Living Paycheck to Paycheck and then . . . Cancer!

Paycheck to PaycheckAt the beginning of 2016, headlines all over the country read something like “63% Of Americans Don’t Have Enough Savings to Cover A $500 Emergency.”  This alarming statistic was according to a 2015 study by Bankrate.com.  What it really meant is that nearly two-thirds of us are living paycheck to paycheck.  What does a $500 emergency look like– your car needs new breaks, your dog has to go to the vet, or your refrigerator breaks down. These are not uncommon expenses, and they shouldn’t be unexpected expenses.  Nevertheless, 63% of us are not ready to face these everyday emergencies.

What happens when someone in that 63% of Americans is diagnosed with cancer? It can lead to a financial catastrophe. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more Americans have health insurance than ever. But for many people, including those with health insurance coverage through their employers, that insurance doesn’t kick in until they meet their high deductible. If they don’t have $500 in savings, they certainly don’t have the money for their deductible, which often ranges from $1,000 – $10,000. For those without health insurance, they have to pay the entire cost of their cancer treatment. For those with insurance, patients often report being left with out-of-pocket costs ranging from $25,000 to $40,000, beyond what their insurance covered.

Cancer is expensive.  Patients face a myriad of expensive diagnostic tests and therapies including CT scans, MRIs, surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation, hospital stays, anesthesiologist fees, on-going multiple doctor visits, lab testing, and more. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the cost of chemotherapy is going up 10% per year!  And all of this doesn’t take into account lost wages, travel expenses, child care expenses, and other unexpected expenses that may come along with a cancer diagnosis.

If you find yourself or a loved one in this situation, there is help.  Triage Cancer has many financial tools and resources available to you:

Talk with your health care team, as they may know of local resources, as well. The key is not to assume that you don’t qualify. If you don’t ask, you will never know. Remember, you aren’t the only one possibly living paycheck to paycheck.

Using Online Crowdfunding to Raise Financial Help for Cancer Care

Triage-Cancer-Blog-CrowdfundingIn recent years, online crowdfunding has become a major industry for those hoping to raise financial support for themselves or loved ones when medical expenses become too big a burden. As crowdfunding has gained in popularity, several issues have arisen regarding regulations and tax and financial implications.

If you already qualify for Medicaid or other government benefit or financial assistance programs, it is important to make sure any money raised through crowdfunding or donations does not push your income beyond the eligibility threshold for your current financial assistance. As some people have learned, this collection of money counts as income, which can cause a person to lose state and federal benefits on many things, like healthcare and food programs.

One other area to be aware of is related to privacy and disclosure of a cancer diagnosis. If you are not disclosing to family, friends, or an employer, then you want to think about how to raise funds while still protecting your privacy. For more information around privacy and disclosure decisions, watch this webinar: http://www.cancerandcareers.org/en/community/videos/BWC-2015/2015-webinar-online.

Even though there can be some potential pitfalls to using online crowdfunding if you are not careful, it can still provide a great deal of help when medical and other related costs become overwhelming.

Some tips for creating a successful funding page include: creating a strong appeal using details and a clear description, using pictures and videos, and building trust with your potential donors. One organization, HelpHOPELivem, is a nonprofit that verifies the validity of donation requests on behalf of a patient, while also streamlining the process for the patient or loved one who has started the campaign.

There are many different crowdfunding sites, but here are a few that are often used for medical bills and healthcare:

  1. GiveForward
  2. GoFundMe
  3. Indiegogo Life
  4. YouCaring
  5. HelpHOPELive
  6. Crowdrise
  7. Crowdfunder
  8. FundRazr
  9. StartACure

While selecting a crowdfunding source, be sure to check out the fees collected by each site. GoFundMe and GiveForward charge 5% of each donation and an extra 3% as a processing fee. Crowdrise offers a 3% pricing guarantee including credit card fees and HelpHOPELive charges a 4% fee with an additional 3% for credit card processing. YouCaring takes about a 3% processing fee. Depending on your needs many of these sites will provide the platform you need to reach a large audience of donors.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do is make sure you are well informed about any of the implications raising money through crowdfunding may have on your ability to qualify for other resources.

If you are a donor who wants to donate to a medical crowdfunding page, make sure that the page is reliable or belongs to someone you know and if possible see if you can provide support in a different way. Material items, such as food, furniture, clothing, and gift cards do not apply to household income. For loved ones who want to create a crowdfunding page for someone diagnosed with cancer, make sure that you have talked with them about their privacy preferences, and sought out individualized tax, financial, or legal advice to ensure that you won’t jeopardize their ability to qualify for other resources or programs, such as Medicaid.

Resources:

  1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andre-bourque/is-crowdfunding-your-medi_b_7088486.html
  1. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-healthcare-watch-20150703-story.html
  1. http://www.sheknows.com/living/articles/1107239/go-fund-me-campaign-cancer

Cancer & Finances: Thinking Outside the Box

By Michael Wolfe, Fifth Season Financial

Your cancer doesn’t own you, but when a diagnosis is coupled with financial stress, sometimes it may feel that way.FLAG logo with tag

If you’re struggling to keep your finances in order after your cancer diagnosis, you are hardly alone. The numbers can be staggering:

  • New research from the University of Wyoming revealed that family income declines by an average of 20% in the first year after diagnosis
  • Work hours among that group declined by about 200 hours, or five full weeks
  • At the same time, costs for cancer medications have skyrocketed, with newly-approved drugs costing more than twice what they did only a decade ago
  • As a result, cancer patients are more than 2.5 times more likely to file for bankruptcy than the average individual

Experiencing financial stress is a huge impediment to treatment and recovery. An important first step after a cancer diagnosis is to do a complete financial assessment. It may seem easy to put off with so much happening with your medical condition, but understanding your assets and the costs that are to come will benefit you in the months ahead.

Later this year, Triage Cancer and Fifth Season Financial will be releasing a new guide, “Navigating Finances After Cancer,” to help people deal practically and efficiently with the financial stress associated with a cancer diagnosis. The guide will help you assess your current situation and find options for assistance that are right for your individual needs.

But why wait? Making a budget spreadsheet is something we always think about but rarely make the time for. Now is the time to get your finances in order!!

Here are items to consider as you put your assessment together:

  • MONTHLY INCOME – include your gross monthly salary, and the salaries of your spouse or other working family members that may be supporting you during your treatment. It’s especially important to talk to your doctors or social workers about what to expect moving forward, and how it might affect your ability to work. If you anticipate an impact on your monthly income, best to factor it in now.
  • NON-MEDICAL BENEFITS – include anything that you currently or may ultimately qualify for in the immediate future: public assistance, unemployment, social security, alimony, disability, etc.
  • MEDICAL COVERAGE – make sure you’re talking to a social worker (or a financial navigator if you have access to one) to ensure that you’ve got the best possible coverage for the treatments and drugs that you’ll need. There may be changes you can make that could dramatically change your medical expenses moving forward.
  • YOUR EXPENSES – be thorough in understanding your true monthly costs. Make sure to include mortgage or rent, gas & electric, car payments and insurance, food, telephone, education and any other expenses that you can expect. Be honest about your spending and account for quality of life needs that can help you through your treatment.
  • LIFE INSURANCE – there are sources of real funds that you may not realize you can access. Did you know you may be able to receive some of your life insurance benefit early? Companies like Fifth Season Financial (through their FLAG – Funds for Living And Giving program) can provide cash advances to patients based on the face value of their life insurance policy, regardless of type of policy (group, life, whole, FEGLI, etc.). These advances are not repaid during their lifetime…instead, the advance is repaid later out of the remaining proceeds in the life insurance policy. But in most examples (90% of Fifth Season’s cases to date), funds still remain to pass on to beneficiaries. So your life insurance policy can be an important item to have on your asset list. Contact Fifth Season Financial to understand if this option might be right for you.

Understanding your assets and expenses is often the first step to minimizing the financial toxicity of a cancer diagnosis.

Our guide, Navigating Finances After Cancer, will be available for FREE download here: http://triagecancer.org/financial.

Triage Cancer will also be hosting a webinar on Finances & Thinking Outside the Box on January 20, 2016.  More information can be found at http://triagecancer.org/webinars.

Partner Spotlight: LLS Financial Assistance for PCR Testing

Today we are sharing some exciting news from our partner Leukemia and Lymphoma Society about a new financial assistance program!LLS

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is pleased to announce the opening of the LLS PCR Testing Financial Assistance and Awareness Program for patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).

Patients enrolled in this program may receive up to $1,000 of financiall assistance for out-of-pocket costs directly related to PCR testing during their enrollment period.

The Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is used both in the diagnosis of CML and to monitor for cancerous cells after treatment has begun. It is the most sensitive testing method available, with the ability to detect a single cancerous cell among one million healthy cells. Recommendations suggest that a CML patient should receive a PCR test every three months for the first three years after diagnosis, and every three to six months thereafter based on how well their treatment is working.

Acceptance into the program is first-come, first-served and is based on financial eligibility. A patient may be insured or uninsured. Support for this program is provided by Bristol-Myers Squibb.

For more information or to apply, please visit www.LLS.org/PCR or call (877) 614-9242.