Managing Career and Financial Issues

Cancer can impose heavy economic burdens on patients and families. For some people, most or all of the medical expenses are paid by health insurance. For others, insurance may only partially cover the costs and some people may not be insured at all.

Some of the financial burden for many people is caused by job and career changes that can happen during cancer treatment and recovery. Some people feel that staying at work is the best way to get through the difficult times, but others may feel too tired or weak to continue working. Concerns about losing income and insurance coverage come up for many cancer survivors who are considering a career change.

Whatever your financial and career situation may be, there are government programs and nonprofit organizations to turn to for advice and help.

Health Insurance
If you have health insurance and have questions about what treatments it covers, call and ask to speak to someone in person to get the answers you need.

If you don’t have health insurance or need financial assistance to cover healthcare costs, there are some organizations and programs that offer help. Talk to the social worker or the business office of your hospital or clinic about any financial concerns you may have.

You may also consider calling the Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF.) PAF offers assistance to patients who need specific help with insurance, insurance coverage, job retention, debt crisis matters, and other practical matters affecting people with cancer. PAF also offers a co-pay relief program for pharmaceutical products at

Following is a list of organizations and agencies that can help with financial concerns:

Disability Insurance
Whether or not you have health insurance, short- and long-term disability insurance may provide financial assistance when you’re being treated for cancer. Some employers carry disability insurance for their employees, and policies can also be purchased directly from private insurance carriers.

Social Security pays disability benefits under two programs:

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for insured workers, their disabled surviving spouses, and children (disabled before age 22) of disabled, retired or deceased workers

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for people with little or no income and resources, or who have not worked to the point they are eligible for SSDI. Most people who get SSI are also eligible for food stamps and Medicaid.

If you think you’ll be out of work for at least one year due to cancer treatment, you should apply for Social Security disability as soon as possible. It takes time to process the application. The sooner you apply, the sooner you will receive assistance. You can apply for benefits by calling the toll-free Social Security number or online at

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