Did you know that cancer is one of the most expensive illnesses to treat in the United States? It is no wonder that cancer patients are more likely to experience financial toxicity. Financial toxicity describes the problems related to the cost of treatment. Specifically, how out-of-pocket costs can cause financial problems for patients. Out-of-pocket costs can include copayments, deductibles, and coinsurance. These out-of-pocket costs can be from staying in the hospital, having procedures and tests done, doctor appointments, and/or prescription medications.
Financial toxicity can occur during treatment and many years after diagnosis. Several things can affect your risk for financial toxicity, including…
- How much money your household makes
- How much debt you had before your diagnosis
- Costs related to cancer
- How cancer and/or cancer treatment affect your ability to work
- Whether or not you have health insurance/What insurance covers
Certain diseases have a higher risk of financial toxicity. These diseases include advanced stage cancer, cancer that comes back, cancer with a poor prognosis, more than one type of cancer, and/or having a chronic illness (such as diabetes or heart disease) in addition to cancer. This is partly because cancer and/or cancer treatment may keep patients from working and partly because of the increased cost of treatments.
So if you experience financial toxicity, what are some of the effects? Patients with financial toxicity may…
- Not take their medications as instructed so that they can save money
- Have increased debt
- Have poorer quality of life
- Have poorer health (both physical and mental)
- Have increased fear of their cancer coming back
BUT, there are ways to help deal with financial toxicity…
- Understand your costs
Know what your expected costs are going to be from the beginning, learn about payment options, talk to your doctors, and get help understanding your bills.
- Understand your health insurance
Talk with your insurance company’s benefits coordinator, ask about your co-pays and deductibles, understand your Explanation of Benefits (EOB) forms, request a case manager.
- Organize Medical Bills and Statements
Keep paperwork in one place, create a special email account that you only use to communicate with the hospital and insurance company, match each bill you receive to the EOB statement from your insurance.
- Follow your treatment and medicine schedule because extra costs can come from not following your doctors’ instructions.
- Get emotional support by talking to friends, family or health professionals if you feel upset and confused about financial issues.
For more information, visit: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/managing-care/track-care-costs, https://www.cancer.org/treatment/finding-and-paying-for-treatment/understanding-financial-and-legal-matters.html, https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/managing-care/track-care-costs/financial-toxicity-pdq#_273, https://www.cancer.org/treatment/finding-and-paying-for-treatment/understanding-financial-and-legal-matters/the-cost-of-cancer-treatment.html