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The national news is full of stories like this video where patients who are uninsured and under-insured are suffering not only from the ravages of their cancer or its treatment, but also bear a terrible financial burden because of their medical bills. Nowhere is this more true than those suffering with brain cancers. Most brain tumors are very stubborn to treat, and the treatments themselves can be very debilitating. Even if their treatment is successful, patients may have residual nerve damage that prevents them from returning to their work.
There are a number of valuable resources that can be of help to patients with brain cancer, and other forms of cancer as well. Let me summarize a few that I especially like:
National Brain Tumor Society: This video features the National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS) as one resource for social and financial assistance of patients with brain tumors and their families. NBTS was formed in 2008 by the merger of two leading organizations that had served the brain tumor community: the National Brain Tumor Foundation and the Brain Tumor Society. Both legacy organizations had been formed in the 1980s by parents and other concerned individuals who were committed to increasing both research funding and access to resources specific to brain tumors. I would highly recommend that you visit their website my.braintumorcommunity.org.
Patient Resource Cancer Guide: Our companion website has information about brain tumors and a list of trusted websites for more information. It also has extensive information from organizations that offer financial and social services assistance for people affected by cancer. Visit patientresource.net for more information.
The Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF): A national organization that provides free advice and assistance about financial services and social services for cancer patients as well as those with other serious chronic disease. They are also helpful in providing grants to patients to pay for some drugs or the co-pays (the patient portion of the payment). Their Co-Pay Relief Program provides direct financial support to insured patients, including Medicare Part D beneficiaries, who must financially and medically qualify to access pharmaceutical co-payment assistance. The program offers personal service to all patients through the use of call counselors; personally guiding patients through the enrollment process.
If you have health insurance but are still struggling to meet your out-of-pocket cost you would be considered underinsured. PAF recently launched a new directory –The National Underinsured Resource Directory– intended to help underinsured individuals and families locate valuable resources and seek alternative coverage options or methods for better reimbursement.
For more information visit their website at patientadvocate.org.
CancerCare: This is another national organization that can help patients. CancerCare provides financial assistance to help with some types of costs, including transportation, homecare, childcare, and pain medication. They have social workers and case managers are knowledgeable about financial issues and will work closely with you to get you the help you need.
Like PAF, they can also provide you with helpful resources, in addition to offering direct financial assistance for people who qualify. In some circumstances, they can help individuals who cannot afford their insurance co-payments to cover the cost of medications for treating cancer. They currently offer assistance for people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, colorectal cancer, glioblastoma, head and neck cancers, non-small cell lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and renal cell cancer. CancerCare publishes a free resource guide –“A Helping Hand Resource Guide—which includes both national and local financial assistance resources for people with cancer and their loved ones.
For more information visit their website at http://www.cancercare.org/
American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and Cancer.net: ASCO is the largest cancer professional organization in the world. It has a great patient website. ASO has published a booklet about finances –“Managing the Cost of Cancer Care”—that can be ordered through its website at: http://www.cancer.net/managingcostofcare.
Pharmaceutical Patient Assistance Programs: Most drug companies have patient assistance programs that help cancer patients get access to their drugs, usually through an intermediary such as the Patient Advocate Foundation or CancerCare.
Since Avastin (bevacizumab), made by Genentech Oncology is a newly approved drug for glioblastomas of the brain, I will use their company and its website as an example. Through its Genentech Access Solutions program, the company provides patients and healthcare providers with coverage and reimbursement support, patient assistance and informational resources. Patient assistance support is for those eligible patients in the United States who do not have insurance coverage or who cannot afford their out-of-pocket co-pay costs.
Since 2005, Genentech has donated approximately $390 million to independent non-profit organizations that provide co-pay assistance. To learn more about these independent, public charities, patients can speak with a specialist from Genentech’s Access Solutions group. The Aviston Patient Assistance Program provides an opportunity for physicians and eligible patients who are treated for an FDA-approved indication and who reach an annual dosage of 10,000 mg to receive free Avastin from Genentech for the remainder of the 12-month period. This program is open to all patients receiving Avastin regardless of insurance coverage and is accessible through the Genentech Access Solutions program.
For more information, you can call (866) 4 ACCESS or visit GenentechAccessSolutions.com
Finally, and just as importantly, your oncology social worker, hospital patient services representative, local cancer organization and local United Way can guide you to additional sources of financial assistance.