When you receive a diagnosis of terminal cancer, you’re immediately facing a host of unknowns. The largest of these is, of course, your health — how sick you actually are, how much time you have left, and what the treatment options are. At some point, your mind will turn to the costs of treatment. While not the most important consideration, cost is something to keep in mind as you determine your plan of care, especially since costs seem to be rising. Here are a few tips to help you cover the cost of a terminal cancer diagnosis.
Don’t wait until you’re actually having financial problems to discuss the costs with your health care team. Learn as much as you can about your cancer and your treatment before it actually begins. This will let you know what to expect and help you plan for costs. Common medical expenses for people with cancer include provider visits, lab tests, procedures, imaging tests, radiation treatments, prescription costs, hospital stays, surgery, home care, and more.
It’s a lot to keep up with if you’re tracking both your treatment and the costs, so it may be a good idea to ask a family member or friend to keep track of your costs and help you determine the best course of action. This will free you to focus on the one fight that actually matters: survival.
Ask Up Front
Here’s a good rule of thumb when it comes to cost for cancer treatment: ask up front what your costs will be. Find out what your insurance will and won’t cover for the overall treatment plan, for prescription drugs, for hospital and surgery treatments, and more. Even for patients who have insurance, costs can soar out of control. It’s completely fine to ask something like, “I’m concerned about how much this treatment will cost. Can you give me an idea?” or “Is there another treatment or drug that is less expensive that will also work?”
Know Your Insurance
It will pay — literally — to have an excellent grasp of your insurance policy. If you end up with too many out-of-pocket costs, the bills could spiral out of control, so make sure insurance covers the majority of your expenses. Stay aware of which doctors and treatment facilities are in your network, and keep detailed records of treatments and bills you receive. Check your bills carefully to make sure you’re only being charged for what you actually received. Getting insurance to pay can often mean you have to re-submit claims, appeal denials, make calls, and much more. You have a fighter in this arena just as much as you do with your health.
If you need to enter a nursing facility for palliative care, long-term care insurance likely will not help you since it is not usually offered for people with a terminal cancer diagnosis. There are several other options you can investigate to pay for your long-term care, including self-insuring, using VA benefits, and checking into Medicare or Medicaid benefits. End-of-life care accounts for about 10 to 12 percent of all healthcare spending in the United States, so make sure you are not spending more than you need to when you get to this point.
Facing a diagnosis of terminal cancer is not something anyone wants to do. If you find yourself in this scenario, focus first on your health. Then, get someone to help focus on the costs for you, and have them follow the tips above for the best treatment at the best price.
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