It seems totally unfair that many people with cancer are also struggling with financial problems. Unfortunately, the baseline for many people in today's world is that money is already a concern. Add cancer and treatment to the mix, and there can be real trouble. Many patients are not able to sustain their usual work schedules throughout treatment; this often results in lowered income. Even those who are fortunate and have short and/or long term disability generally receive less than they would for their full salaries. Within the last month, I have met two women who had very recently changed jobs and were not yet eligible for disability. Their situation, although for different reasons, is similar to those who have jobs where they do not receive benefits. Many people don't get paid if they don't show up and do the work.
Reduced or missing income is one part of the equation. The other parts include a partner's possibly reduced income for some of the same reasons; partners/spouses may miss work, too, as they go to appointments and pick up other household responsibilities. Cancer can be expensive in and of itself. There are high co-pays for many medical appointments and prescriptions. Some insurance does not cover everything that is recommended. There are parallel costs of, perhaps, hiring additional childcare or other help, take-out meals, parking at the hospital, etc. The bills add up quickly.
Most hospitals have financial offices that can help with uncovered bills. For women with breast cancer, there are some funds and organizations that can help. Since these generally are local, it isn't very helpful for me to list them here. If you are a BIDMC patient, do speak with me or another social worker, as we do have ways to help.
Here is an article from Health Day about these issues for people with advanced cancer. It has been my experience, however, that patients with early cancer face many of the same problems.
Financial Worries Add to Cancer Patients' Burden
Caregivers also affected by concerns over bills, possible bankruptcy,study finds
By E.J. Mundel
WEDNESDAY, June 6 (HealthDay News) -- A small study gives a snapshot into the financial anxieties that plague many patients with advanced cancer and their spouses, even as they struggle against the disease itself.
Four of every five such American patients and their spouses-caregivers in the study said they had concerns about meeting medical costs and suffered "financial stress." Worries about paying medical costs also were tied to lower mental and physical health, the study found.
"Across the board, the longer they were in treatment or reaching the end of life, there were [financial] concerns. There were concerns whether it came to their own well-being or their families' well-being," said study lead author Fay Hlubocky, a clinical psychologist and ethicist at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.
She reported the findings this week at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), in Chicago.
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