Where to Find Financial Assistance If You Have Cancer

Cancer can impose heavy economic burdens on people living with the disease. It's tough enough for those with health coverage, but what about those with little or no insurance?

For these individuals, there are a number of financial assistance programs that can help cover the cost of health care with resources ranging from government-subsidized programs to community-based services.

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Individuals with cancer should never hesitate to discuss their financial concerns with their doctor. If needed, physicians can refer patients to social workers or care coordinators to link them to the financial assistance they need.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't start reaching out on your own. Luckily, there are a growing number of agencies that can assist you in finding the means to access and pay for the care you need. 

Non-Governmental Service Organizations 

The following non-governmental organizations are often good places to start in your search for financial assistance, most of which offer English/Spanish publications and a bilingual helpline:

  • American Cancer Society (ACS) is a national agency based in Washington, D.C. that can direct you to the local ACS office in your area. The ACS offers programs that help individuals, families, and friends cope with the treatment decisions and emotional challenges they face. A 24-hour helpline is operated at 800-227-2345 (800-ACS-2345) with a live chat available on the organization's homepage.
  • CancerCare is a national, non-profit agency that offers free support, information, and financial assistance to people with cancer and their loved ones. Services are provided by oncology social workers over the telephone, in person, and through the organization's website. CancerCare's reach also extends to health professionals, providing the educational resources they need. Telephone 800-813-4673 (800-813-HOPE) or email info@cancercare.org.
  • AVONCares Assistance for Women Facing Cancer is a program managed by CancerCare that provides financial assistance to low-income, underinsured, and underserved women throughout the U.S. Support services include transportation, child care, and home care to improve the lives of those undergoing treatment for breast cancer or cervical cancer. Telephone 800-813-4673 (800-813-HOPE) or email info@cancercare.org.
  • Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation (CCCF) is a non-profit organization that provides information, peer support, and advocacy through publications and a network of local support groups. CCCF maintains a list of organizations to which eligible families can apply for financial assistance. Telephone 800-366-2223 (800-366-CCCF) or email info@candlelightersnyc.org.
  • Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) offers information and financial aid to people who have leukemia, Hodgkin's disease, or multiple myeloma. Callers may request a booklet outlining LLS's Patient Aid Program, as well as the number of their local LLS office. Telephone 800-955-4572. Live chat is also available on the organization's website.
  • Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF) provides education, legal counseling, and referrals to people with cancer regarding insurance, financial issues, job discrimination, and debt crisis. The PAF Co-Pay Relief Program is a subsidiary of the PAF and provides financial assistance to patients who meet eligibility criteria. Learn more by calling 800-532-5274.
  • Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) are offered by many leading pharmaceutical manufacturers to help pay for medications or insurance copay costs. While eligibility requirements vary, a single consolidated application form allows for easy registration with multiple drug companies.
  • Road to Recovery is a service offered by the American Cancer Society that allows online users to search for and connect with free or low-cost local transportation services using their zip code or city/state information. Learn more by calling 800-227-2345 or via live chat on its website.

Federal and State Health Agencies

In addition to non-profit programs, there are governmental channels that can provide direct assistance to people with cancer:

  • Medicaid is a jointly funded, federal-state health program for people who need financial assistance for medical expenses. At a minimum, states must provide home care services to people who receive federal income assistance such as Social Security Income or Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Medicaid coverage includes part-time nursing, home care aide services, and medical supplies/equipment. Information about coverage is available from local state welfare offices, state health departments, state social services agencies, or the state Medicaid office. 
  • Medicare is a federal health insurance program for Americans 65 years or older, as well as disabled people under 65 and individuals with permanent liver failure. Medicare may offer reimbursement for some home care services or coverage of hospice services for those accepted into a Medicare-certified program. To receive information on eligibility or explanation of coverage, call 800-622-4227 (800-MEDICARE) or 877-486-2048 for TTY users.
  • Social Security Administration is the government agency that oversees Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Social Security provides a monthly income for eligible elderly and disabled people, while SSI supplements payments for those who meet income eligibility requirements. Information on eligibility, benefits, and application requirements is available by calling 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778).
  • Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a federal-state partnership that offers low-cost or free health insurance coverage to uninsured children in low-income families. For referrals to your state CHIP administrator, or information on eligibility and application requirements, call its national helpline at 877-543-7669 (877-KIDS-NOW).
  • Veteran Administration (VA) offers medical benefits, including cancer treatment at a VA Medical Cancer to eligible veterans and their dependents. Treatment for service-connected conditions is provided, while treatment for all other conditions may be available based on the veteran's financial need. Telephone 844-698-2311.
  • Hill-Burton is a program by which hospitals that receive construction funds from the federal government are required by law to provide some services to low-income individuals who cannot afford to pay for their hospitalization. Information about the facilities offering this program is available by calling 800-638-0742.

Other Means of Financial Assistance

  • Community service organizations such as the Salvation Army, Lutheran Social Services, Jewish Social Services, Catholic Charities, and the Lions Club may offer financial help. These organizations can be found in your local phone directory.
  • Community fundraising and crowdfunding are other mechanisms well worth considering. Many people find that friends, family, and social networks are more than eager to contribute financially if they are aware of a difficult situation. Online fundraising websites like GoFundMe are frequently used for these kinds of campaigns, allowing families to cull wider support using social media channels.
  • Income tax deductions allow you to deduct many of your medical expenses from annual income before taxes. Examples of tax-deductible expenses might include mileage for trips to and from medical appointments, out-of-pocket costs for treatment, prescription drugs/equipment costs, and the cost of meals during lengthy medical stays. Your local Internal Revenue Service (IRS) office can help you determine which costs are deductible.
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  1. RXAssist. Frequently asked questions about patient assistance programs.