5 Ways a Cancer Diagnosis Can Derail Patients' Finances

Alli Walsh, Social Media Strategist

5 Ways a Cancer Diagnosis Can Derail Patients' Finances

If there is any good news about cancer, it’s that the overall cancer death rate in the United States is declining1. The bad news? The total associated personal cost of a cancer diagnosis is higher than ever.

In fact, according to an analysis of a LIVESTRONG 2012 survey of 4,719 cancer survivors, since their diagnosis,

  • around one-third of the survivors have gone into debt and
  • 3 percent have had to file for bankruptcy2.

Improved, cutting-edge treatment has dramatically increased the cost of saving patients from cancer. Also, as cancer treatment becomes more complex and more effective, people are living with the disease longer and the associated costs of living with cancer can add up quickly.3

The cost of having cancer extends well beyond what major medical insurance covers:

1-Treatment and visit costs not covered by insurance (deductibles and co-pays)

The vast majority of major medical plans may only cover a percentage of doctor visits, hospitalizations, medical procedures and medications. The amount the patient owes adds up quickly, since most of these treatments are extremely expensive.

2-Loss of income

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)  mandates that certain employers provide employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a one-year period to seek healthcare treatment. The key word here is unpaid. So, while the law may protect a patient’s job, their pay is not guaranteed. If a cancer diagnosis requires the patient to miss work, the lost income will pack a punch. Additionally, FMLA does not cover smaller companies and if the patient requires more than 12 weeks off, his or her employment may be at risk regardless of company size.

3-Travel costs

Cancer patients may have to travel great distances regularly for their treatment. Even for shorter distances, the costs of transportation, meals away from home, hours away from work, babysitting, parking, and lodging can all take a toll on the budget.

4-Professional costs

Cancer patients may need to update their will, consult their lawyer to learn about employment laws, or need extra time with their certified public accountant (CPA) to figure out how their medical expenses affect their income taxes. None of these professional services are inexpensive and the bills can become overwhelming.

5-At-home caregiving

Cancer treatments can leave patients feeling sick and weak. Even though patients are at home, they may need extra nursing assistance, help with household chores, grocery delivery, child care and/or pet care.

Easing the financial burden

This list only names a few of the added expenses that come along with a cancer diagnosis. No one should have to deal with the double stress of keeping up with finances and fighting cancer alone. In our next post, we will offer some practical suggestions and ideas on how to ease the financial burden.

1 According to the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer , published in March 2015

2 Health Aff January 2016 vol. 35 no. 1 54-61

3 American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures 2015

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