If you find yourself behind on paying medical bills, there are resources that can help.

If You Have Insurance:

You have the right to appeal if your health insurance company denies coverage for any aspect of your cancer care. Find out from your insurance company what you need to do to appeal a denial of coverage. If your appeal is denied, you may be able to get help from your state’s insurance department.

Approach your treatment center to find out whether they will either lower your bill or work to address this sizeable debt. Some facilities provide funding to offset any care that isn’t covered by insurance, though you will be expected to provide proof of this financial situation. Also consider asking the hospital or doctor to consider the insurance payment as “payment in full.” Many people don’t think to do this, and it is often more successful than expected. Some hospitals have funds to offset medical services that aren’t fully covered by insurance.

Try to negotiate the outstanding balance by asking for a discount. It may be possible that you could get a discount if you pay the outstanding balance in a lump sum. You can also set up a payment plan.

Whether or Not You Have Insurance

Double check all bills and EOBs (explanation of benefits). You’d be surprised how often billing mistakes are made. If you don’t receive an itemized bill, ask for one. Look for incorrect dates of service (for instance, you shouldn’t be billed for the room on the day you were discharged) and fees billed more than once for the same test or procedure.

Speak with an oncology social worker or counselor. This may help you manage some of your stress and come up with a plan so that you feel more in control.

The Patient Advocate Foundation’s (www.patientadvocate.org) case managers can provide guidance and support. They may be able to intervene on your behalf regarding medical debt. The Patient Advocate Foundation also maintains a network of volunteer attorneys.

You may have a legal right to certain benefits. Lawhelp.org provides referrals for affordable and/or free legal assistance programs in one’s area and advice about bankruptcy protection and other financial issues. For more information on legal help, read CancerCare’s fact sheet titled, “Legal Assistance: Finding Resources and Support.”

Learn how financial and co-pay assistance programs can help you. A number of nonprofit organizations provide help for expenses such as co-payments, deductibles, and other medical costs. These programs have their own eligibility rules and may cover only certain cancers. To learn more, read CancerCare’s fact sheets titled, “Sources of Financial Assistance” and “How Co-Payment Assistance Foundations Help.”