Your world turns upside down with a cancer diagnosis. Whatever you were doing in your life before is replaced by whatever treatment provides the best hope for beating it. So begins a journey you never wanted to take.
But the world doesn’t stop with that diagnosis. There are medical bills to pay on top of the usual bills and obligations that can’t wait for remission. It can seem like everything possible is working against you.
Two of the worst stressors in life are health problems and financial issues. Combined, they can leave you feeling completely overwhelmed and desperate. You need a cure for both at the same time.
It’s up to you and your medical team to work on eradicating the cancer. But there may be others who can help with the financial burdens you face. Here are three ways to help pay the bills when you’re going through cancer treatment.
1. Apply for Grants From Cancer-Related Nonprofit Organizations
You’re probably well aware that there are nonprofit organizations aligned with cancer-related causes. Some support research and education for cancer in general, and others focus on specific types of the disease. There are also nonprofits that provide financial support to patients in the form of grants, which don’t need to be repaid.
The purposes of the grants vary, from covering out-of-pocket medical expenses and co-pays to funding non-healthcare expenses. The latter may include paying for such expenses as utility bills, mortgage or rent payments, transportation, and childcare.
These nonprofits raise money from donors looking for ways to support research efforts and patients going through treatment. For example, money from those who donate to breast cancer charities may pay a patient’s routine bills while they can’t work. That can be a lifeline to patients and their families.
Don’t forget to look close to home. A local United Way or American Cancer Society chapter may know about organizations that can help you. Assistance may range from hot meals and groceries to rides to and from medical appointments.
Pride is often the barrier that keeps people in need from seeking help from others. With all the obstacles you face in cancer treatment, pride is one you should break through. Don’t be reluctant to ask for help from organizations whose missions are to provide it.
2. Set Up Payment Plans Where You Can
Even with good health insurance coverage, you’ll probably have to pay a significant amount out of your own pocket. These uncovered healthcare expenses can add up in a hurry. Because you need to pay the mortgage or lose the house, you might opt to put off paying providers.
The problem with this strategy is that healthcare providers want to be paid right away. Delay for too long, and they may file a lawsuit against you to obtain a judgment. If they do, you’ll find yourself owing more than just the bills. You’ll probably be ordered to pay interest on unpaid balances and the healthcare provider’s legal expenses.
Your oncologist will draft a treatment plan for you. With your plan in hand, talk to various providers’ financial counselors about what your insurance will and won’t cover. Then discuss payment plans, rate reductions, and other possible patient assistance options.
You should also consider talking to your credit card companies if you won’t be able to make timely payments. Many offer debt relief and hardship programs such as those some companies offered during the height of the pandemic. Although you still owe the debt and incur interest, you may be able to postpone payments without tanking your credit score.
A little pre-treatment preparation may keep unpleasant financial surprises during treatment to a minimum. If you have an idea of what you will need to pay out of pocket, you can work on a budget. And if a healthcare provider isn’t willing to work with you, you may want to find one with more compassion.
3. Fully Assess Your Work Situation
With most types of cancer treatment, there will be at least some period you will be unable to work. Of course, the type of job you have is also a factor in your ability to punch the clock or not. Your oncologist will be able to give you a pretty good idea about what to expect.
Talk to the human resources representative at your workplace about your options. In all likelihood, you aren’t the first employee to face this health challenge. Your goal is to continue earning income even when you’re physically unable to work.
If your employer is subject to the Family Medical Leave Act, that doesn’t necessarily mean you get paid while on leave. However, some employers do offer paid leave under FMLA. Otherwise, you should talk about using any accrual of paid time off you have to keep your paycheck coming.
State and federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, protect you from being fired because you have cancer. However, if you have no paid leave, you might want to qualify for unemployment benefits. This causes a conundrum because you can’t quit your job in order to draw unemployment.
However, you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits for the period you are unable to work. Some cancer diagnoses have automatic approval for SSD benefits so you can receive them sooner. Maintaining some sort of regular payments from some source, if possible, may help you cushion the financial blow.
Focus on the Fight at Hand
The biggest battle you face after a cancer diagnosis is fighting the disease itself. Trying to remain positive and maintaining your strength will take everything you have.
Don’t just cross your fingers and hope you’ll be able to figure out the finances later. Try these approaches to keep your financial health steady while you’re in treatment. A little planning and a willingness to accept assistance may help you right your world again.
Laila Azzahra is a professional writer and blogger that loves to write about technology, business, entertainment, science, and health.