The Co$t of Cancer

June 16, 2008 by  
Filed under CANCER

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DID YOU KNOW?floating-money.jpg

The average annual drug cost per cancer patient was $13,113 as of Jan. 1 of this year, up from $6,490 in 2001. (Source: Wall Street Journal Health Blog and Cancer e-search)

These rising costs affect not only cancer patients, but every American, as we all share in the burden of Medicare.

Are you having problems translating your Medicare benefits?

Here are a few helpful sites:

WebMD: Medicare Health Center

Medicare Learning Network:An Overview of Medicare Covered Diabetic Supplies and Services (pdf format)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: The Official U.S. Government Site For People with Medicare If you do not yet qualify for Medicare: Things to ask and consider when your health care provider gives you a prescription:

  • Ask about cheaper alternatives
  • Ask about generics ($4 generics available at K-Mart, Target, Kroger, Walmart and Giant Eagle)
  • Comparison shop
  • Evaluate mail order pharmacy options available with your health insurance carrier which save you co-pays for a 90 days supply

A word of caution about internet pharmacies. Purchasing medications from other countries is illegal and may not provide the safety and efficacy of U.S. FDA regulated drugs.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy lists recommended and approved internet pharmacies on their site.

Pill Splitting Often when a medication is purchased in double doses and split the cost is significantly cheaper. Ask your pharmacist about this and whether he can split for you or if he has any recommendations.

WebMD: Pill Splitting. When Is It Safe? When Is It Unsafe?

Check to See If Your Pharmacy Offers Any Incentive Programs:

Walgreen’s Prescription Savings Club. “The Prescription Savings Club is a discounted prescription buying program for individuals who have no prescription drug coverage or insufficient drug coverage. Members are entitled to discounts on cash prices for select medications included in the Savings Club Formulary. Members shall pay a yearly fee of $20 for individuals and $35 for families. Family price includes spouse and dependents under the age of 21. Cards for other adult family members, such as parents or grandparents, will cost an additional $20 per person. Persons receiving prescription benefits from a publicly funded healthcare program are ineligible for the Prescription Savings Club program. By enrolling in the Club you are affirming that you are not a recipient of benefits from a publicly funded program. The Prescription Savings Club is not insurance or an insurance benefit, nor is it intended as a substitute for insurance. ”

Negotiate Your Bill: From an article in Prevention Magazine, featured on WebMD comes ten suggestions for lowering your health care costs including this insider tip: “For patients with insurance, the hospital co-pay or deductible can represent a very large amount of money. Some insurance companies will deduct this amount from the hospital’s contracted rate. The unpaid portion is then your responsibility. Here’s a fact many hospitals won’t openly admit: They’re often willing to waive or reduce an account balance if a patient can demonstrate that the co-pay or deductible is a hardship. But you have to ask. “The patient can go back to an account administrator and say, ‘This is really difficult for me. Is there anything you can do?’ And we can,” says Ruth Levin, vice president for managed care at Continuum Health Partners in New York City. “The number of payers, including patients and insurance plans, who pay hospitals 100% of our charges is probably less than 2%.”

Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs:

  • Together Rx Access:”The Together Rx Access™ Card was created as a public service by a group of some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, in order to provide savings on prescriptions to eligible residents of the US and Puerto Rico who have no prescription drug coverage. “
  • NeedyMed provides information on PAP (patient assistance programs), drug discount cards, disease based assistance and state programs.
  • Partnership For Prescription Assistance. “The Partnership for Prescription Assistance brings together America’s pharmaceutical companies, doctors, other health care providers, patient advocacy organizations and community groups to help qualifying patients who lack prescription coverage get the medicines they need through the public or private program that’s right for them. Many will get them free or nearly free .”
  • Rx Hope. “The original online patient assistance portal. RxHope began as a cooperative effort of Pharmaceutical and Research Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)-member companies to extend a caring hand to patients in need. You can apply here for Patient Assistance Programs offered by hundreds of manufacturers, as well as find information on programs offered by State and Federal government and by pharmaceutical companies.”

Thanks to my local pharmacist at King Soopers in Colorado for this information:

  • UnaRx Card: “A free discount prescription drug card program delivered through RESTAT and United Networks of America. It offers members an average savings of 32% to 35% off U&C Pricing with savings as high as 75% on some medications. UNA Rx Card is designed as a stand alone benefit but it may also be used as a supplement for insured prescription plans to cover non-formulary prescriptions. It can also be used as a Medicare Part D supplement by covering drugs once participants reach the “donut hole”!”

Lodging Assistance:

The American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge offers not only free temporary housing, but a nurturing environment away from home. Currently there are over 28 lodges in 19 states. The newest upcoming facilities will be located in Lubbock, Texas and Iowa City, Iowa.

National Association of Hospital Hospitality Houses, HHH, Homes that Help and Heal, are located across the United States, in all 50 states. “A non-profit corporation serving facilities that provide lodging and other supportive services to patients and their families when confronted with medical emergencies. Each facility assures that a homelike environment is provided to persons who must travel to be with a patient or to receive necessary outpatient care.”

Headline News on the Cost of Cancer:

Hattiesburg American .Com, April 22, 2008: Cancer doctors may see cost as factor in choosing treatment for patients. “You’ve just been diagnosed with cancer, and the doctor is discussing treatment options. Should the cost be a deciding factor?”

Wall Street Journal Health Blog, April 15, 2008: Generics Damp Cost Increases in Cancer Care. “Yes, the price of treating cancer is rising steadily with the advent of expensive targeted drugs. But that rise has been checked, for now, by the arrival of generic versions of some widely used chemotherapy drugs.”

The New York Times, March 10, 2008: The High Cost of A Cancer Drug. “The Food and Drug Administration’s recent approval of Avastin, a hugely expensive drug, to treat advanced breast cancer has raised perplexing issues for women, their doctors and the entire health care system.”

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3 Responses to “The Co$t of Cancer”
  1. Oops, forgot to mention you are in the Bibliophile drawing. Thanks for posting.

  2. Tina says:

    Wow this is awesome too. Thanks so much for sharing, John. I have just emailed it to a dozen people I know without health insurance.

  3. John says:

    I think you should take a look at

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