A cancer diagnosis takes a physical and emotional toll. Your cancer treatment may also come with financial stress. You worry whether you can afford the out-of-pocket expenses, whether you’ll be able to work and whether you can pay your bills on time. According to the National Cancer Institute, there’s even a term for what you and other cancer survivors experience: financial toxicity.
To address the issue of financial toxicity, many hospitals and cancer centers provide financial resources for cancer patients free of charge. Whether you’re experiencing financial toxicity or simply have a question about a medical bill, they can guide you through the financial concerns related to your treatment.
Just as your cancer care team manages your physical well-being during cancer treatment, your financial counselor helps manage your financial well-being. Here’s how a financial counselor can assist you throughout your cancer journey.
Before You Begin Treatment
To head off financial problems, meet with a financial counselor before, or as close to, the beginning of treatment, says Carol Mouscardy-Blake, a financial coordinator supervisor for UVA. Counselors will review your health insurance policy to help you understand what your insurance covers. “We break down what expectations there will be for the cost of their treatment and discuss resources we may have available,” says Mouscardy-Blake.
To prepare for your first meeting, your financial counselor will have you gather necessary paperwork and policies, including health insurance, disability, life insurance, paychecks and bank statements. They’ll go over all your sources of income and other expenses to help you manage your finances.
If you’re uninsured or under-insured, UVA Cancer Center’s financial counselors can help you apply for state-funded financial assistance. They can also schedule a payment plan if you can’t keep up with expenses.
You can be insured and still qualify for financial assistance, says Debra Reese, a revenue-cycle manager and patient-access manager at UVA. “The best thing [you] can do is to complete a financial screening,” says Reese. “We really need to be able to sit with the patient to really figure out where we are at to see what we can do for them.”
During Your Treatment
Medical bills are confusing and overwhelming, even on a good day. If you’re undergoing chemotherapy, you may experience mental fog that makes it difficult for you to tackle paperwork chaos. Maybe you don’t understand a bill you received. Your financial team can help you comprehend all the jargon.
Cancer treatment may also limit your ability to work. If you weren’t initially eligible for assistance, you may be after reducing your hours. “We encourage them to come back if their income changes, even if it’s for a short period of time. We may be able to help them at that point,” says Mouscardy-Blake.
Financial counselors help troubleshoot financial issues as they occur. They can help locate additional financial resources for cancer patients, from both public funds and nonprofit resources. If you’re having difficulty paying for drugs related to treatment, they can connect you to drug-assistance programs.
Financial resources for cancer patients don’t end once your treatment is over. Medical bills and claims may continue to come in. If you get billed for something you don’t believe you owe, financial counselors can investigate the claim.
You want to do everything you can to fight your cancer. Adding a financial counselor to your cancer care team helps reduce your financial toxicity so you can focus on what matters most — your survival and recovery.
Learn how the UVA Cancer Center's financial counselors can help you manage the financial burdens of cancer treatment.Learn More