The High Cost of Cancer Care in the USA
Even with insurance, cancer treatment in the USA is expensive. Research in the Journal of the Cancer Institute published in September 2022 found the average first-year cost of treatment was $140,732. And this number can be much higher for patients who require multiple rounds of treatment or those who face complications.
Expenses cited in the study include lab tests, doctor visits, imaging tests, radiation therapy, drug costs, hospital stays, and surgery. While the cost of cancer treatment can vary depending on the type and stage of cancer, of course, these are typical outlays that most patients face. In addition, many incur costs for travel, lodging, rehabilitation, and home care.
Paying for Cancer Treatment
Whether you’re insured or uninsured, we’ve provided this updated guide to help you understand your potential out-of-pocket costs and to get the needed funding to pay for your cancer treatments from nonprofit organizations across the nation that want to help you right now.
Most health insurance plans cover at least some of the costs of cancer treatment. However, as this recent NCI study makes clear, there are often limits on how much they will pay. For example, your insurance company may only cover certain treatments. They may also limit the number of treatments you can receive in a year or lifetime. Additionally, most health insurance plans have co-pays and deductibles. These are out-of-pocket expenses you are responsible for paying.
Insurance simply doesn’t cover everything. That’s why cancer patients typically need additional resources to help pay for treatment. Viatical settlements, underinsured funding, and grants from nonprofit organizations can also help ease the financial burdens associated with a cancer diagnosis. In addition, professional navigators can advocate on your behalf and get you the financial help you need. Here is a description of each and where to get help today.
When insurance doesn’t cover the full cost of cancer care, some people turn to viatical settlements. A viatical settlement is when you sell your life insurance policy to a third party. In exchange, the third party pays you a lump sum of money. This money can be used to pay for cancer treatment or other expenses.
Viatical settlements are not right for everyone. Talk to your financial advisor before making any decisions.
There are a few things to keep in mind when considering a viatical settlement:
- You will no longer have life insurance coverage once you sell your policy.
- The lump sum of money may not be enough to pay for all of your cancer treatments.
- You may have to pay taxes on the money you receive from the settlement.
- You may need to sign over your rights to the life insurance policy in order to get the money from the settlement.
If you’re thinking about a viatical settlement, it’s critical to understand your options that are best for you and your family. Speak to your financial advisor for advice before making this important decision. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners publishes a guide on viatical settlements you can download for more information.
Underinsured Patient Funding
As a cancer patient, there’s a lot to worry about. In addition to treatment and recovery, you may be experiencing significant financial challenges even if you have insurance. There are a number of organizations that offer financial assistance to people who have insurance but whose out-of-pocket expenses are still too high.
The HealthWell Foundation
The HealthWell Foundation provides financial help with many types of cancer including bladder, colorectal, melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, and renal cell carcinoma. Assistance varies with the program and may include prescription copays, health insurance premiums, deductibles and coinsurance and travel costs. For application and eligibility information, please see this page.
The Assistance Fund
The Assistance Fund is a national nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to cancer patients in the USA who have uncovered care-related expenses and meet income guidelines.
Programs pay for copayments, coinsurance, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket health-related expenses. To apply, please visit this link or call (855) 845-3663 to request a paper application.
❤️ For more free financial programs for underinsured cancer patients, please visit our national directory here.
Grant Programs for Cancer Patients
The cost of cancer care can break any budget, and you might be struggling to keep up with medical and household bills. We want you to know, there are a number of grant programs that can help you with these costs and more. These two programs below provide financial assistance in the form of housing grants and cover other expenses like transportation, food, and childcare.
Join the Flock Housing Grant Program
Join the Flock is a national nonprofit organization that provides financial relief to families impacted by cancer through gifted mortgage payment grants.
If your family has experienced financial hardship due to a cancer diagnosis and you are a USA resident, please visit this link to apply.
The Cancer Cartel
The Cancer Cartel provides grants to cancer patients in the USA who are either in active treatment or have had cancer treatment within the last 12 months.
This national grant program offers funding for unmet expenses including housing, household expenses, food, travel (fuel/lodging), and childcare. To apply, please visit this link.
If you or someone you know is struggling to pay for cancer care, don’t hesitate to look into these programs. They can make a world of difference for those who need it most.
❤️ Click here for our national directory of grant programs for cancer patients.
Professional Help When You Can’t Afford Care
If you can’t afford cancer treatment, consider working with a professional care navigator. Research shows that when cancer patients work with navigators, they see decreased barriers to care. Cancer care navigators are specially trained professionals who can help you navigate the entire cancer journey. They can help you find resources to pay for treatment, make appointments, and more. Here are two national programs that can help you today for free:
CSC Cancer Pro Support Helpline
The CSC Cancer Pro Support Helpline offers free professional support services to cancer patients and families nationwide.
The Helpline is staffed by community navigators, resource specialists and a Helpline navigator who have over 170 years of combined experience helping people affected by cancer and offering guidance, resources and support all at no charge. Call (888) 793-9355 or live chat Monday-Friday 9AM-8PM ET and Saturday 9AM-5PM ET for assistance.
The Patient Advocate Foundation
The Patient Advocate Foundation provides free nationwide professional case management services by telephone for cancer patients in the USA in active treatment or have had treatment within the past six months.
This no-cost program pairs you with a case manager who will help you manage finances and get the best possible care and outcome. To enroll in this free cancer patient advocacy program, please visit this link.
❤️ Visit this link for more free professional navigator programs for cancer patients in the USA.
Questions to Ask Your Care Provider and Insurance Company
There are a lot of moving parts to coordinate financially after a cancer diagnosis. It is critical that all parties be on the same page and that begins by having an open line of communication about any care and financial concerns. If you’re facing a cancer diagnosis, there are a number of questions you should ask your doctor and insurance company. These include:
- What treatments are covered by my insurance?
- How much will I be responsible for?
- Are the costs of clinical trials covered?
- What are my options if I can’t afford treatment?
Answering these questions can help you make informed decisions about your cancer treatment. Talk to your doctor and insurance company about what treatments are covered and how much you will be responsible for right away. This way, you can determine your out-of-pocket expenses beforehand so you avoid financial surprises.
Get More Help
If you’re facing a cancer diagnosis, the costs of treatment can be overwhelming. But if you’re in the USA, there are national resources available to help you afford the care you need. Get financial help from the national organizations like the ones above that fund underinsured cancer care. In addition, reach out to professionals who can help you navigate the process of getting cancer treatment and take advantage of the various grant programs currently available to cancer patients. Paying for cancer treatment can be a challenge. We hope that the professional support and financial resources here will help you get the care you need. ❤️