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Living with mesothelioma or another cancer is a heavy burden. The disease and its treatment cause pain, emotional distress, damage to relationships, and many other hardships. Cancer can also be very expensive. Mesothelioma treatments, medications, and associated travel cost money. The financial burdens this disease creates also cause anxiety to patients and their families, diminishing everyone’s quality of life. Thankfully, there are helpful resources for patients and many organizations are prepared to help.
The Overall Economic Impact of Cancer
To understand cancer’s personal financial burden, it helps to look at the bigger picture. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, in 2014, direct medical costs of cancer in the U.S. amounted to nearly $88 billion. More than half this cost were from outpatient hospital treatments or doctor visits. About a quarter of the costs were for inpatient hospital treatment. This total only includes direct medical care. There are also lost work hours, which come to billions of dollars every year, that have not been factored in.
The Extra Costs of Mesothelioma
Depending on where you live and what medical care is accessible, some patients need to travel in order to receive care from those who are familiar with mesothelioma. Because this is such a rare cancer, there is an added benefit to being treated by those familiar with the disease. This can lead to additional costs which are not reimbursed by your insurance.
The Impact on Quality of Life
The financial burden can have a huge impact on quality of life. One study found that patients struggling financially experienced more mental and physical health problems. Also, these patients experienced less satisfaction in relationships and activities than those who were financially stable. Having financial problems while struggling with cancer adds to emotional distress. This can prevent a person from receiving the best care, thus leading to decreased physical health.
Managing Finances during Cancer Treatment
The costs associated with cancer and its treatment can be confusing. Therefore, it is important to track costs and keep all records and bills organized. If you don’t have the energy for it, ask a friend or family member for help. As you begin treatment, know what you will be paying for. Many aspects of care cost money, and you may not know them all. Here is a partial list of cancer costs.
- Doctor visits
- Chemotherapy or radiation sessions
- Surgery and other procedures
- Imaging tests and scans
- Hospital stays
- Home care, including nurses and equipment
- Supplemental care, like physical therapy or counseling
- Transportation or travel if you need to go out of town or out of state for care
You should take an active part in planning for your care. Ask questions of your medical team as they develop treatment plans. If you are worried about cost, ask the price of treatment costs and whether your insurance will cover it. Don’t be afraid to seek help or find alternatives if something seems overly expensive or unnecessary. Your doctors should be able to answer all your questions.
Understand How Your Insurance Works
If you have insurance coverage it should cover many of your medical and related costs. However, it is important to understand your insurance plan, its terms, coverage, and preferred doctors or networks. You should also know if there are requirements for approval before receiving certain treatments or procedures. Be sure to talk to your insurance company about your treatment and any concerns you have. American Cancer Society health insurance experts will also talk with you for free.
Try Government Resources
If you do not have private health insurance, you may qualify for coverage under Medicaid or Medicare. These federal programs provide health insurance for people over 65 (Medicare) and people with low incomes (Medicaid). Another government resource is Social Security Disability Income. This resource may provide a small income if you qualify and are unable to work.
Seek Financial and Other Resources to Help Save on Costs
Many organizations, including government, community, and non-profit groups offer resources and support for cancer patients. Some help patients with any cancer. Others are dedicated to specific cancers, like mesothelioma. Contact these groups to find out how they can help you manage your finances.
- CancerCare. This non-profit organization offers financial assistance and other resources for cancer patients and their families. When you contact the group, an oncology social worker will help you get the resources you need.
- Needymeds. NeedyMeds is a non-profit organization that helps patients pay for the medications they need.
- Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition. The CFAC is a group of nationwide organizations with a searchable database of resources to help cancer patients cover care costs.
- Corporate Angel Network. If you need to travel for treatment, this group will help find you empty seats on corporate and private planes for free.
- Hope Lodge. Founded by the American Cancer Society, this organization has 32 lodges around the country open to cancer patients and their families as places to stay for free when traveling for treatment.
- The Veterans Administration. If you served in the U.S. military, there is a chance your mesothelioma is a result of asbestos exposure during service. You can file a claim with the VA to seek medical care and compensation.
- Legal resources. You can take legal action if you believe you can connect your mesothelioma to asbestos exposure that an employer or other company is liable for. A lawsuit may result in a settlement. There may also be an asbestos trust fund available to compensate victims.
Cancer imposes a financial burden on most patients. Even with insurance, the stress of paying for treatments can be overwhelming. If you are struggling, don’t be afraid to rely on friends and family to help. You can also contact resources for assistance.
Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by Anne Courtney, AOCNP, DNP
Anne Courtney has a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and is an Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner. She has years of oncology experience working with patients with malignant mesothelioma, as well as other types of cancer. Dr. Courtney currently works at University of Texas LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes.