Financial navigator program helps cancer patients face the rising cost of treatments

Money is pretty low on the list of things people want to think about after they hear they have cancer. But in the age of $10,000-a-month cancer drugs and insurance companies shifting more costs to patients, it’s impossible to avoid. 

“Financial toxicity” is the term experts use to describe it. And as the word “toxicity” suggests, it can be extremely harmful to a patient’s health - and recovery!

In fact, a 2014 article in the Journal of Oncology practice found that financial problems caused by cancer treatment affect quality of life more than many other factors, leading patients to avoid or delay care or drugs.

As a result, more and more hospitals are implementing a new member on the cancer team - that of the “financial navigator.”

Ingalls is at the cutting edge of this trend and now has a full-time, dedicated financial navigator - 14-year Ingalls veteran Cameron Williams. (Prior to this role, Cameron worked in Patient Access/Admitting and Infusion.)

Similar to cancer nurse navigators who help patients navigate their way through cancer treatment, the financial navigator helps patients understand the financial aspects of cancer care. More importantly, they can help relieve financial stress and improve a patient’s access to the care they need.

“Even with health insurance, the financial impact of cancer treatment can be challenging for a patient to handle,” Cameron explains. “My role is to help alleviate some that stress and help patients make informed financial decisions.”

Cameron says helps cancer patients at Ingalls navigate the financial maze of cancer treatment by evaluating their healthcare benefits to determine what their potential out-of-pocket costs may be and then identifying potential resources to help them lower their out-of-pocket costs.

This includes:

  • Helping them get the most of out of their existing insurance benefits
  • Facilitating enrollment in healthcare exchange plans
  • Helping them apply for Social Security and disability benefits if appropriate
  • Identifying external sources to help cover co-pays and deductibles such as foundation pharmaceutical-sponsored programs, local philanthropic organizations and more.

Monday through Friday, you’ll find Cameron “working the phones” on behalf of his patients. And he’s definitely making an impact! 

Since the financial navigator program began at Ingalls at the end of February, he’s helped secure a whopping $1.1 million in financial awards for more than 80 Ingalls cancer patients, making it a win-win for both patients and the hospital. “It helps patients avoid massive amounts of debt from cancer treatments, and it helps the hospital by not having to use its charity care funds as much,” he adds. “People shouldn't’t have to choose between buying groceries or getting their treatments.”

For more information about the new Cancer Financial Navigator program at Ingalls, call Cameron Williams at 708.915.6825.