The Cost of Care



August 18, 2020

Unexpected expenses associated with the costs of cancer treatment are much more common than you might think. In fact, the amount you pay in the first month for your cancer care could look much different a few months from now as you continue with your treatment. That is why knowing which questions to ask following a cancer diagnosis can not only help you plan for those unexpected costs, but it will also help you identify your potential medical and non medical expenses. 

By asking the right questions, you’ll have the correct knowledge to manage, plan and budget the costs of your cancer treatment accordingly,  ultimately lowering the stress and financial burden associated with the costs of cancer. 

Questions to ask about your cancer treatment 

Having financial concerns when faced with a cancer diagnosis is normal. Although it can be difficult, talking about your financial concerns with your health care team or your doctor is the first step to knowing what expenses you may face in the near future.   For example, you might ask: 

  1. Are tests and scans covered by my health insurance?

  2. Do you offer any payment plans?

  3. Is there a less expensive treatment plan that will be just as effective?

These are only some of a long list of questions that can be asked regarding the cost of your treatment.

How a Healthcare Advisor can help answer your questions 

Talking about your financial concerns with others can be uncomfortable, especially if you do not know what to say or what to consider. On top of that, knowing who is best to answer your question may not always be obvious. In that case, a Healthcare Advisor may be helpful to not only answer your questions, but to also help you determine which questions you need to ask based on your situation. 

Out-of-Pocket Expenses

Out-of-pocket expenses are expected when covering the cost of cancer care and treatments. Although insurance can take care of a portion of those costs, your out of pocket expenses can still be overwhelming. In fact, they could put you in a position where you may not be able to afford the care and treatment needed.

How Can Out of Pocket Expenses Add Up  

Cancer is expensive. The expenses are associated with prescriptions, clinic visits, lab tests, procedures, surgery, rehabilitation, among many other things. Although insurance can take care of some of these costs, you can still expect to pay at least some portion of the expenses. Unfortunately, the costs that your insurance does not cover, can end up being in the thousands.  

There are plenty of expenses to consider that you might not think about right off the bat. They include: 

  • Home renovations, such as safety rails, wheelchair accessibility, or purchasing a new bed

  • Wigs and new clothing due to weight changes

  • Parking at the hospital or medical center

These are just some of a longer list of expenses that are known to catch people off-guard while undergoing cancer treatment.

Strategies to manage out of pocket expenses 

Out of pocket costs can be tough to predict and manage. Because of the complexity and variation in cancer treatment, your out-of-pocket expenses can vary greatly from month to month, making it difficult to predict the actual costs at the time of your diagnosis.  There are plenty of tips and tricks, and here are some that are highly recommended:

  • Consider palliative care as it can help to reduce costs for patients and insurance companies.

  • Maximize your benefits by reading and understanding your policy and limitations of your insurance plan. (If you are considering out-of-network treatment care, try to find that same service is within your network to avoid the extra costs).

  • Consider utilizing a budget tool to keep track of your monthly out of pocket expenses.

Getting Money Back by Claiming Medical Expenses on Your Taxes 

Asking the right questions and lowering your out of pocket expenses can only do so much to keep your expenses minimal. As your treatment and care continues, it is often inevitable to see medical bills add up. 

However, for taxpayers, there is some relief available in the form of tax deductions. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), some of your medical expenses related to the cost of cancer are tax deductible. But for this to happen, you need to know what is considered a medical expense and what steps you need to take to claim your deductions properly.

Tax deductible vs non tax deductible medical expenses

Knowing what is considered a medical expense is the first step to understanding if you can claim medical expenses on your taxes. According to tax laws, a medical expense is considered the cost of a diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of a disease. It  includes the costs associated with health insurance premiums that are not deducted pre tax from your paycheque, doctor appointments, hospital stays, diagnostic testing, prescription drugs and medical equipment.

Financial Toxicity 

Whether you call it financial stress, financial hardship or a financial burden, the cost of cancer affects millions of cancer patients in America. The financial problems faced by cancer patients, known as financial toxicity, can have severe consequences, impacting your quality of life, health and your access to the care and treatment you need. Understanding the effects and the factors that contribute to financial toxicity is essential to help you prepare, plan and know who to reach out to if assistance is needed to cover your cancer bills and expenses. 

Ways to limit/eliminate financial toxicity 

Understanding and confronting financial toxicity is an important aspect for all cancer patients to consider. This is because financial toxicity can cause:

  • debt and bankruptcy

  • people to reduce the intake of  medicine to save money on copayments

  • a negative impact on caregivers due to shared financial responsibility

Luckily, there are ways to limit financial toxicity.

Worried About Paying for Treatment?

Feeling financially overwhelmed is common when facing a cancer diagnosis. Sooner or later, your medical bills, prescriptions and procedures can start adding up, causing financial burden. It could even put you in a position where you find yourself asking what to do in the event you can't pay for treatment.

Many think the best solution is to cut down on medical care to save money, but this could put your health at risk, further prolong your treatment, and lower your quality of life. Instead, resort to financial resources when worried about paying for treatment.