Questions Concerning the Cost of Cancer Treatment

Discussing the financial burdens associated with cancer treatments can be difficult for some patients. This is especially true of mesothelioma patients, as most of them are treated from a multimodal approach which requires surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, as well as any number of complementary and alternative therapies. Those diagnosed with mesothelioma in the later stages might also incur costs associated with lengthy hospital stays or in-home care, which can quickly add up. It’s important for patients to discuss their financial concerns with their doctors and care team so that a treatment plan can be devised around their particular financial situation. The following are some important questions to discuss when approaching the topic of financing cancer care as they relate to the various organizations and doctors patients will encounter during treatment:

Insurance Questions

  • Does your office have someone on staff who will assist me with the medical codes on my bill so that I can make sure everything is correct?
  • If an insurance claim is denied can I file an appeal and what is the process?
  • What are the limitations of my policy? How much of my treatment costs are covered?
  • If I already have health insurance how does the health reform law affect me?
  • If I do not have health insurance how does the health reform law affect me?

Doctor Appointments

  • What is the co-pay for my doctor visits and are waivers available should I require multiple visits within a certain time frame?
  • Are payment plans available?
  • Are laboratory tests billed separately and are they covered under my current insurance plan?

General Cancer Treatment Costs

  • Who can assist me with calculating the total cost of my treatment?
  • Should I not be able to afford a recommended treatment plan are other options available?
  • Am I required to seek approval from my insurance company concerning my treatment?
  • What portion of hospital stays are covered by insurance?
  • Is the treatment facility recommended in my plan’s network?
  • Is low-cost or free counseling available to help me cope with my diagnosis?

Clinical Trials

  • What expenses are associated with this particular trial?
  • How does the costs of clinical study compare to that of standard treatments?
  • Am I going to be reimbursed for any costs associated with this trial such as transportation and hotel stays?

Medication

  • What is my co-pay for this prescription?
  • Is a generic drug available that is less expensive?
  • Is this medication on my insurance plan’s preferred drug list?

Transportation Expenses

  • Are there free or low-cost transportation options for patients at my treatment center?
  • Are there reduced parking rates for patients?
  • Are there organizations available that assist patients with transportation costs?
  • If my treatment requires me to travel long distance are there reduced rates or free lodging options for patients?

Family and Living Expenses

  • Are there organizations available that offer low-cost or free counseling services for me and my family during this time?
  • Where can patients receive information on the costs of child care or elder care during my treatment?
  • Are there organizations that assist with basic living expenses such as electric bills and food while I am undergoing treatment?

Expenses Related to Long-Term Care, At-Home Care, and Caregiving

  • Can my treatment schedule be adjusted to the schedule of my caregiver?
  • Are there local organizations that provide low-cost or free in-home care?
  • Should I plan financially for long-term medical care, such as nursing home or hospice care?

Employment and Financial Issues

  • Who can I speak to if I have lost income due to my cancer?
  • Where can I get more information about tax deductions regarding my medical expenses?
  • Are there organizations that provide free or low-cost estate planning and other legal options such as drafting a will or granting power of attorney?
Some of the above questions will need to be tailored to a patient’s specific needs, income, and treatment plan. However, these questions are a good start for patients to formulate their own questions and a list of those they can contact for answers. Both the American Cancer Society and the American Society of Clinical Oncology encourage patients to write down their questions before meeting with doctors and patient advocates. These organizations also suggest that patients write down the doctor’s answers so they can be referenced during discussions with family and loved ones.
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