- Thinking about money
- Private health plans
- Types of health plans
- Other things to know about health insurance
- How to manage your health insurance
- Getting answers to insurance-related questions
- Keeping records of insurance and medical care costs
- When you have problems paying a medical bill
- Handling a claim denial
- Keeping employer-sponsored health insurance coverage when you leave your job
- COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget and Reconciliation Act of 1986)
- The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)
- The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993
- The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990
- The Affordable Care Act
- Government-funded health plans
- Who regulates insurance plans?
- Options for the uninsured
- State coverage and health insurance options for the hard-to-insure
- Financial issues: Getting help with living expenses
- Getting money from life insurance policies
- Outside sources of financial help
- Disability benefits
- To learn more
Outside sources of financial help
Most families find it hard to turn to others or to public agencies and outside groups for financial help. The extra expenses of cancer may be the first time a family has had problems with money. Families should remember that their problems in this situation are often short-lived and not unique. In the future, they could be the ones who can offer help to others.
Here are just a few of the many possible sources of help for families who need extra financial support at this time:
- Income assistance for low-income families through Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
- Income assistance for needy families from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
- Help with treatment-related travel, meals, and lodging from public and private programs.
- Help with basic living costs (such as rent, mortgage, insurance premiums, utilities, and telephone) from public and private programs.
- Help from church, civic, social, and fraternal groups in the community.
Help might also be available from groups like the Salvation Army, Catholic Social Services, the United Way, Jewish Social Services, and other groups that can be found in the yellow pages.
Though it’s not available in all areas, the United Way of America and the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems have set up a 211 service in many parts of the country. You can call 211 to find out what help might be available in your area, or visit them on the Web at www.211.org.
There are National Association of Area Agencies on Aging offices in many areas that can help older people with cancer. Call 1-800-677-1116 for the Eldercare Locator to learn what’s in your area, and whether you might be able to get help. You can also check on the Web at www.n4a.org.
The American Cancer Society also has many helpful services. Call us to find out more about them and to see if there are other local resources in your area.
Sources of help with short-term housing
Sometimes cancer treatment is not given close to home. Many treatment centers have short-term housing centers or discount programs set up with nearby motels and hotels. The clinic social worker or oncology nurse may have suggestions for low-cost housing during hospital or clinic treatment.
The American Cancer Society has a limited number of Hope Lodges throughout the United States which give families a place to stay when cancer treatment is given far from home. Contact us to find out if there’s a Hope Lodge near you.
Most major pediatric treatment centers have a Ronald McDonald House nearby. These houses provide low-cost or free housing to patients and their immediate families. Ronald McDonald houses are designed to offer a nice break to any family with a seriously ill child, not just those with limited funds. Although partly funded by McDonald’s Children’s Charities, each house has its own management, sets its own admission standards, and operates according to its own rules. Check with your health care team’s social worker or nurse to learn more, or contact Ronald McDonald House Charities on www.rmhc.org or call 630-623-7048. Families must be referred by medical staff and/or social workers at the treatment facility.
Another possible option is the National Association of Hospital Hospitality Houses, Inc. This group of nearly 200 non-profit organizations throughout the US provides free or low-cost family-centered lodging to families getting medical treatment far from home. You can call 1-800-542-9730 or check online at www.nahhh.org to see if there is a location that works for you.
Sources of help with housing needs or mortgage payments
The extra costs of treatment or major loss of family income may make it hard for families to pay their mortgage or rent on time. To keep a good credit rating, talk with your creditor or landlord about your situation and try to make special arrangements. Family, friends, or church members may be able to give you short-term help if they are told about the problem. Talk about your situation with your cancer team social worker who may know of special resources.
Families who need to move out of their homes after a cancer diagnosis should talk with their county department of social services to find out if they qualify for government supported housing programs.
Sources of help with driving and ground transportation costs
People who have Medicaid are entitled to help with travel to medical centers and doctors’ offices for treatment. This may take the form of payment or being paid back (reimbursed) for gas, payment of bus fare, or may mean using a vanpool. County departments of social services in each state arrange for help with transportation, but families must ask for it by talking to their Medicaid case worker.
The American Cancer Society Road To Recovery program is available in some areas. Trained volunteers drive patients and families to hospitals and clinics for treatment. Contact your local American Cancer Society office for more information on what type of transportation program is available in your area.
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, through its Patient Aid program, can help some families with the cost of gas and parking for outpatient treatment. This aid is limited to those with blood cancers (leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma). There’s a limit on the amount of financial help given to each patient and family for each year. Check with your team social worker about this program or contact The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (www.lls.org) or call 1-800-955-4572.
Community and church groups may be sources of help with travel or its costs, too. Also, talk to your team social worker about getting help with hospital or clinic parking fees.
Sources of help with air transportation costs
The American Cancer Society Air Miles Program is a joint effort between Mercy Medical Airlift (MMA)/National Patient Travel Helpline (NPATH) and the American Cancer Society (ACS). The program is designed to help patients with the costs of air travel for cancer-related reasons. Call us at 1-800-227-2345 to find out if you are eligible for help with air travel. MMA/NPATH helps set up the travel on behalf of ACS, through the ACS call center staff.
Sources of help with telephone service
Help with the cost of basic charges for phone service may be available from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF; see “To learn more” for contact information). Speak with the eligibility worker in your county department of social services for more information. Families that have problems controlling charges may want to think about buying pre-paid calling cards, pre-paid cell phones, or plans with pre-paid minutes. If you call your cell phone carrier before you go over your limit, sometimes they can help you avoid going over your minutes limit for the month.
The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) is another resource that may help if your income is very low. Visit their Web site at www.usac.org/li/getting-service/benefits.aspx to learn more about the home or mobile phone service help that’s available in your state. Or you can call 1-866-873-4727 and follow the low-income/lifeline prompts.
You can also call the American Cancer Society to find out about other local sources of help with telephone service.
Sources of help with food and food costs
Some government programs help with food costs. The programs listed below are run by the US Department of Agriculture for different groups of people. These programs include:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly called the Food Stamp Program)
- Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)
- The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
- Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
- Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
- Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
- National School Lunch Program
- Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program
- School Breakfast Program
- Special Milk Program
- Team Nutrition
- Summer Food Service Program (food for kids when school’s out)
You can learn more about all of these programs by visiting www.whyhunger.org/findfood. By phone, to ask about SNAP, call 1-800-221-5689. For all others, call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-348-6479 (1-866-3-HUNGRY).
Meals on Wheels: This program is designed more for people who are disabled, homebound, or elderly. Volunteers deliver ready-to-eat meals to your home. You can contact them at 703-548-5558 or visit their Web site at www.mowaa.org.
Other kinds of help
You may also get general help from special funds in your medical center or community. Or maybe you can get help through fundraising done for you or your family. Your cancer team social worker can give you more information about resources that might help. There are organizations and written materials that can give you ideas on ways to raise money, too (see “To learn more”).
About Internet access
You may notice that many groups and organizations now have a lot of information on the Internet and it may be harder to call or reach a real person. When you do call, you might find that they encourage you to find the information you need on their Web site. For many groups, this is a way to save money and they can focus more funds on services for those in need.
Many people, especially families who are having financial troubles, don’t have Internet access at home. This can make it harder for them to find what they need. But if you must check something on the Internet, many public libraries offer use of their computers and Internet access at no cost to you.
Still, you do not need Internet access to find help. Many organizations also provide toll-free phone numbers so that people without Internet access can learn about and ask for services. Don’t be embarrassed to tell people that you don’t have Internet access and you can’t check their Web site.
And you can always call us, day or night, to find out about getting the help you need.
Last Medical Review: 09/10/2012
Last Revised: 10/10/2012