Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center
Finding Financial Assistance for Cancer Patients
Navigating the Cost of Cancer Care
When faced with cancer, cost should be the furthest thing from your mind. But a lot of patients stress over medical bills even more than they do surgery or chemo.
“Cancer can turn everything on its side for a lot of people,” says Alex Huffman, Manager of Supportive Care at UT Southwestern Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center. “But the logistics of either working through treatment or going through treatment with limited resources is where we hear a lot of the financial anxiety.”
And the anxiety isn’t unfounded. Plenty of patients are right to worry. Those faced with cancer are 2.65 times more likely to file for bankruptcy than people without cancer. And 42 percent of cancer patients deplete their life savings in the two years following diagnosis.
Why? Because cancer treatment is expensive. Diagnostic imaging is costly, chemotherapy drugs are very high-priced, even $40 copays add up when you’re going to the doctor once, twice or three times per week.
“On top of that, you’ve still got to keep the lights on at home and the air conditioner running so at 101 degrees in the Texas heat you’re able to comfortably sit in your home when you’re not feeling well,” says Rebecca Brian, Manager of Revenue Cycle. “All those things add up and can make cancer care very, very expensive.”
A Team to Turn to for Help
Simmons Cancer Center patients have a team of people in their
corner ensuring their care will be as cost-effective as possible.
“We have a financial counseling team to help patients understand their insurance, as well as a bunch of folks behind the scenes who are working to make sure that our patients are maximizing their benefits,” Brian says. “Sometimes that means helping them decide where the best place for them to receive care is, and that’s not always UT Southwestern. If we review a patient’s benefits and determine that we’re out of network, that may put them at higher risk financially.”
The team at Simmons Cancer Center also connects patients with medication- and copay-assistance programs.
“There are all kinds of programs offered through drug manufacturers as well as foundations that patients might not be aware of,” Brian says. “And then, once all of those things are in place and approved, we process all of it on the patient’s behalf so they can feel confident that once they get a bill from UT Southwestern, every program they could possibly have qualified for, we’ve processed for them and whatever’s left over is their responsibility.”
Help When You Need It
If need be, the support services team also can direct patients toward programs to help with living expenses while they’re in treatment.
“We will connect patients to county- and community-based resources, even if it’s not their medical expenses that are concerning,” Huffman says. “Sometimes they need help paying for rent, electric bills, gas to get back and forth to doctor appointments – those sorts of things.”
The financial care team at Simmons Cancer Center has one of the most robust programs in the country. Lots of cancer programs accept copay assistance cards and other discounts, but Simmons’ is one of the few that actually seeks out financial help for our patients. It’s important that patients focus on healing during a time like this.
“Our financial care team’s goal is ultimately to look out for the physical, the clinical, and the financial well-being of the patient,” Brian says. “We want to try to minimize the cost of care for the patient as much as we can. We work really hard to make sure we don’t have anybody who is choosing to not have treatment because of cost.”