Help Your Patients Fight High Medical Costs

The Patient Assistance and Reimbursement Guide, courtesy of the Association of Community Cancer Centers, provides detailed advice for connecting patients with valuable resources to help ease their financial burden during cancer treatments. 

Increasing healthcare expenses have become a major concern for patients with cancer, especially considering the cost of oncology medications and treatment plans. On Friday, February 26, ONS President-Elect Susan Schneider, PhD, RN, AOCN®, FAAN, participated in a discussion titled “Exploring Innovative Strategies to Mitigate Cost-Sharing Burdens for Patients” at the event Cost-Sharing Roundtable: Improving Patient Access to Critical Therapies hosted by the Patient Access Network (PAN) and the American Journal of Managed Care in Washington, DC. The discussion covered the burdens placed on patients when they’re forced to cover costs associated with expensive health care.

“Some innovative strategies to mitigate the burden included value-based care, informing patients of costs, including patients in value-based decisions regarding care, and making the public aware of the balance between lower insurance premiums and higher costs for serious healthcare events,” Schneider said. “We also spoke to the importance of working with pharmaceutical companies to manage costs, along with the use of patient assistance and programs like the ones provided by the PAN Foundation.”

The burden of paying out-of-pocket for expensive care can be detrimental to patients’ treatment and recovery. Variations in treatment and medication can adversely affect cancer outcomes.  

“Adherence is a major issue.  If patients don’t take their medications as prescribed, chances for a therapeutic response diminish,” Schneider said. “Patients have been known to spread out medication doses to save money on expensive biological agents. Patients may not take their medications due to side effects.  Without proper nurse monitoring and symptom management, expensive medications may just stay in the pill bottle and never be used.” 

Unfortunately, medications aren’t the only financial burdens for patients with cancer. Traveling costs, lodging expenses, out-of-pocket payments for scans and test, along with any associated expenditures from caregivers can lead to substantial expenses for patients and their families. “The current system for funding for cancer care is not sustainable,” Schneider said.

Schneider encouraged nurses to be knowledgeable about available resources and programs for patients under financial strain. For example, the American Cancer Society offers a number of services, including rides to and from treatments for patients under financial strain. Nurses looking to change the larger problem of cost-sharing burdens should contact legislators and voice their concerns.