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Coping with Cancer's Financial Burden: How to Find Help Right Now

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Living with a chronic illness, such as cancer, can be a disrupting force in your life. Besides the physical aspects of the illness, from coping with treatment side effects to being limited in your abilities or independence, there are also numerous social complexities that can make managing difficult and everyday life more stressful.

Your illness may make working an impossibility, which may cause financial problems or add to the stress of paying for treatment. For some patients, the financial burden is apparent at diagnosis, while for others, it builds up over the course of years of treatment.

You may also feel alone while dealing with the hurdles of treatment, testing and doctor visits. Experience has taught you that your body post-treatment is different than you were prior to the diagnosis, but nobody said anything about that. Right now, feeling overwhelmed might be described as an understatement. But where do you look for help?

First, it is notable to point out that you are not alone. Nearly one in two (133 million) Americans live with chronic medical conditions of one type or another, so finding others with whom you can share information can be extremely helpful in not only knowing what to expect in the future while dealing with the present, but also knowing the right questions to ask your health providers.

Still, matters of the pocketbook are often the most stressful, and it is not unusual for patients to feel embarrassed to discuss financial issues. However it is important to reach out before the illness becomes a tremendous financial crisis, said Jane Levy, director of Patient Assistance Programs for CancerCare, a national patient advocacy and support organization.

There are a number of government, nonprofit and private resources available, and many have people available right now to help you sort through your options. It can be as easy as picking up the phone or visiting their website.

If you are low income, you may want to start with a visit to the Medicaid website. Medicaid provides health insurance for low-income individuals and families who meet its requirements.

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Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Dr Sagall - Thanks for writing and making us aware of your nonprofit service. As you know, cancer and many other illnesses create a tremendous financial burden for many patients, and the process of locating resources to deal with costs can be overwhelming. The work your organization has done to centralize information about these resources is invaluable. I hope you will remain in touch with us and that you contribute to more conversations on our site.
Thanks again! Pat

April 23, 2010 - 4:17pm

All the information on pharmaceutical patient assistance programs plus hundreds of other programs is available for free at www.needymeds.org. Each workday over 13,000 people visit our site. We have all the applications on the website.

Our information is ease to access, updated regularly, and free. We gather no information about our users.

You don't have to pay to apply to these programs. Most are easy to apply to and respond quickly.

We also offer a free drug discount card. No registration is required and anyone is eligible to use it. The average savings is 40%-45% with occasional savings of up to 75% or even more.

Rich Sagall, MD
NeedyMeds, Inc.
P.O. Box 219
Gloucester, MA 01931

April 23, 2010 - 3:20am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.