Caribou: Managing High Cancer Costs

August 11, 2020



August 11, 2020

Money might be on your mind when going through your cancer treatment plan. There’s no doubt that a cancer diagnosis can be expensive. Medical bills, prescription medicine, doctor visits and procedures can add up quickly, which might make you wonder, “What if I can’t pay for my cancer treatment?”

Feeling financially overwhelmed is common when facing a cancer diagnosis. Even with an excellent insurance plan, you may be underinsured or end up paying high out-of-pocket costs, resulting in your treatment plan costing much more than you anticipated. On top of that, it is also not unusual for your income to drop while undergoing treatment because you might not be able to work as much. This could affect your employer insurance plan, making your treatment plan even more expensive.

If you find yourself questioning your ability to pay for your treatment, you may consider cutting back on doses, treatment and care. But this can put your health at risk and lower your quality of life. 

Cutting Back is Not Your Only Option

Cutting back on your treatment plan is a decision that many cancer patients will consider as an option to make cancer affordable. However, reducing your prescription doses or therapy can limit the overall effect of your treatment.

When facing financial hardships associated with the cost of cancer, don’t be afraid to talk to your health care team or doctor. They can inform you of resources that can help with paying for your treatment plan. This could involve reaching out to a pharmaceutical company that has patient assistance programs for those who meet certain criteria or receiving financial aid resources from The American Cancer Society. On top of that, you always have the option of asking your health care team for an alternate treatments plan that is less expensive.

Speak to your healthcare team or doctor if you have any financial concerns related to your cancer diagnosis. Understand where the actual costs are coming from as this will help you make informed decisions and plan for your overall expenses. 

Going through cancer without health insurance

Coping with the cost of cancer without insurance can cause feelings of uncertainty and fear. If you find yourself without any insurance, it is important that you talk with your healthcare team to discuss available resources to help pay for your medical expenses. This could include asking for a payment plan, finding different resources, or looking into medicine assistance programs to help offset your cancer costs. 

Without insurance, your out of pocket costs are guaranteed to be higher than they would be with it. Luckily, there are options to get the health insurance you need. These include the following: 

1. Employer or union insurance 

If your job offers health insurance, check to see if you’re eligible to either buy into it or receive it.Also, if you were covered by employer insurance, but unfortunately lost your job in the last 60 days, check to see if you are eligible for COBRA, which allows you to keep your employer insurance for 18 months 

2. Medicaid 

This is a state administered health insurance program that provides low cost coverage or free health insurance. To determine if your state offers Medicaid, visit

3. Medicare 

Medicare is similar to Medicaid, but to be eligible, you have to be 65+ or have been deemed disabled by the Social Security Administration for two years.

Tips to Help You Understand the Cost of Cancer 

1. Become aware of your costs from the start 

The cost of cancer varies depending on your insurance plan, your treatment plan and where you live, so it is important to know questions to ask about the cost of your treatment.

2. Research the costs of clinical trials 

If you decide to participate in a clinical trial, learn the 2 different types of costs: patient care costs and research costs.

3. If necessary, research and learn about your payment options 

If you are worried about your ability to pay for your cancer costs, talk to your hospital's financial counsellor about options to make payment more manageable.

4. Talk to your doctors, health care team and other relevant hospital staff.

The more your doctor knows about your financial concerns, the more they help you find the right treatment plan for you. You can also speak with your hospital’s social workers to learn about programs that could help you pay for cancer treatment.

5. Get in contact with the human resource department at your work 

Find out who you can ask questions about your employee insurance plan or how your insurance will be affected if you can no longer work.

6. Take the time to understand your bills and get help if needed 

Help could be a social worker, a friend or family member, a professional who offers services to help with bills and insurance or a Healthcare Advisor.

7. Keep track of your other bills  (eg. mortgage, rent, utilities, food)

If you are having difficulties keeping up with your regular bills and payments, talk to your bank or the companies that you owe money to. They can help you set up a payment schedule to keep you organized and on top of your payments.

8. Research organizations and resources that offer financial assistance 

There are several organizations, companies and institutions that offer financial help to patients for treatment costs.