What are some financial issues related to cancer care?
How can we deal with financial issues related to cancer care?
Where can I get more information about cancer-related financial issues?


What are some financial issues related to cancer care?

Cancer can be a huge financial burden on families. Many treatment-related costs are not covered by insurance. You may also have additional, non-medical expenses like transportation, in-home care, childcare, etc. And, both you and the person with cancer may be unable to work as much during treatment and recovery—if at all.

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How can we deal with financial issues related to cancer care?

Here are some tips:

Insurance coverage

  • Ask the insurance company to assign a case manager to the patient. This may give you a single point-of-contact for questions about coverage and out-of-plan benefits.
  • Make sure you and the patient understand what treatments need to be pre-approved by the insurance company, and get the necessary approvals.
  • Keep detailed records when either you or the patient speaks with the insurance company. Write down: who you spoke to, what was said, and when you were in contact.
  • Understand your co-pays and deductibles, and keep track of them.
  • If the insurance declines to pay for something, ask again. Often it takes several tries.
  • Check out the state's Health Insurance Assistance program.
  • Find out if wigs are covered under the insurance plan. (Sometimes insurance companies will cover part or all the cost of a wig if a healthcare provider writes a prescription for a “hair prosthesis.")

Hospital bills

  • Check to be sure that medical bills are accurate. Billing errors happen. Call the hospital billing department if you have questions or concerns about charges.
  • Arrange for a meeting with someone from the hospital's billing department or talk to a hospital social worker about payment plans, reduced rates, "charity care," or "indigent care" programs.

Prescription coverage

Out-of-pocket prescriptions costs can add up quickly, especially if the patient is taking an oral chemotherapy drug. Ask the oncology provider or the hospital’s patient services representative if the company that makes the patient's chemotherapy has a “patient assistance plan” to help pay for it. You can also find out about prescription assistance plans on these websites:

Home healthcare

  • Home healthcare services can cost a lot, and are often not covered by insurance.
  • Talk to a hospital discharge planner about home care options and expenses.
  • Get help from a hospital social worker to figure out what services are needed and get help contacting a home healthcare agency.
  • Check to see what the patient’s insurance covers, and what’s needed to qualify for coverage. For example, you may need a doctor’s prescription for home care.
  • Check to see if there are state and federal medical assistance programs that can help.
  • Compare different home healthcare agencies. Look at what each agency provides and the cost of their services.
  • Look into borrowing home care equipment that’s not covered by insurance like a wheelchair, walker, or hospital bed.

Family financial planning

  • Figure out your monthly expenses. Include rent or mortgage, phone and utility bills, transportation, insurance premiums, food, clothing, child-care and elder-care costs, medical expenses, any monthly loan payments, taxes, tuition, legal and accounting fees, and anything else.
  • Prioritize your bills.
  • Ask utility companies, such as gas, electric, and phone, about available assistance programs.
  • Meet with a financial advisor to help make a plan for your family's finances.
  • Let your creditors know about your financial situation, if you are having trouble paying your bills.
  • Look at possible Social Security and Pension benefits including compassionate allowances from the Social Security Administration. (You may need power-of-attorney to talk to others about the patient’s financial and health matters.)
  • Make sure you and other family members have healthcare coverage, and long-term care insurance.

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Where can I get more information about cancer-related financial issues?

Here are some helpful websites:

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Next learn about...

Making a caregiving plan

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This website was created to provide information, education, and support that will help cancer caregivers care for themselves and their family members. It is not meant as medical advice. Please check with your physician for any advice about your health.