Help Managing Cancer Costs

Table of Contents

Understanding what costs to expect is an important first step in gaining a sense of control. It is difficult to form a plan for managing costs until you understand what to expect. Potential expenses that you may want to ask your health care team about are:

  • Physician/Provider
  • Treatment-Related
  • Prescriptions
  • Clinical Trials
  • Home Health Care and Home Hospice Care
  • Rehabilitation Care
  • Private Duty, Long Term and Custodial Care
  • Psychotherapy & Counseling
  • Family and Living
  • Transportation
  • Legal

Practical Tips for Gathering Information

  1. Make sure that you and your providers submit any bills to your insurance company in a timely manner. Many insurance companies will not pay a  claim submitted after the time period specified in the policy.
  2. Submit all medical expenses even if you aren’t sure whether they are covered.  If you don’t submit it, the insurance company definitely won’t pay it.
  3. Review bills and keep accurate records of claims submitted, both pending and paid. This usually includes matching bills you receive from providers with Explanations of Benefits (EOBs) you receive from the insurance company.
  4. Keep copies of anything related to your claims. You can do this yourself, or you can ask a friend or family member to help. (Ask someone who is organized). Examples of items you should have on file include: medical bills from all health care providers; claims filed; reimbursements or payments from insurance companies received and EOBs; dates, names, and outcomes of contacts made with insurers and others; non-reimbursed or outstanding medical and related costs; dates of admission to hospitals or other health care facilities, clinic visits, laboratory work, diagnostic tests, procedures, treatments; medications received and prescriptions filled .
  5. Get a notebook or accordion folder to record all of your expenses, conversations with the insurance company, doctor’s appointments, exams, and other pertinent information (e.g., the date, time and with whom you spoke, what they said and contact information, how long spent on the call).
  6. There are a number of resources in the cancer community to help you organize this information. For example, the LIVESTRONG Guidebook is available free of charge (shipping and handling charges will apply) to anyone affected by cancer (
  7. Pick a certain day to be ‘health care bill day.’ Use this allotted time to work on the task of keeping everything organized. This will help to compartmentalize the task and keep it from taking over your everyday life.
  8. Identify an easily accessible place in your house that will not be disturbed by others where you can store your bills, paperwork, and other items.

Managing Cost of Care

When you or a loved one has cancer, you are focused on the disease, treatment, and doctors. Many people forget to ask questions that can help them to manage the costs associated with facing cancer—important questions like “How much will this cost?” and “How can I manage the costs?”

The Cancer Support Community (CSC) has prepared this helpful booklet to help you understand the financial aspects of a cancer diagnosis. There will be many physicians and health centers involved in your care. While they will work together for you, they each will bill you separately. It can get confusing.

We hope that this booklet will help you learn more about your options, know what questions to ask, and take control of your treatment and costs.

The booklet topics include:

  • Terms You Should Know
  • Insurance Issues
  • Questions to Help You Lower Costs of Care
  • Other Resources for Patients Related to Costs of Cancer Care and Support
  • Asking for Help
  • Common Medical Costs
  • Practical Tips to Help You Lower Cost of Care
  • Help with the Cost of Special Cancer Drugs
  • Patient Assistant Programs and Resources
  • Cancer Support Community Resources

Help with the Cost of Specific Cancer Drugs

The following list of programs is not exhaustive. We have selected the programs most commonly used by cancer patients. Each company provides assistance only for medications it manufactures. If you are not sure which pharmaceutical company makes the medication(s) you have been prescribed, you can ask your health care team or pharmacist for help. Some companies have more than one patient assistance program.

The information below is meant to be a starting place for gathering information about possible assistance. For more information you can check the website or

Pharmaceutical Company Patient Assistance Programs

Each company provides assistance only for medications it manufactures. If you are
not sure which pharmaceutical company makes the medication(s) you have been prescribed, you can
ask your health care team or pharmacist for help.

Review the Programs

Community Resources

Your city, county or state government may have helpful resources. To find out more about programs such as Section 8 Housing, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Senior Housing, contact your local department of Social Services. Faith-based organizations and some hospitals may also provide help. The website is a great source for additional information.

Call CSC’s toll free Cancer Support Helpline® at 1-877-483-7544. Our call counselors are available Monday-Friday from 9am-9pm ET to answers your questions and link you to valuable information.

Other Possible Sources to Help Pay Cancer Costs

Most people still find unexpected expenses even after maximizing health insurance benefits and income options. Depending on your situation, you may have other options for income:

  • Retirement funds: Such as a 401(k) or IRA.
  • Reverse mortgage: A loan to a homeowner that allows the owner to get cash from the equity in the property as one lump sum or multiple payments.
  • Life insurance: There are a variety of ways to obtain cash from your life insurance; different options may be available depending on the type of policy you have.
Two women reviewing paperwork

Keep in mind that options such as cashing in retirement accounts or life insurance policies should be considered very carefully. It is recommended that you seek the advice of a financial professional or advisor when making these decisions. However, for some people who have accrued substantial debt through the course of treatment, these options can provide welcome relief.

The strain of being in debt can be tremendous. If bill collectors are calling or you are receiving notices that bills have been sent to collection, has excellent suggestions for managing medical debt and negotiating with creditors.

Coping with the cost of care will look different for each person. Sometimes declaring bankruptcy is the best option. Sometimes individuals can negotiate with creditors to either decrease the amount owed or lengthen the period of the loan. A good financial advisor can help you identify options if you find you are accruing substantial medical debt.