As a caregiver, I’ve learned through
trial and error. The following tips can
help you stay organized as your loved
one undergoes treatment.
Know your loved one’s health
insurance coverage. Take time to
review your loved one’s health insurance coverage, whether it comes
through an employer, an individual
plan, Medicaid or Medicare. Learn
what the plan covers and the costs
of expected treatments and copays.
Check to see if any expected treatments need preapproval.
Create an organizational system
that works for you. With cancer
comes paperwork. My partner and I use
a three-ring binder to easily file copies
of health insurance policies, medical
bills, disability statements, receipts for
prescriptions and specialist copays.
Keep a record of financial
discussions. Write down the key
points of conversations you have
with representatives of the health
insurance company or the hospital’s
billing department, including the
names of people you spoke with, the
date and time, and what was said. Put
the newest records at the front of your
binder—or place them prominently in
the filing system of your choice—so you
can get to them easily when needed.
Consider all costs. Although each
plan is different, health insurance
typically covers portions of treatment
expenses. Patients may be responsible
for meeting copays or a deductible, in
addition to a percentage of the treatment’s costs. Keep a file of expenses
not covered by insurance but related
to treatment, including prescription
copays, as well as expenses associated with home health services,
assistive medical devices, and travel
for medical reasons. These may be
enough to qualify for a tax deduction
at the end of the year. (As a general
rule, you can deduct health care
expenses that exceed 10 percent of
your adjusted gross income.)
Talk to a social worker or case
manager. See if your loved one’s hospital has an oncology social worker or
case manager who can help you navigate
the financial side of cancer care. Some
health insurance companies offer case
managers you can speak with as well.
Take advantage of financial
resources offered. If your loved
one is unable to work for more than
a year because of illness, he or she
may qualify for Social Security
Disability Insurance (
federal assistance program that can
help cover the costs of everyday
living expenses, medical bills and
prescription drugs. Patients who
have a low household income may
also qualify for Supplemental
Security Income. You may also
want to explore patient assistance
programs sponsored by drug
companies and offerings from
nonprofit organizations. CancerCare
cancercare.org), for instance,
provides grants to cover treatment-related costs and copays, and the
American Cancer Society’s Hope
housing for patients who receive
treatment away from home.
Although coping with the financial
responsibilities of cancer is never easy,
getting organized can help you gain
some control amid the uncertainty
that a cancer diagnosis often brings.
AIMEE SWARTZ is a writer based in
Washington, D.C. Her partner, Jackie, has been
living with multiple myeloma for 13 years.
CAREGIVING WITH CONFIDENCE | AIMEE SWARTZ
PHO TO COUR TES Y OF AIMEE S WAR TZ
WAYS TO GET
Develop a system to avoid being overwhelmed by health care bills and information.
When someone you love has cancer, the last thing you want to worry about is money. Creating a system to manage the financial side of cancer treatment will
help keep you focused on your caregiving responsibilities.