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Published on February 23, 2018

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Understand your costs

Whether you are someone who feels financially healthy or a person who is worried you can't afford treatment, it's important to understand the costs of your cancer care. Because of the many specialists involved and different tests and treatments you may have, knowing what costs to expect is key. To be sure you understand your costs:

Be aware of your costs from the beginning. Costs vary greatly depending on where you live and what insurance you have. As much as possible, know what to expect about costs from the start.

Know the costs of clinical trials. If you are taking part in a clinical trial, there will be two types of costs: patient care costs and research costs. For more details about both, you may want to read Paying for Clinical Trials.

Learn about payment options, if necessary. Talk with a financial counselor at Gundersen. If you're worried about paying medical bills, ask them about options to make payment more manageable, such as:

  • Payment plans
  • Financial assistance
  • Other resources of which they may be aware

You can reach a financial counselor at (608) 775-2385.

Talk to your doctors. Tell your health care team if you think the costs of care could be a burden for you. Talking with them about these issues may make you feel uncomfortable, but they are there to help you. Your doctors need and want to know how costs are affecting you. Some patients say it makes them feel better to share their concerns with their doctor. This way decisions about what treatments to use and what medicines to prescribe can be made with your concerns in mind.

The more your doctors know about your circumstances, the more they can be partners in your care. They can also point you to resources that may help you.

Ask your oncology social worker for help in learning about programs beyond insurance. One of Gundersen's dedicated oncology social workers may be able to suggest organizations or other programs that could help you pay for cancer treatment.

Contact your human resources department at work. Your employer may have a specific person who can answer questions about your insurance plan or provide a contact name for more detailed information.

Get help understanding your bills. It's normal to be confused about your medical bills, so don't feel shy about asking questions. You can ask:

  • Someone in the billing office
  • Your social worker
  • A trusted friend or family member. See if they can help make insurance-related calls or help organize and track bills and reports.

Look into payment options for other bills. If you are having a hard time paying your usual bills (such as mortgage, rent or utilities) during your cancer treatment, talk to the bank or the companies that you owe. They may be able to set up a payment schedule to keep you from falling behind. It's important to reach out to creditors as soon as you think you could have financial problems.

Learn where to find organizations and resources that offer financial assistance. One resource is the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) list of Organizations That Offer Support Services. You can also call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) to ask for help finding referrals and resources.

*Article adapted from the National Cancer Institute.

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