The University of Kentucky Public Relations and Strategic Communications Office provides a weekly health column available for use and reprint by news media. This week's column is by Charles McCann III, a former patient financial counselor and current oncology patient navigator at the UK Markey Cancer Center.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 24, 2022) — Managing the financial burden of cancer treatment can add to the already challenging physical and emotional journey for patients and their families. However, there are resources available that can help ease the stress. Here are some tips to help navigate the costs:
See a patient financial counselor
Cancer patients and their families should take advantage of financial counseling available through cancer treatment centers, which can help manage treatment expenses and connect patients to resources for financial assistance. Your cancer doctor or nurse can help connect you to the financial assistance offered at your care center.
Understand your insurance coverage
Because insurance, managed care, or public health care programs pay most of the costs of cancer treatment, it’s important to contact your health insurance company to understand your benefits. This includes your deductible and out-of-pocket maximum costs, as well as prescription drug coverage. Also, be sure to ask your doctor if a generic version of a name-brand medicine is an option and inquire about discount drug programs.
Seek financial assistance programs
There are several government and privately-funded financial assistance programs that can cover both medical and non-medical expenses, like travel costs related to treatment.
UK HealthCare, for example, has its own financial assistance program that can cover up to 100% of medical expenses not covered by insurance. This program can cover inpatient stays, outpatient appointments (Markey visits included) and emergency room visits at any UK medical facility. Most medically necessary procedures are covered by the financial assistance, but there are a few exclusions that may apply. Patients should not be deterred by any active balances, because approved financial assistance will backdate and cover ANY active balances not gone to collection. Interested patients can access the financial assistance application via their MyChart account or the UK HealthCare website.
Many other financial assistance programs are privately funded through organizations dedicated to certain types of cancer, so a quick internet search for financial help based on your diagnosis should provide even more options. At Markey, social workers can also connect patients with these programs.
Taking time off work
Cancer treatment often requires time off from work. Check if your employer offers long-term and short-term disability benefits. The Family Leave Medical Act (FMLA) guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year, along with job and health insurance security for employees who have worked for their employer for 12 months or 1,250 hours. FMLA is also available for caregivers. Additionally, your employer may provide short-term disability insurance, which pays a portion of your salary if you are temporarily unable to work.
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