Finding Stability

4 Financial Mistakes to Avoid During Cancer Treatment

Financial mistakes can add to the stress of cancer treatment, but there are ways to get ahead of those errors and streamline the financials around your treatment.

Cancer treatment may be one of the costliest and most complex medical expenses you’ll ever face, challenging your finances and your financial planning. Even the most financially savvy among us gets blindsided by a cancer diagnosis. In a rush to start cancer treatment, you may overlook sources of financial aid, or worse, make decisions that increase the cost of your treatment plan.

Whether you’re managing the costs of treatment yourself or relying on a caregiver for your healthcare financial management, take care to avoid these top financial mistakes.

1. Going Out-of-Network

It sounds simple: Stick to your insurance plan’s in-network providers to avoid out-of-network costs. It turns out that’s easier said than done. Insurers often change which providers — doctors, medical facilities and pharmacies — are in-network, topping the list of financial mistakes to keep in mind when choosing health plans. As the patient, you’re ultimately responsible for verifying the in-network status of providers.

Providers can also leave or get dropped from a network mid-year. If you’re in the middle of treatment, check your state’s continuity of care protections, which allow patients to continue receiving care from their provider for a specified amount of time without incurring out-of-network costs, according to The Commonwealth Fund. If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan and this happens, you have three months to switch to another Medicare Advantage Plan or to a traditional Medicare plan, according to U.S. News & World Report.

If you think going out-of-network means only paying a higher percentage of the overall cost, think again. Most preferred provider organization (PPO) health insurance plans have dropped the out-of-pocket limits for going out-of-network, according to Kaiser Health News. There’s no cap on what out-of-network providers can charge you, so you could end up footing the entire bill.

2. Not Getting Pre-Authorized

Portions of your cancer treatment plan may require pre-authorization from your insurance. Going forward with a procedure without pre-authorization might cost you more and, at the very least, cause a host of medical billing headaches later on.

Your provider should know what requires pre-authorization, also known as precertification or prior approval, and it may take your insurance up to two weeks to grant pre-authorization.

If your insurance plan denies your request — usually mailed or emailed to you — notify your provider immediately. They may need to send additional records or supporting documents to prove your procedure is medically necessary or within standards of care guidelines.

3. Not Meeting With a Financial Counselor

Meeting with a financial counselor from the get-go can help you avoid financial mistakes and tackle financial problems as they arise. Before treatment begins, financial counselors look over your entire financial picture and provide an overview of what financial costs to expect.

They can provide you with additional resources to fill in the financial gaps, troubleshoot medical billing questions and assist with setting up payment plans, if necessary. If you’re worried about your healthcare financial management, meet with a financial counselor to put your mind at ease.

4. Assuming You Don’t Qualify for Assistance

Financial counselors can help you avoid another financial mistake: assuming you don’t qualify for financial assistance. They can review your application for financial assistance to see if you qualify. Even if you don’t qualify for financial assistance initially, your financial situation may change during treatment.

Cancer treatment will require a lot of your energy. Avoiding some common financial mistakes can keep your mind focused on getting well.

Avoid these common financial mistakes to reduce the financial stress of cancer treatment.

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Rita Colorito