6 Ways to Maximize Breast Cancer Financial Assistance

Help to combat the most common cancer impacting American women

Shannon Lewis, Manager of Patient Advocacy
October 8, 2021
Three breast cancer ribbons on pink background

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but this frightening disease demands greater attention from Americans year-round. Breast cancer awareness is often signified with bright pink ribbons in support of more than 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States. While this show of support is admirable, perhaps it's more important to understand and address the harsh realities of this diagnosis, how common this disease is and the financial hardship it places on women, and men, every year.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women. According to the National Cancer Institute, a woman without a family history of breast cancer has a one in eight chance of being diagnosed with the disease in her lifetime. The chances for someone with a family history are much higher.

Thanks to advancements in treatment and early detection, the five-year survival rate is around 90%. However, the financial blow that comes with breast cancer treatment, surgery and genetic and genomic testing weighs heavily on patients. Many patients undergoing breast cancer treatment for breast cancer is a major cause of financial, physical, and mental stress. Every treatment, medical appointment and procedure costs money, even with the best health insurance. And for those with minimal or no insurance, paying for medical bills on top of the everyday living costs can be impossible.

Fortunately, hospitals and health systems can take steps to help lessen this burden so breast cancer patients can focus less on their bank accounts and more on their health. Here are our six tips to maximize medical financial aid for breast cancer treatment.

Six Tips to Maximize Medical Financial Aid for Breast Cancer Patients

1.    Research breast cancer treatment costs

2.    Examine prior authorizations and insurance coverage

3.    Understand pharmaceutical assistance options

4.    Investigate ancillary resources

5.    Advocate for patients

6.    Leverage external resources

Research Breast Cancer Treatment Costs

The moment a patient has been diagnosed with breast cancer is overwhelming, making it essential that patient advocates are available to help them understand the realities of these costs and what assistance is available. Researching the specific stage and common forms of treatment can help determine what procedures and testing are necessary and provide an idea of the estimated costs associated with the treatment. Having a plan ahead of time and working with the prescribing physician allows patient advocates to maximize their ability to search for specific types of financial aid for the patient.

Examine Prior Authorizations and Insurance Coverage

Not all insurance is created equal, and prior authorizations can help shed light on the patient's coverage for specific types of treatment. Take the time to review the prior authorization and determine if their insurance will cover the cost of their treatment. If insurance denies coverage, the patient may be eligible to receive their drug for free through one of thousands of philanthropic aid programs.

Understand Pharmaceutical Assistance Options

Many big-name pharmaceutical companies offer patient assistance programs to cover the cost of most breast cancer-treating drugs for uninsured or underinsured patients. Common breast cancer chemotherapy drugs, such as Herceptin, Kisqali and Ibrance, are made available to patients for free through the manufacturers themselves. In fact, the best assistance options come directly from the manufacturer.

Investigate Ancillary Resources

There is an extensive list of programs and organizations which provide additional cost assistance outside of medication. Organizations, such as the Young Survival Coalition and the American Cancer Society, provide access assistance to food, travel, lodging, wigs, childcare and support networks. In addition, state-specific assistance programs are available for cancer patients. For example, Georgia has a state-sponsored financial assistance program for women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer.

Advocate for Patients

Patient advocates support patients throughout the treatment process and beyond. As behind-the-scene champions, they are experienced in all types of financial assistance, most of which may not be public knowledge. Patient advocates do the heavy lifting to determine the best assistance options to fit patients' needs, get them enrolled quickly and easily and provide peace of mind. Patient advocates must be well-informed and knowledgeable about the vast selection of financial aid programs to choose the best option for the patient and ensure that no patient is left behind.

Leverage External Resources

While many patient advocacy teams work directly with their designated health system, teams from coalitions, such as the National Association of Medication Access and Patient Advocacy (NAMAPA), are also devoted to helping patient advocates with knowledge and resources.

In addition, medical financial aid platforms like Atlas can consolidate all aid programs in one place while streamlining the matching and enrollment processes so patient advocates can do more for their patients every day.

Maximize Financial Aid Opportunities for Your Breast Cancer Patients

Breast cancer is a challenging, life-altering diagnosis that impacts millions of Americans. Understanding the available financial aid options can help patient advocates to better assist patients during a difficult time. Get in touch with Atlas Health today to talk about your patient financial aid programs and see how we can make it faster and easier for those patients to receive the critical care they deserve.