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Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.

Content Overview

Breast Cancer: Finances 101



 A diagnosis of breast cancer can be hard on your finances - even if you have health insurance. Limited financial resources can make it difficult to obtain appropriate treatment. Following is information to help you maximize your situation.

Keep the financial basics going. When your health and possibly your life are at stake, it's easy to ignore the every day finances such as paying the rent or mortgage or doing what you can to keep or improve your credit score. In a word: "don't". You need a roof over your head and healthy food on the table.

Pay your rent or mortgage and minimums on your credit card. Whether you pay your rent, mortgage and credit cards on time affects your credit rating. If you need money, your credit rating will determine how much money you can borrow and at what price. You may need money to pay for your medical expenses or to keep your lifestyle. Credit rating also impacts areas of life such as automobile insurance premiums - and possibly even whether you wlil be hired for a particular job. Do what you can to protect and improve your credit rating.

Do not let any insurance policy lapse for non-payment if you can avoid it. This is particularly true of health insurance. It also applies to your other insurance such as Homeowners Insurance and Automobile Insurance. The last thing you need at this point is a very large economic loss that could have been insured against.

Health Insurance

  • If you have health insurance:
    • Do whatever is necessary to keep it. Health insurance is vitally important.
    • Learn what your health insurance does and does not cover, whether you are restricted to a group of doctors or hospitals or have a broader choice, and what needs prior approval, if anything.
    • Learn how to How To Maximize Use Of Your Health Insurance Policy. For instance, if an insurer says “no” to a reasonable request, appeal – and keep appealing. Persistence pays off.
    • If you don't get what you want from your insurer, look for a source of influence that can help. (For example, the person in HR who negotiated the company's contract, or a caring case manager at the insurer).
    • If appeals don't work, Think about pressure you can apply on the insurer - such as through the state Insurance Commission or through the press. (We tell you how to frame your story to get media attention in Media: How To Get Press Coverage)
    • Even with health insurance, medical care can be costly. Free or low cost care is available if you are underinsured. (In which case, see Uninsured.)
  • If you do not have health insurance
    • Check the policies that are available in your state. Because of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), you are able to purchase health insurance despite your diagnosis. For information see: offsite link.  Also consider checking with a local insurance broker in case there are policies for which you qualify that are not on an exchange.
    • There are still ways to access health care even if you remain uninsured.
    • Keep in mind that all medical bills are negotiable. 
    • There may be new uses of your assets that can provide funds to pay for care.
    • If you have too many assets or income to qualify for Medicaid (Medi-cal in California), it may still be possible to qualify by giving away assets.
    • If you have to pay for your care, consider traveling to another, less expensive state or even outside the U.S. for good quality care at a lower price. This is known as "Medical Tourism."

Financial assistance is available to help pay your medical and other costs. 

If money is tight or presents a crisis, there are a variety of ideas to consider.

  • For information about dealing with a crunch or crisis, read our information about how to handle a financial crunch from the point of view of a person with your health condition. It may help reduce the amount of money you need.
  • To raise money:
    • There may be new uses of your assets you have not thought about. For example, you may be able to borrow money against jewelry or other personal assets.
    • You may be able to borrow or receive a donation from family or friends.
    • Consider a yard sale.
    • There may be other fund raising ideas to consider.
  • Your assets may provide a means of obtaining cash without selling them. There may also be new uses of assets because of your diagnosis that will bring in money if needed. For instance, a sale of a life insurance policy.

With a diagnosis, credit becomes even more important than usual. 

  • Do whatever you can to make your credit better.
  • Start by finding out what the credit bureaus say about you.  
  • If possible, increase your credit limits.
  • Consider accepting credit card offers you get in the mail. Do not use them except to the extent necessary to keep them active without a fee for non-use.  Move credit balances to the cards with the lowest fees.
  • Protect your credit against identity theft.
  • If you don't have any credit, you can start by getting credit cards. For instance:
    • You can get what is known as "a secured credit card" by giving the credit card company a cash deposit the company can use if you don’t pay your bill.
    • You can ask a person with good credit to co-sign on a credit account. Basically this means the person who co-signs will have to pay if you do not. It allows you to use his or credit to build your own. 
  • Using credit cards properly starts to build good credit. 
  • See: Credit: Score, Getting, Fixing, Maximizing Use

If you have investments,your investment strategy should take into account your diagnosis. For instance, you may need money periodically to pay medical bills or other expenses. As a result, a larger than normal percentage of your investments should be in cash or assets which can be easily and quickly turned in to cash. If your life expectancy is shortened, there may be new uses of assets to consider.

Let the financial and legal professionals in your life know about your diagnosis.The more they know about you, the more they can help.

Do not pay a medical bill just because you receive it. Many health care providers send insureds bills even if the amount is covered by insurance. Check the bill to be sure: see: Check Your Medical Bill Before Paying.. To learn how to determine a fair price for a medical service, click here.

Keep track of all medical services you receive and expenses you pay. You'll need the information both for insurance and for tax purposes.

  • If you pay the bills, you'll want to know what services were received.
  • If an insurer pays the bills, it's important to keep track so the insurer doesn't pay for services not received.
  • Medical bills may be deductible from your Adjusted Gross Income for income tax purposes. They may be deductible for a family member or friend who pays them for you.
  • Transportation to and from medical appointments is considered a medical expense. Learn what else is a medical expense for IRS purposes.

Buy drugs wisely. Price is only one factor to consider.

  • Even if you have health insurance, it is in your interest to purchase drugs for the least price. For example, an internet pharmacy may be less expensive than your local pharmacy. A 90 day supply is usually less costly per pill than a 30 day supply. (Also consider other factors such as convenience and what happens if you need an emergency supply).
  • Tell your doctor if finances are a concern. Ask for the drug that accomplishes the necessary medical purpose with the least cost. 
  • The doctor may be able to prescribe an older, less expensive version of the drug that does the same thing as the newer, more expensive one. 
  • There are also less costly generic versions of many drugs. Generics contain the same active ingredients but doesn't have a brand name. When thinking about cost, include the cost of tests and other costs that may be required with a particular drug.
  • Drugs which are prescribed for purposes other than those which have been approved by the FDA are known as being used for "off label" use. If an insurer refuses to pay, appeal with your doctor's help.
  • Financial assistance to pay for drugs may be available from the manufacturer.
  • If you participate in a clinical trial, the drugs are usually free.
  • NOTE: Learn how to store, use and dispose of drugs wisely.

As soon as you have time, it is advisable to do basic financial planning to help maximize your resources. Planning should take into account the new normal that exists for life after a diagnosis. Financial planning doesn't have to take a lot of time. There are easy to follow steps. The result will help you control the future.

  • As you calculate finances, you can use ballpark numbers or guesstimates to get an idea of what could be ahead. We provide calculators to help guide you through the process. 
  • Get a real picture of where you both are financially at this point in time by preparing a Net Worth Statement. Include all assets and all debts, including medically related debts for which you will not be reimbursed.
  • Understand what is likely to happen financially if you stay on the track you’re on. Prepare a Cash Flow Statement.
  • Rework the numbers to get an idea of what would happen if you become disabled, or your partner’s income drops to take care of you. 
    • Include income from Social Security. (You can easily find out how much Social Security income you’ll get, if any by calling Social Security.) 
    • Also include increased expenses you’re likely going to be paying, including for health care. 
    • Our worksheets will help you through the process. If the result is a short fall, use our calculator to find out how long your money will last.
  • On the other hand, expect the best. Do the calculations to find out how much money you need to reach your goals.
    • If there is a shortfall, there are steps to take to help you get on a better financial footing.

If you have extra income or assets, hold on to them for now.

  • After a diagnosis, cash cxan be king. Hold onto whatever cash you have until expenses become clear.
  • Experience indicates that people who take the attitude "I'm going to die, so I'm going to blow through all my money now", generally live to regret it. Even with the most dire diagnosis, someone survives.
  • It is wise to postpone making big decisions that do not relate to your health care until you are calm emotionally and your thinking is clear. It is quite natural that your thinking is impacted by your diagnosis. You may not return to a more "normal" emotional state until after treatment ends. The treatment, or drugs you take during treatment, may have an affect on your thinking as well. 
  • Keep as much cash on hand as you can. Cash can become king after a diagnosis. 
  • There may be new uses of assets to consider that are available in general, or because of your diagnosis. For example, you may be able to borrow against a life insurance policy, or even sell it in what is called a "viatical settlement" or a "senior settlement."
  • If all else fails, consider bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is so basic to the American system that it is included in the constitution.

For additional information, see:

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