • The Patient Advocate Foundation

It’s also a good idea to reach out to pharmaceutical companies. If you’re taking any medications at home or relying on prescriptions, they may be able to help. Some big pharma brands or medical device companies offer reduced prices if you work through a medical assistance program. Ask them about their options and how you can take advantage of lower pricing.

There’s no way around the fact that cancer is a damaging illness in more ways than one. The last thing you need, as a patient, is reduced resilience thanks to the stress of your financial burden.

So, keep these ideas in mind as you create a financial freedom plan. You don’t have to remain in medical debt forever. With a bit of planning, research, and reliance on support, you can beat this disease and the debt that often comes with it.


Resources:

  1. https://www.asbestos.com/featured-stories/high-cost-of-cancer-treatment/
  2. https://www.curetoday.com/view/digging-out-of-debt-for-cancer-survivors

Practical Advice for Coping with a CLL Diagnosis: What’s Next?

Practical Advice for Coping with a CLL Diagnosis: What’s Next? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

After receiving a diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), patients can have a variety of concerns. Physician assistant Danielle Roberts shares her top three pieces of practical advice for patients to move forward. 

Danielle Roberts is a physician assistant with the Bone Marrow Stem Cell Transplant (BMT) team at Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University. Learn more here.

See More From The Pro-Active CLL Patient Toolkit


Related Resources

 
Confusing CLL Terms Defined

Confusing CLL Terms Defined

What Is YOUR Role in CLL Treatment Decisions?
What Is YOUR Role in CLL Treatment Decisions? 
Targeted CLL Therapy: What Are the Side Effects?
Targeted CLL Therapy: What Are the Side Effects?

Transcript:

Danielle Roberts:       

My recommendations if I could have three things that I would recommend all patients with CLL do, 1.) It would be to have your financial information kind of in line or know how to find that. Unfortunately, a lot of the medications that we use to treat disease are incredibly expensive. However, there are really good patient assistance programs out there. In order to be able to apply for patient assistance programs you do have to submit your financial information to them. So, I would really suggest that you have access or be able to know where to find that.

I would also really recommend you talk to your family members in so that they understand what’s – where you are with your treatment and what’s going on. As a physician’s assistant, one of the questions I generally get is when they bring in a family member or somebody who has not been along in their journey for their treatment, if they’re asking lots of questions, that was and kind of diagnosis. So, I encourage people to talk about that at the beginning, so everybody understands where they are and what the plan for the future is going to be.

And then the last thing that I always recommend to everybody is to understand that not one treatment is right for everybody. Understand that things are going to change and we’re all going to grow and we’re going to learn with the process. But if you don’t tell your healthcare team what’s going on, we can’t help you. And we say that there is no such thing as a bad question to us. You’re never bothering us. That’s what we’re here for. Rather you tell us, even if it may be something you feel is minor, ahead of time so that we can address it and work towards a solution, if there needs to be one.