World over, cancer treatment expenses have been found to push family finances into the red, especially with critical conditions, or when the patient is the sole breadwinner.
‘You have been diagnosed with cancer’ – nobody is ever prepared to hear these words. There is no doubt that cancer takes a toll on your physical and mental health, but it silently invades your bank account as well.
Cancer treatment is a financial burden for a family, and if you are the sole provider, it adds to the burden as it practically stops the family income for the duration of treatment.
The financial toll of cancer is unpredictable and steep, many may not know that it extends beyond the medical bills. Before planning the finances, let us understand what expenses one may have while going for cancer treatment.
Most of the time we see that individuals and families do not avail medical insurance benefits as they are devoid of any returns.
Given that as humans our health is at greater risk of deterioration as we age, it is very important to preserve our life savings by opting for health insurance that adequately covers family health costs. With rising healthcare costs our families are at greater risk of losing savings in case of a sudden major medical need.
Medical and other expenses of cancer treatment
Cancer treatment and recovery can be expensive. Several types of costs may add up during diagnosis, treatment and recovery. The approximate expense of the treatment will vary based on the cancer type, stage, treatment options, and rehabilitation.
For instance, an individual diagnosed with blood cancer will require long-term treatments, whereas a person diagnosed with some early-stage solid tumor may need only surgery. Sometimes, certain procedures may not be covered by your health insurance.
The expenses of the cancer treatment may include laboratory or imaging tests, procedures, room or equipment charges, radiation treatments, drug costs, doctor visits, rehabilitation expenses, surgery, home care equipment, nurses, etc.
The non-medical expenses may include transport, accommodation, child care, takeout food during hospital stays, extra cleaning supplies, and the list goes on.
Steps to make a financial plan
At a time where you should be focused on your treatment and recovery, the financial burden adds to your stress. Here are some steps to plan your expenses, and reduce your stress.
Estimate the expenses
The first step to planning your finances is to understand what your expenses will be. For this, you should learn about your condition – the type, stage, treatment options, number of procedures, and recovery. Your healthcare team will help you understand your cancer, including the costs of your treatment.
You can ask your healthcare team about the duration of the treatment, the estimated cost of the treatment plan, the location of the treatment, other prescription drugs you may need along with cancer treatment, etc.
Your healthcare team may also provide information regarding the financial assistance for funding.
Know your insurance benefits
Your insurance policy may cover most of the expenses of cancer treatment, but it may not cover some of the procedures or tests. Hence, you must understand what part the treatment your insurance policy covers, and what expenses you should pay.
Know all the terms and conditions of your insurance policy. Get familiar with the preferred or network hospitals, clinics, or doctors according to your policy.
If any of the treatments are to be carried out by out-of-network providers or doctors, learn about those costs as well.
You can ask your insurance agent the following questions:
- Will I lose my insurance coverage if I can’t work?
- What will happen if I am disabled?
- Can I get medical coverage now?
If you are working, have a discussion with your human resources department to understand your work benefits, your leave policy, rules on borrowing from your retirement plan, short- and long-term disability. If your health insurance is provided by your employer, discuss your queries with human resources.
Create a monthly budget
After you have discussed with your healthcare team about the treatment expenses and your insurance company regarding your insurance coverage, you will get an estimate of how much you will be spending in a month for your treatment. This will help you to keep track of your expenses and know how much money is coming in (inflows) and where you are spending that money (outflows). Also, you can find ways to reduce your expenditure by finding economical expenses for non-essential things like cleaning equipment and travel costs. You must also keep a record of all your medical bills to track your expenses, as well as to claim your insurance.
Manage your savings
During your cancer treatment, make sure you have money handy to pay your medical bills and regular day-to-day expenses. Some investments are easy to be turned into cash. So, if you have invested in mutual funds, certificates of deposits, or stock, convert some into cash. However, before selling your shares, check whether the profit obtained from the sale of your stock or funds are taxable or not.
Coping with your cancer diagnosis and treatment can be exhausting, worrying about the financing becomes overwhelming. You can discuss your plans with your family and friends or reach out to them for their help for dealing with the finances.
Your healthcare team may suggest some options to reduce your expenses. There are volunteers who provide financial counseling or help you plan your finances.
There are several government programs that help you manage the expense of cancer treatment.
Financial aid by organisations
There are several organisations and non-government organisations (NGOs) that provide financial help for cancer treatment to patients who cannot afford it. Some of these organisations are exclusively dedicated to assisting children with cancer.
If the treatments involve high expenditure, the patient may have to seek assistance from a few organisations.
Here we have listed some organisations that provide financial assistance to a cancer patient:
- Health Minister’s Cancer Patient Fund
- The Health Minister’s Discretionary Grants
- The Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS)
- The Chief Minister’s Relief Fund
- National Health Protection Scheme or Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) by Ministry of Labour and Employment
- The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund
- Sir Ratan Tata Trust & Allied Trusts
- Reliance Foundation
- Cancer Patient Aid Association
- Indian Cancer Society
- YouWeCan – Yuvraj Singh Foundation
- Nargis Dutt Cancer Foundation
- ‘Breast Cancer Patients Benefit Fund’ of Breast Cancer Patients Benefit Foundation
- Cancer Aid and Research Foundation (CARF)
- Cancer Cure Fund of Indian Cancer Society (ICS)
- Childhood Leukaemia & Lymphoma Foundation (CLLF)
- Dr. Arun Kurkure Initiation and Treatment Fund by Indian Cancer Society
- First Hand Foundation
- Yoddhas – Indian Cancer Support Group
- Cancer Care Trust
- Cancer Foundation
- V Care Cancer
- Global Cancer Concern India (GCCI)
Organisations that provide a platform for crowdfunding