Caregiver Tips: Part 5 – Financial Matters

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Medical treatment for a catastrophic diagnosis such as cancer is expensive. Knowing what financial resources are available, having good money management skills, and being organized becomes extremely important. Here are some tips to help you get off to a good start:

  • Find out what disability benefits (including “intermittent” disability) are available through your employer. Read what your options are in the employee benefits manual. Don’t depend on Human Resources to tell you what is available.
  • See if the patient qualifies for Social Security disability benefits.
  • Speak with a patient advocate to seek financial assistance.
  • Ask if the pharmaceutical company will help pay for any of your travel expenses for out-of-town clinical trials.
  • If you need to travel by air, make sure the doctor approves the patient to fly—in writing if the patient looks sick.
  • Angel Flight arranges free air transportation for qualifying medically related needs. Contact www.angelflight.com.
  • Make sure doctors/hospitals are in your insurance plan and treatments are covered. Cancer treatments are very expensive and can continue for a long time, depending on the type of cancer. You don’t want to pay out-of-network charges.
  • Make sure the patient has an updated will, a medical power of attorney with a separate HIPAA release authority, a living will (directive to physicians and family), and a durable power of attorney to handle financial matters.  (Make sure your own documents are current, too. Tomorrow is not guaranteed for anyone.)
  • If you have problems with insurance or medical facilities, write down the name of the person you spoke with, the date, the time, and what was said.
  • Learn how to pay the family bills, reconcile a bank statement, where to file or find important paperwork, and where to find passwords to all accounts—including the patient’s social media accounts.
  • If you have adequate money in the bank, pay your bills as soon as they arrive. You never know when an emergency trip to the hospital will last for an extended period of time. Paying bills on time will be the last thing on your mind.
  • If you pay bills online, consider taking a list with you to the hospital of what bills are due when, and how to access your account to pay the bill when you are away from home.
  • Keep a spreadsheet for medical expenses. Keep track of the dates doctors were seen, what tests and procedures were performed, and match them up with the EOBs to ensure you aren’t billed in error. Document when expenses were paid to avoid duplicate payments. Follow up if you’re due a refund. (You may download my spreadsheet example.)
  • If you have cancer insurance, know what reimbursements you are entitled to and make sure they pay you the proper amount. (You may download my spreadsheet example.)