In CR’s Fall 2009 issue, we wrote about the financial hardships that can result from a cancer diagnosis. We asked readers what surprised them about the cost of treatment and solicited their advice for those newly diagnosed. Below are a few excerpts from some of the responses we received.
I was surprised at the costs associated with “non-medical” items that I had to purchase during and after treatment, including travel, nonprescription medications ... and even parking fees at doctors’ offices.
If you are diagnosed with cancer and you are employed and have health and disability insurance through your employer, get copies of your actual policies from your human resources (HR) department. .... Read your policies, tedious though it may be, and call your HR department if you have questions. Read the fine print. Be sure all procedures and medications are pre-authorized.
—Andra L. Baker
The restriction on health care formularies made it hard to get to the “high end” drugs that actually worked for my nausea and pain. I had to go through a host of approved medications at the lower end. Those were days of frustration, pain and confusion. Some types of alternative care that helped the most—massage and spiritual counseling—were not covered by insurance.
What I know as an advocate and survivor is to get to the internet, connect with other survivors and ask questions. Many online support groups have a total knowledge base of survivors that trumps any single doctor or cancer center. Don’t be afraid to ask for second opinions and don’t take “no” for an answer.
—Jean Di Carlo-Wagner
I am speaking on behalf of my husband, Robert, who passed away from stage IV colon cancer in August 2008.
Advice for newly diagnosed patients would be to keep current and accurate records of all your bills, including mileage for treatment. On your 1040 tax return, you may qualify to deduct expenses over the minimum allowed. Do your homework now, and see exactly what is deductible and keep a running log of those expenses. Don’t wait till tax time to try and gather all the required documentation.
King of Prussia, Pa.
Don’t be afraid to speak up and be a part of your treatment team. Ask why a medication or test is needed and the cost.
Keep records of each conversation you have with your [health] insurance company. … Always get an itemized statement from the health care provider so you know exactly what the charges are for. Most important … if you can’t do these things yourself for any reason, find someone who is willing to be your health care advocate to help you.
If you don’t have insurance or have limited coverage, ask if there is a social worker or other person who will help you explore payment options, pharmaceutical support programs and other ways of paying for needed treatment.
To participate in CR’s reader feedback and possibly have your comments published in a future issue, join our free e-newsletter list.