What sources are available to help with treatment costs if my child doesn’t have insurance and there’s no public assistance available?

No child is denied treatment in a non-profit hospital if a family is unable to pay. If insurance coverage can’t be arranged, and if a child cannot be covered under Medicaid or another program, a family may have to look at other options to meet some of the costs of treatment. These options could include programs through the Salvation Army; church-related organizations, such as Lutheran Social Services, Jewish Social Services, and Catholic charities; or the Lions Clubs. The Patient Advocate Foundation may also be helpful. Here are some other things you can try:

  • Talk with hospital or clinic financial counselors or the patient accounts office to see if you can arrange to pay bills over an extended time.
  • Seek financial assistance from special funds or from organizations like the National Children’s Cancer Society (NCCS). The NCCS provides direct assistance with medical care and other costs of a child’s cancer. Other groups may be able to help with specific costs in some parts of the country or help you find other sources of support. Some drug companies help with drug costs for patients in financial need. And special medical center and community funds often exist to help families with the costs of medical care. The team social worker should have information on these and other potential resources.
  • Fundraising can be done to help with medical bills and related expenses. Families often need help from relatives, friends, church members, schools, or community groups to carry out successful fundraising efforts. Parents should give permission for others to raise funds for their child. Caring for their ill child and managing the needs of family and work usually takes all their time and energy. In any fundraising effort, parents should consider their child’s and their own need for privacy.
  • Often it’s best to set up a simple trust fund into which donations can be placed. A trustee is then named to approve spending from the fund. This way parents can avoid even a hint of any improper use of the fund. Parents may find it most helpful to check with an accountant, attorney, or bank officer about setting up such a trust. Ask whether money in a trust fund will affect eligibility for public assistance programs.
  • Explore the possibility of free treatment through the Pediatric Branch of the National Cancer Institute or St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Patients accepted for treatment at these institutions must meet specific criteria. Ask your child’s oncologist for more information.

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 online at www.211.org.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: November 13, 2014 Last Revised: January 8, 2015

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