The devastating effects of cancer are not only health-related, but they dig deeper into other aspects of the patients’ lives and those of their families. Financial toxicity or financial distress are terms used to describe the struggle of patients to cover the out-of-pocket costs incurred by the treatments.
The high cost of procedures and drugs not covered by insurance can affect the quality of life, the survival chances and even the decision to follow a treatment or not. Since money should not decide the right to life for anyone, there is a desperate need for solutions.
The financial toxicity problem has sparked the interest of researchers who aimed to determine how widespread is this phenomenon and how it does affect patients and their families. Dr. Zafar’s study from 2014 highlighted that for half of the patients with recurring cancer forms the burden was real and that they were having a hard time discussing this with the doctors. A more recent study from 2016 carried out under Dr. de Souza, concluded that the introduction of the Affordable Care Act will impact cancer patients even more since under the legal provisions they will be responsible for a higher share of the costs.
Financial toxicity effects
Cancer patients have to make the heartbreaking choice between their lives and their family’s financial stability. They are often worried about how they will cover the bills and feel helpless when it comes to earning more money due to the inability to work to their full capacity. This often leads to a downward spiral which includes downsizing their homes, liquidating savings accounts, selling items and ultimately borrowing money. Going into debt is just the first step, many patients end up filing for bankruptcy in only a few years or even months.
Reduce the financial toxicity
Facing this problem should start with enlisting professional help. A CPA or financial advisor specialized in medical bills can teach you how to navigate the insurance system and choose the plans that are most beneficial to your situation. Don’t be afraid to ask about costs before agreeing to any treatment. Make an informed decision to avoid burdens. If you have already accrued medical debt, you should put some work into getting your finances back on track as soon as possible.
Knowing that this is a nationwide problem, some legal changes introduced in 2017 help the patients by delaying the moment their delinquent medical bills start affecting the credit score. The bad news is that if you miss the 180 days (6 months) term of taking care of it, it will appear on your credit score for the next seven years, so you must act fast. To get an idea about the exact steps you need to take to avoid having your medical debt sent to collections or removing it from your credit report, look further into this guide: https://aaacreditguide.com/medical-bills/
You should also talk about this situation with your employer and find a solution. Most patients have reported increased stress caused by worrying about sick leave and missing time at work due to medical appointments.