Getting Ready to Start Your Search for Help and Support
Talk with your family, friends, social worker or patient advocate about your needs and the family's needs
Get a notebook to keep all of your information in one place so that it is easy to find and keep track of your process
Make a list of all the things you can think of that you and your family will need help with before, during, and after cancer treatment
A good way to begin your search for help and support is to start with a fresh spiral notebook
Create a title for your notebook and label it
You may want to choose, "Help and Support for My Cancer Journey" or "Resource Search" or any other name you want
On the first few pages of your notebook, try to list all the kinds of help and support that you need to help you through your cancer journey or to make it possible for you to have cancer treatment
One way to go about creating the list of things you need, is to begin to make a list of all the things you are worried about, especially financially or logistically
Some of items in your "List of Needs" might include things like:
Who will watch my grandchildren when I go for treatment?
I'm concerned about not having enough energy to shop for groceries and to cook for a few weeks after my surgery
Who or what organizations can help me have healthy meals?
I don't have any more sick days from my job
What about income for rent and the bills and food?
What if I don't feel well enough to drive back and forth from radiation therapy every day?
Who can I ask to drive me?
Is there any help out there for getting rides to treatment or for paying for gas?
I have insurance that pays for my medications but how am I going to afford all the co-pays?
I need to stay at the cancer center hospital for treatment for five days and then have out patient appointments twice a day for another week. It is over 200 miles to the cancer center from my home. Is there any help to pay for a hotel or a place to stay for my relatives and me to stay while I am there?
I need some medical equipment to use at home such as a hospital bed or a chair that helps me get in and out of it safely
The doctor says I will probably lose my hair from the chemo
I would like a wig to use until it grows back
What about a breast prosthesis?
I checked into one of those and they cost a lot of money
Do any organizations help with that?
I need some gas money because I have to drive 50 miles each way to get radiation therapy five days a week for six weeks
How will I ever afford that?
Many hospitals and clinics have unadvertised services to help people find and apply for help with medical bills
When you get a medical bill that you cannot afford to pay:
Open the bill as soon as your receive it
Call the contact number on the bill
Tell them, "I received my bill and would like to speak to someone about my account"
Tell them, "I want to honor my financial responsibilities, but I am struggling financially and physically with cancer right now"
Ask, "Do you offer any resources to help people with their medical bills?"
Ask, "Does the hospital (or clinic or doctor's office) have a social worker or financial office that can help me find ways to handle this bill?"
Write down the names and contact numbers of any resources they suggest and carefully follow through with each suggestion Keep notes on each follow-up contact you make (TIP: See keeping your search organized)
Ask, "Do you know of any way my overall bill can be reduced?"
Ask, "What is the lowest amount I can pay each month to keep my account in good standing?"
If you can't pay that amount tell the person, "I really can't manage that payment right now Is there any way that for the next year I could pay $____ or $_____on a monthly basis?"
Ask if, for the next year, they could accept a payment of whatever you can manage, even if that is only $ 5 or $10 a month
For the next year do everything you can to send in that amount of money on your bill
Keep a record of the date and the amount of each payment
When a year is up and you have been sending in that small payment each month on time, they will be very likely to continue accepting that small amount without raising the cost of what you need to send each month
Keep in touch with the accounting office
Call and tell them how you have been following up on their suggestions and trying to get assistance to meet your expenses
Thank them for their patience, understanding and assistance in this difficult situation
Getting Help with Medicines
Information and resources can help you get the medicine you need when you cannot afford them
Some things to keep in mind before you start search are:
The price of prescription medicine is very different from store to store This is true for generic drugs as well as brand name drugs
A prescription for one of your medicines may cost $50 at Store #1, $80 at Store #2, $40 at Store #3 and $20 at Store #4
Another medicine may be twice as much at Store #1 than it is at Store #2 or Store #3
It always pays to call the different pharmacies to compare prices before you drop off your prescription
Hint: This is a task you could ask one of your family members or friends to help you with They can start the call to the pharmacy by saying something like:
"My grandmother has cancer and doesn't have much money
I'm trying to find out the price of her medicines to help her get them at the lowest possible cost"
In order to get the exact cost of the medicine from the pharmacy whoever is making the calls should know:
The name of the medicine(s)
The exact dosage(s)
And how many times a day you need to take each medicine
It can also help to ask directly,
"Does this medicine or its generic version fit under any low cost prescription program your store offers?"
Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Costco Stores offer many generic prescription drug programs at very low cost
Each of these stores has a different list of medicines that fit under their special low-cost programs
If the generic version of your medicine in on the list at one of these stores you can get a 3 month supply of the medicine for a total of $12 - $15 dollars
You do not need to fill out paperwork, sign up for any program or meet any special eligibility
If your prescription for generic medicine is not on the list at one of these stores check with another
You do not need to be a member of Costco to buy prescription drugs there
These wonderful, new programs are an incredible gift to people and are helping many people get access to medicine that could not afford it before
If your provider prescribes a medicine that you find you cannot afford:
Tell the pharmacist
Many times they can give you advice about how to get the medicine free or at reduced cost
Call your provider right away
Tell your provider you went to the pharmacy and discovered that medicine was too expensive for you to buy
Ask if they have samples and if they can help you get the medicine any other way
Many drug companies have special programs to help people get the medicine they cannot afford for free or at very low cost Below are some more resources to check into for help in getting your medicine
Patient Assistance Programs are offered by some pharmaceutical manufacturers to help pay for medications
To learn whether a specific drug might be available at reduced cost through such a program, talk with your provider or social worker or visit the drug manufacturer's Web site
Most pharmaceutical companies will have a section titled "patient assistance programs" on their Web site
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