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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.

Newly Diagnosed With Breast Cancer Stages 3 - 4


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For more information about each of the following subjects, see the documents in "To Learn More."

If you have health insurance

Even with health insurance, your recent diagnosis can play havoc with your finances. It is important to get control of your finances now or as soon as you can focus.  

Over 50% of the personal bankruptcies in this country involve health care costs. Over 75% of those people have health insurance. While this may sound scary, think of it as a call to action. Do not let general fear about money drain your energy. Push the thought aside with action.

If you do not have health insurance (uninsured)

Start thinking about how to pay for your medical care. While medical care can be costly, all medical bills are negotiable.

Free or low cost care is available.

Check to see if you do, or could, qualify for Medicaid (Medi-cal in California).

Do what you can to get health insurance. 

General finances

Keep up your finance basics. Pay your rent or mortgage and minimums on your credit card. After a diagnosis, credit can be critical to helping you through. This is not a time to negatively impact your credit rating if you can avoid it.

Pay your health insurance premium on time. Arrange for someone to pay premiums for you or for automatic payment if you get sick or undergo a treatment and forget. An insurance company would like nothing better than to cancel your insurance for nonpayment.

Start keeping track of all medical services you receive and expenses you pay. Don't pay a medical bill just because you receive one. First make sure that you are supposed to pay it, and that the bill is correct.

Cash can be king. Keep as much of it as you can. Put off discretionary purchases for now. Use credit instead of cash when possible.  If you are considering purchasing an expensive item such as a car, see if you can get credit life insurance on the balance. Generally this kind of insurance does not request medical information. It will pay off the debt in the event of your death.

Start accepting the credit card offers you get in the mail. They can provide cash if you need it.

If money is an issue

Some financial assistance is available if needed for women with breast cancer.

Only pay creditors the minimum while you lean more about your situation. If necessary, you can negotiate with creditors about paying off debt over time, and/or reducing the amount of the debt. There are non-profit services available to help if you need it (but watch for the non-profit organizations that do not work in your interest). Bankruptcy is also an option. Over 60% of the personal bankruptcies in the U.S. are people with medical debt.

If you have more income than outgo

Unless you have it already, start working toward a goal of a cash fund (an Emergency+Fund) equal to 3 to 6 months of monthly expenses. This is the amount of money generally recommended to have on hand in case of periods of no income or unexpected expense. It doesn’t mean you have to put this much money away today. However, now is the time to start. (If you work in a specialized area where there are very few jobs, aim for 12 months of expenses in your fund.)

Put as much money as you can spare into your retirement accounts. Saving tax dollars is the same as earning extra money. You can usually withdraw money or borrow it if necessary. If you become disabled, withdrawals are usually without penalty. Plus, money in a retirement account is protected from creditors. If you have a choice of accounts:

  • First priority is to fund accounts in which your employer matches your contribution. The value of your contribution is increased as soon as you put it into the account.
  • Then consider:
    • Which accounts are easier to withdraw money from or borrow against in case of unexpected expense. Pay particular attention to when you can do these things as well as the costs you’ll pay, such as penalties.
    • Which accounts are earning you the most money.
  • If you need help with this decision, speak with a financial planner, your accountant or attorney.

 If you still have money left, open new accounts to the maximum permitted by the tax laws.  

Postpone big decisions to the extent you can
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.

If you could become disabled

If you will be unable to work and your income will stop, think about how you will live. We discuss the subject, including how to deal with creditors, in In Treatment For Breast Cancer. For instance, you may be able to get cash from assets without selling them or even get cash from your life insurance policy.

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