Review your insurance policy, and contact your insurance provider with any questions. First and foremost, have and read a copy of your insurance policy, or a summary description of your insurance policy. This will outline your benefits, any coverage limits and the appeals process. Your insurance company can also be a good resource to call if you have questions about what is or is not covered. Understanding your insurance policy and staying up-to-date on your bills can help you avoid claim denials (when an insurance provider refuses to pay for a treatment or procedure), which can be costly and time-consuming. You can find more information on health insurance in the next chapter.

Ask your insurance provider to assign you a case manager. A case manager can help you stay organized and help navigate your policy. They may also be able to assist you by letting you know if your insurance provider offers a payment plan, if your provider can reduce some of your charges or if your provider has special funding available.

Do not delay applying for benefits, as it can take a long time for them to process. There are a number of federal and state programs that provide financial benefits to individuals and families, such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. A social worker can direct you to the governmental agencies that oversee these programs.

If you’re not covered by health insurance, talk to the financial department at your treatment center or your local health department as soon as possible. It’s important for you to find out which benefits you may be eligible to apply for.

Read CancerCare’s fact sheet, “Cancer and the Workplace,” to learn how the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act can help.

Keep a diary of your medical expenses and any communications related to your finances. This will help you anticipate and prepare for expenses related to your treatment, and can be useful if you need to dispute a charge. In addition, staying organized can help make this information feel less overwhelming.

Talk to your health care team. Oftentimes, patients and their families do not want to talk to their health care team about paying for treatment. However, talking to your health care team can help ensure that you have access to the treatments you need. Physicians and providers can sometimes work together to find ways to reduce the cost of treatment without reducing the quality of the care you receive. Some providers will work with patients to set up a monthly payment plan. A social worker or financial counselor may be able to help you understand your insurance coverage and help you find further assistance, including financial aid if you are eligible. Read CancerCare’s fact sheet, “‘Doctor, Can We Talk?’: Tips for Communicating With Your Health Care Team,” to learn how you can communicate more effectively with your health care team.

Make sure you’ve received any necessary authorization before undergoing major medical procedures. Note that some insurance policies require that major medical procedures, including radiology procedures such as PET scans and MRIs, be pre-authorized by your insurance provider.