Many patients today face the problem of how to pay for rising healthcare costs. The Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF) and other cancer organizations offer limited financial assistance to patients who qualify. Most pharmaceutical/biotechnology companies have patient assistance programs in place that provide drugs for free to qualifying patients.
Patients in need of financial assistance should talk with their doctor and social worker about available options and how to enroll in an appropriate program. Before undergoing a medical procedure, patients should check with their insurance carrier to ensure that it is covered. If there is a dispute about coverage or if coverage is denied, patients should ask their insurance carrier about its appeals process. Patients can also contact their state’s department of insurance if a claim is denied.
Securing a Financial Future
Receiving a cancer diagnosis is not just a threat to physical health; it can also put one’s financial well-being in jeopardy. For lymphoma patients without health insurance and who must self-pay for their care, the cost of treatment can be as high as $200,000 or more the first year. Even for patients with health insurance, the out-of-pocket expenses for care can be staggering.
Losing health insurance and worries about being discriminated against at work or even losing a job because of a cancer diagnosis only adds to the financial distress people with lymphoma may experience. Here are some steps to take to protect one’s financial well-being:
Knowing Your Legal Rights at the Workplace
Before telling anyone at the workplace–co-workers, immediate supervisor, or someone in the human resources department–about their lymphoma, research and understand the rights according to the company’s employee manual regarding sick time, medical leave, short- and long-term disability benefits, and the company’s policy on reasonable job accommodations (for example, to allow time off for chemotherapy treatment). Also, be prepared to provide the employer with information from the doctor, including the treatment plan and how it may affect one’s work schedule.
Before meeting with a supervisor or human resources manager, prepare a list of questions to ask, including:
- What is the company’s policy on medical leave?
- How can my workload be adjusted to accommodate the time off I may need for treatment?
- How much of the cost of my treatment is covered by my health insurance and how much will be reasonable to cover?
- Will my health insurance premiums go up?
- Will I be eligible for the company’s short- or long-term disability benefits?
Protecting Yourself Against Workplace Discrimination
Be familiar with the laws and agencies that protect against workplace discrimination and allow for medical leave such as the <link>Americans With Disabilities Act<link>; the <link>Family and Medical Leave Act<link>; and <link>Equal Employment Opportunity Comission<link>.
There are also laws in place, such as the <link>Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)<link> and the <link>Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)<link>, to protect people from losing their health insurance coverage if they change or lose their jobs.
Protecting Your Financial Assets
Meeting with a finance professional to help assess all monetary concerns, including medical bills, income, taxes, insurance, investments, and employee benefits can relieve some of the financial anxiety and provide the information needed to protect financial assets. Because financial issues can be ongoing after treatment has ended, having some experience in handling the financial problems related to a cancer diagnosis can be especially beneficial in developing a plan that works for a survivor’s specific needs.
Ask family members, friends, or other professionals, such as a lawyer or accountant, for referrals to financial planners. <link>The American Cancer Society<link> also has information on its website about how to find a local financial planner. Suggested resources include:
- Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board)
- Financial Planning Association
- Society of Financial Service Professionals
Questions to Ask a Financial Planner
- Have you ever worked with a client who has cancer?
- How would your planning advice for me be different from a typical client?
- What are some of the financial issues you see regarding my specific situation?
- Are you familiar with all aspects of medical coverage, disability benefits, life insurance, and viatical settlements (a provision in a life insurance policy that allows an insured person with a life-threatening illness to redeem the policy for an amount close to its face value)?
- Are you familiar with the employee rights of a cancer patient?
- How are your fees determined (for example, basic fee, commission from the sale of financial products, fee plus commission)?