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Life Beyond Cancer - Financial Issues

Managing bills and other financial burdens at the same time as coping with a cancer diagnosis and related treatment can be stressful.  Creating an organizational system before treatment begins can help to ensure that you make all payments on time and do not incur any late fees. 

It is also important to keep all of your medical records, insurance information, and treatment resources organized and readily available. 

What can you do?

  • Create a filing system using a file cabinet or accordion-style divider folder to keep bills, medical records, and other important paperwork.  To receive a personal health manager folder go to the American Cancer Society's website.  
  • Enlist a family member, close friend, or loved one to help you manage the bills and paperwork for times when you may not have the energy to do this yourself
  • Prioritize bills in order of importance
  • Talk with creditors about negotiating for smaller monthly payments if you are not able to pay the full amount owed on bills.  Many creditors would prefer you make some payment rather than none at all and are willing to negotiate a payment plan.
  • Talk with your oncology social worker who may be able to help you organize and manage your financial issues as well as recommend and/or connect you with resources to help with financial aid.

For more information, scroll through the content below or click on a topic to go directly to that content.

Costs and Budgeting

It can be overwhelming to consider and plan for all of the financial costs associated with receiving cancer treatment.  If you have health insurance, some of your treatments, doctor visits, and medication costs will be covered depending on the specific insurance company and individual plan you have; however, there are also many other costs associated with treatment that range from transportation to childcare during treatment sessions that are important to consider.  If you are working, you should also consider whether you will be able to continue working at your current pace or whether you will need to reduce your hours during treatment and recovery and, thus, you may be earning less.

You will also want to become familiar with your health plan and check with your insurance company to determine what costs will be covered and what costs you will be responsible to pay.  This will allow you to plan for any financial support and/or assistance you may need throughout your treatment and recovery. 

What can you do?

  • Create a budget
  • Estimate your expenses by planning for the highest out-of-pocket expenses 
  • Estimate your sources of income and benefits
  • Consider your savings and investments
  • Make a list of questions to ask your doctor’s office administrative staff, navigator, social worker, or oncologist such as:
    1. Do you offer payment plans?
    2. Who can help me estimate the cost for all of the recommended treatments?
    3. If I cannot afford the recommended treatment, are there other treatment options that don’t cost as much?
    4. Can I schedule my treatments around my work, childcare, or other conflicts?
    5. Do you provide free or low-cost counseling and support for me and my family members?
    6. Are there programs that can assist me with medication costs?
  • Meet with a social worker at your oncologist’s office to get assistance with understanding, contacting, and accessing resources for your needs

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Federal Poverty Guidelines:

In January or February of each year the federal government releases an official income level for poverty called the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines. These are often referred to as the "Federal Poverty Level."  The benefit levels of many low-income assistance programs are based on these poverty guidelines. Income levels determined by the US Department of Health and Human Services are used to figure out if a person or family is eligible for assistance through various federal programs.

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Understanding Your Insurance Policy

Each insurance policy is different so it is important to take the time to be familiar with your specific policy.  Patients may be required to obtain pre-authorization from their insurance company prior to receiving treatment and it is the patient’s responsibility to obtain those prior authorizations from their insurance company. The amount of coverage your plan provides as well as what actions you are responsible for depends on your insurance company and your specific plan.

It will be helpful for you to contact your insurance company and inquire whether you can be assigned a case manager so that you can speak with the same person each time you call with any questions or concerns.  That representative should work closely with you to help you understand your specific policy and coverage.  Make sure to keep a detailed written record of your conversations with the insurance representative including date of call, the name of the person with whom you spoke, and information about the content of the call.  Keep these records with other medical information.

What can you do?

  • Get a copy of your insurance plan and keep it with your medical records
  • Contact your insurance company and ask to have a case manager assigned so that you have one person to whom you can direct all questions
  • Gather and keep contact information (phone and fax numbers, mailing and email addresses) for case manager of insurance company with medical information and bring to all doctor and treatment appointments

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Financial Resources and Assistance

The costs associated with cancer care can be very burdensome for people with or without health insurance.  From parking to prescription co-pays, the out-of-pocket expenses can add up quickly.  There are resources available for a variety of costs, but knowing where to find the resources and how to gain access to them can be a challenge. 

Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute (MMCCI) has options available to you to help assist in determining what financial assistance is available and can help you in connecting to that assistance.  Ask your health care provider to connect you with a social worker.  In addition, the links below will be helpful to you.

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Maine Financial Help

Maine Breast and Cervical Health Program
1-800-350-5180 or (207) 287-8068
Help with paying for a variety of costs for someone with breast or cervical cancer.

The Maine Colorectal Cancer Control Program
Call the hotline at 1-877-320-6800
Provides screening and education for Mainers. You might be eligible to get your screening at no cost through this program. To learn more, visit the Colorectal Cancer Control Program website, or call CarePartners 1-877-626-1684

Consumers for Affordable Health Care
An organization committed to helping all Maine people obtain quality, affordable health care. Call them to find services that can help you. They also maintain a list of free clinics and sliding scale clinics.

Community Health Connection
Local Maine organization serving people in Kittery, Eliot, York, Wells, Ogunquit and South Berwick.

Community Clinical Services
Uninsured individuals that meet certain income guidelines can receive medical services from participating offices in the Lewiston-Auburn area on a free or sliding scale basis.

Franklin Health Access
Local Maine organization serving people in Franklin county.

National Financial Help
A free website that offers a variety of financial information for the cancer patient.
CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance Foundation

Cancer Fund of America
Assist with co-pays and other cancer related expenses 1-800-675-8416
This foundation helps with co-payments, insurance and premiums for serious medical conditions.

Provides general financial help.

Patient Services Inc. (PSI)
Provides help with co-pays and insurance premiums.

Prostate Cancer Foundation
Offers a listing of financial resources related to prostate screening and treatment.

Rise Above It
Provides financial assistance for adolescent and young adult cancer patients.

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society 
Provides a limited amount of financial assistance to help patients with significant financial need who are under a doctor's care for a confirmed blood cancer diagnosis.

Lymphoma Research Foundation
Provides financial help and additional financial resources.

Prescription Assistance
These programs can help you pay for your prescriptions. You can also visit the Consumers for Affordable Health Care website for information about prescription drug programs.

MedAccess, 1-877-275-1787
MedAccess is a free program of MaineHealth that can help you find ways to pay for your medications. Anyone who takes medications is eligible.

Chronic Disease Fund, 1-877-968-7233

Patient Advocate Foundation, 1-866-512-3861

Patient Access Network Foundation, 1-866-316-7263

RXAssist, Patient Assistant Program Center  

Partnership for Prescription Assistance


Legal Help

Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project (ILAP) 
Providing expert immigration law information and legal assistance for free and low cost to Maine’s low-income immigrants and their U.S. citizen family members. 
Contact: 207- 780-1593

Cancer Legal Line
A national organization created to help with many legal and financial issues.

Pine Tree Legal
Low or no cost legal services for those eligible.
Contact: 207-774-8211 

Maine Legal Services for the Elderly
Low or no cost legal services for those who are 60 and over and are struggling to pay bills.
Contact: 1-800-750-5353 

Maine Equal Justice Partners
Low or no cost legal services for those who are socially and economically disadvantaged.
Contact: 207-626-7058 or 866-626-7059 

Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project
Low or no cost legal services.  You must complete an  interview to determine whether or not you are eligible. 
Contact: 207-774-4348 or 1-800-442-4293

Additional Resources

Cleaning for a Reason
Provides 4 house cleanings over 4 months for women with cancer.
Contact: 1-877-337-3348

Project Grace
Helping people in the Scarborough area facing difficult times.
Contact: 207-883-5111

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Read about some patient experiences with the Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute

Patient and Family Services at the Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute

22 Bramhall Street | Portland, Maine 04102-3175 | 1-(877)-831-2129