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Financial Distress

A growing concern for people with cancer and their families.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that people with cancer are increasingly concerned about the financial impact of their care and are in need of financial resources and assistance. The Journal reported that five large non-profit groups that assist insured patients with their medication co-payments paid out a total of $274.7 million in 2009. This was an increase of 52.7% over the previous year, and applications for assistance increased 26%. The groups are funded by pharmaceutical manufacturers, foundations and private donations.

The Cancer Support Community noted that information about finances and financial assistance was not being routinely or consistently given to people with cancer. A frequently encountered problem is that health insurance policies typically have caps on benefits and set lifetime individual or family maximum payments. People with cancer often are overwhelmed by cancer-related healthcare costs. In response to this need for information about the cost of cancer care, the Cancer Support Community created the resource "Coping with the Cost of Cancer," available at http://secure.nam.org/hc/Initiatives/Cancer-Costs/Coping-with-Costs-1.aspx.

Now more than ever, oncology nurses need to assess patients’ financial concerns and refer them to organizations and agencies that may be of help. At a minimum, nurses can inform patients that many patients have concerns about the costs of treatment and provide a list of organizations for patients to contact when needed. These organizations include:

CancerCare

This organization assists with payment for approved cancer medications for patients in need (based on income).

Patient Access Network

The network assists with insurance co-payments for approved cancer medications for patients in need (based on income).

Cancer Support Community

This organization providers online and in-person support groups, Coping with the Cost of Care brochure, and assistance locating financial aid to pay for cancer treatment and related costs.

American Cancer Society

The society providers housing at no cost to patients and their families at Hope Lodges; sponsors community support groups, and provides assistance with financial aid.