Besides help paying for medicines and procedures, you might find that you need help paying for other daily living expenses such as food, transportation, child care, mortgage or rent, and utility bills while you're undergoing treatment. Many people are already challenged by the combination of lost wages plus the out-of-pocket costs of medical treatment. Families that were doing fine before can sometimes find that their income is stretched to the limit after a cancer diagnosis.
If you’re worried about paying your bills, get help early. Start with the social worker at your hospital or cancer center, who is likely to know about local and national assistance programs for people with breast cancer. There are programs that help with living expenses, such as groceries and gas, and not just treatment expenses.
The following tips also may be useful — get a family member or friend to help if you’re feeling overwhelmed:
- Develop a budget that lists your monthly income and all your monthly expenses. Writing down all your expenses can help you decide if you can cut back anywhere. A written list of expenses also can help you prioritize your bills. This can help you figure out if you're going to be short of funds and take steps to get help if you need it.
- Talk to your creditors and let them know that you're having trouble paying your bills. Tell them why you're having problems and ask if you can work out a payment plan. Most creditors are willing to work with customers, especially if you have a good history with them. Don't wait until your account has been turned over to a collection agency.
- Always try to make a payment, no matter how small, to show your creditors that you're making an attempt to pay.
- Contact your local United Way or American Cancer Society office. These organizations may be able to offer financial assistance or direct you to other groups in your area.
- Many local churches, synagogues, mosques, and other religious organizations and fraternal orders have volunteers who can help with transportation or grocery shopping. They may also have financial assistance programs.
- If you're having trouble keeping up with bills, you may want to contact a credit counselor. Poor credit can affect you and your family for years to come, so take action now. A credit counselor can help with strategies for getting debts paid down and restoring good credit. To find a reputable counselor, talk to someone at your bank or local consumer protection agency. Many universities and local housing authorities offer nonprofit credit counseling programs. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling can provide educational resources and help you find an accredited counseling agency in your area. You also can use NFCC’s My Money Checkup tool to get a snapshot of how your finances are doing and areas where you can improve.