Financial distress can often be just as paralyzing or even more distressing than an actual cancer diagnosis -- we see this often.
The financial distress, which can result from increased healthcare costs in addition to lagging income (the inability to work due to diagnosis or treatment effects), is no respecter of insurance status; the insured and the uninsured experience varying levels of financial concerns. I have even heard of financially secure individuals who purposefully self-pay, foregoing expensive multidrug treatment regimens based on cost and research benefits of such treatments.
A study from The Ohio State University Medical Center indicated patients with financial difficulties were at greater risk for depression, anxiety, pain, and symptom distress1, and financial concerns are now routinely included in numerous psychosocial distress screening tools as recommended by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network's Distress Management guidelines.
Once financial concerns are identified, nurses and other healthcare professionals can utilize numerous services to help relieve patients' and families' financial distress. While paying direct rent, mortgage, utility, or grocery bills for patients and families may not be a realistic option for some organizations, providing services or products the patient and family would otherwise have to pay for could help relieve financial distress by reallocating healthcare budget funds to focus on personal, basic needs. Some trusted resources to turn to help patients and families include:
Beyond these kinds of resources and in addition to locating basic forms of insurance such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, county indigent care programs, healthcare organization charity care, and restricted oncology care donations from the community, patients and families may have access to specific employee programs such as sick leave donation banks that can help relieve financial strain. While never an easy decision, financial resources might also be available by liquidating current assets.
What are some of your favorite organizations to refer patients to in order to help reduce as much financial distress as possible? How do you screen your patients for financial concerns?
- Wells Di-Gregorio, S. (2010, January). "Things worse than cancer: The emotional toll of financial distress during advanced cancer survivorship." Podium presentation at the American Psychosocial Oncology Society 7th Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA.