Living with cancer can be expensive. Some people may have no health insurance; others may be insured but don’t have coverage for aspects of their treatment, such as prescription drug co-pays. Many people do not have the needed income to meet new costs such as child care or transportation to treatment. People with cancer and their caregivers often have to cut back on time spent at work, which often affects their income at the same time that their bills are building up.

Financial stress often causes emotional stress. For example, when a family is under financial pressures, it can create feelings of worry, sadness and anxiety. Because cancer treatment often means years of medical care, financial concerns can influence major life decisions about work, housing and school. There is assistance available, and CancerCare can help you navigate the maze of government, nonprofit and co-pay assistance programs, as well as other sources of financial help. Here are some of the things you can do:

Talk to your insurance company. Most companies will assign a case manager to help you work through insurance concerns, clarify benefits and suggest ways to get other health services.

Talk to your health care providers about your needs. Many treatment centers have social workers who help you sort through financial concerns. A CancerCare oncology social worker can also help you.

Find out which government programs (entitlements) you are eligible for and apply promptly. To contact the Social Security Administration, call 800-772-1213 or visit www.ssa.gov. To contact the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, call 800-633-4227 or visit www.cms.gov. For Medicaid information, contact local listings for a Medicaid office in your state.

Learn how organizations can help you. There are nonprofit programs for co-pay relief that can help those who do not qualify for other aid. To learn more, read CancerCare’s fact sheets titled “Sources of Financial Assistance” and “How Co-Payment Assistance Foundations Help.”

CancerCare’s Online Helping Hand. CancerCare’s Online Helping Hand is a searchable, online database of financial and practical assistance available for people with cancer. This comprehensive online tool features up-to-date contact information and descriptions for hundreds of national and regional organizations offering financial help to people with cancer. You can search by diagnosis, zip code and type of assistance.

Tips for Taking Control of Your Finances

When you or a loved one has received a cancer diagnosis, money may be the last thing you want to think about, but taking control of your finances from the start may be the best way to prevent a crisis later on.

Keep track of important papers. Many people find it helpful to keep their records and paperwork in one place for easy reference. Important documents may include copies of medical records and prescription information.

Get a handle on your income and expenses. Figure out how much money is coming in to your household, how much you spend and what you spend it on. Do you have money saved for an emergency? Do you have assets (a home, other property, a retirement plan, life insurance) that you can use to obtain cash? Have you elected a power of attorney?

Stay on top of medical bills. The consequences of medical debt are staggering and unfortunately all too common. Medical debt can be a major burden and a source of continuing stress for many living with cancer. If you find yourself behind on paying medical bills, there are resources that can help.

Get help. Oncology social workers are licensed professionals who counsel people affected by cancer, providing emotional support and helping people access practical assistance.