Easing the Financial Burden of Cancer and COVID-19
Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager Emeritus, Oncology, Social Work
JUNE 24, 2020
COVID-19 has been a perfect storm for all of us. People who are living with cancer, either actively in treatment or in recovery, are especially vulnerable in a number of ways. Most importantly, they may be at higher risk of very serious illness if they are infected with the coronavirus. Studies have indicated that those who are currently in chemotherapy or who have advanced cancer, lung cancer, or a hematological cancer are particularly at risk.
Financial burden is another pressing problem created by cancer and COVID-19. Going through cancer is always expensive and often financially challenging. Those who have good benefits (sick time, disability insurance, etc.) and can continue to be paid when they must be away from work are fortunate. Too many others don't get paid unless they go to work, and this certainly translates to a reduced income during cancer treatment. The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in millions of Americans losing their jobs and, frequently, their health insurance. Although there are some legal protections, it adds another layer of distress to an already difficult situation.
There are state and federal assistance programs for people who are out of work, but some are not eligible for these benefits. Many people who have not lost their jobs have seen a big reduction in their pay checks and are struggling with paying the bills. Some creditors are responsive to negotiating payments right now. It is worth a call to a bank about a mortgage, a landlord about rent, and a utility company about bills. This would be a good time, too, to speak with a community resource specialist or oncology social worker about possible financial resources.
National groups that may be helpful include:
- Cancer Support Community Helpline: Call 888-793-9355
- CancerCare: Call 1-800-813-HOPE (4673)
- Family Reach COVID-19 Emergency Fund: Call 973-394-1411
- HealthWell Foundation's COVID-19 Fund: Call 800-675-8416
- PAN Foundation's COVID-19 Financial Support Fund: Call 855-824-7941, option 1
- Patient Advocate Foundation COVID-19 Care: Call 866-316-7263
- Team Rubicon's COVID-19 Emergency Food Assistance Program
- Samfund COVID-19 Emergency Fund: Call 617-938-3484
There are also foundations and groups that are disease specific. A list can be found at Cancer.Net.
Remember, many communities have local assistance programs. Even if city and town offices are closed, employees are working remotely and can tell you what is available in your own area. Faith groups, temples or churches, sometimes have resources, too, and are almost always welcoming to everyone in need.