In going through my own illness, I discovered many ways to get additional help for what seems like the endless onslaught of medical bills that kept rocketing into my mailbox. Whether it’s financial or emotional support, any little bit helps. We’ll share some tips here, and would love to hear what you have discovered on this topic through your own journey in our Share section.
Did you know that hospitals charge one fee for insurance, credit or payment plans and one for cash? That’s right, cash is usually less overall. Now whether or not you can afford to pay cash is another thing, but it is good to know that they charge different rates for the same thing based on forms of payment. It may be that it is cheaper to pay something in cash than having it billed. It’s always good to ask the question so that you can make the most informed decision about your own approach.
Hospitals often have charitable care programs available for those who have minimal or fixed incomes, or are unemployed or on disability. While there is a lot of paperwork involved and proof of income needed, it is worth a shot because some or all of your outstanding balance could be waived by using this program. Ask your doctor who you can contact for more information or call the doctor or hospital’s business office.
I was informed that my insurance carrier would provide a case worker to assist me throughout my illness, so I signed up for one right away. She was tremendously helpful and in my case, an oncological nurse. I gave her permission to contact the hospitals, doctors and my insurance company on my behalf. Any time there was a mistake on a bill (and there will always be mistakes, extra billing or incorrect billing), she handled it for me. The idea is that you are dealing with enough stress from your illness, and you don’t need the additional nightmare of haggling over bills.
Not only was she able to help me straighten out the financial issues, she was also able to give medical assistance by helping me deal with side effects and explaining what would happen next in terms of treatment. She was empathetic, practical and always available. I can’t express vividly enough how important this was to my physical recovery and emotional well-being.
I also engaged a case worker for my mother during the last year of her illness. She helped connect us with the doctors we needed, arranged for equipment and supplies for us and was there to walk us through the difficult last days of my mother’s life. I cannot recommend this service enough –try to get one if your insurance offers this. Even if you are at the end of your treatment, the bills and paperwork still keep coming, so look into it and see if this might take one thing off of your already weary shoulders.
You can apply for disability in most states if you are unable to work during treatment. In the State of California, for instance, you are eligible if you are out of work due to a non-industrial injury, illness or pregnancy related condition. Disability is defined as “any mental or physical illness or injury which prevents you from performing your regular or customary work,” according to California Unemployment Insurance Code, Section 2626.
In California, there are three disability plans: a state plan, a voluntary plan and elective coverage. Go to your state government’s Employment Development Department website for more information on programs available in your area.
This can be an exorbitant expense. Check with your doctor or hospital for the assistance programs available. They may be able to work with your doctor for reduced fees on meds and some hospitals even have programs where medicine is donated and available for free. Also, prices can vary by supplier, so the price at CVS might be different than the price at Costco. Shop around! This is also one of those things where if friends and loved ones ask what they can do to help, you must be brave enough to say that you need help paying for your prescriptions. Your loved ones will likely jump to help with that, so let them go pick it up for you and take one more thing off your plate.
There might be a new drug that is in the testing phase that could help you. You can volunteer to participate in a clinical trial of the drug and get the benefit of free medicine. Make sure the trial is beneficial to your illness and that the side effects won’t be too extreme. Obviously, you should discuss this thoroughly with your doctor. You can find more information on drugs available in trials at www.ClinicalTrials.gov, which is a clearinghouse supported by the National Institutes of Health.
There are many ways to gain additional help with paying for medical bills and prescriptions. Try to do as much preliminary work as possible so the wheels are already in motion during your treatment. Or if you aren’t up to it, assign this task to a trusted friend or relative. Even if you have completed your treatment and are transitioning into your new lifestyle of health and wellness, there are options for emotional and financial assistance. You just have to ask for some help. It may seem hard to do, but really, all people want to do is help you. Here is a perfect way to let them do that for you. It will make them feel better as well as you!!