A cancer diagnosis can take a tremendous toll—physically, emotionally and financially. Cancer is one of the most expensive medical conditions to treat in the United States, and the need for patient assistance has only increased during the pandemic.

As a financial counselor at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and Research Center in Eugene, Krysten Cautrell helps patients who are concerned about costs associated with cancer treatment.

“Cancer is not cheap by any means,” she says. “Some of these treatments are thousands of dollars, even after insurance. If that’s a financial hardship for patients, I can help them look into different types of assistance to help cushion that out-of-pocket cost.”

Sources of financial assistance

Cancer treatment can affect a patient’s ability to work and pay bills, adding to the financial burden. Krysten is often able to connect both insured and uninsured patients to financial assistance through several sources:

  • Grants from foundations: Some offer co-pay relief programs or financial aid, including the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, CancerCare, Patient Advocate Foundation and Patient Access Network Foundation.
  • Manufacturer assistance programs: Patients are often surprised to learn that pharmaceutical companies can offer treatments at no cost, including chemotherapy. Eligibility criteria vary among each program. While many programs are intended for low-income individuals, not all programs are income-based.
  • Hardship assistance programs: Some cancer treatment centers, including WVCI, have internal financial assistance programs for patients who qualify. This assistance can be applied to a variety of services, including doctor visits, lab services and imaging.

“Everyone who works for our practice is dedicated to patient care in every way,” says Tim Bucy, WVCI’s Managed Care Contracting and Revenue Cycle Manager. “We consider a patient’s financial burdens associated with that care to be a part of that.”

Community resources

In addition to financial counseling, Willamette Valley Cancer Institute’s social workers help patients connect with community resources to help meet their needs. Help includes assistance for paying rent or mortgage and other personal bills, having prepared meals delivered, and finding local support groups.

Patients who have financial concerns are encouraged to reach out to their health care team or call their medical clinic billing office to ask about available resources.

“We’re not just here to treat them and send them on their way,” Krysten says. “We want patients to know that they are cared for and that this is bigger than just their diagnosis.”