If you don’t have health insurance, talk to the social worker or patient financial counselor at your hospital or cancer center. You may still be able to get insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov. Depending on where you live, HealthCare.gov will direct you to the federally run marketplace or to a marketplace run by your state. Another option is to work with an insurance broker who can help you enroll in a plan that fits your needs. Then you can start treatment after coverage kicks in. Even though health insurance may seem unaffordable, keep in mind that hospitals and care providers often enter contracts with insurance companies to provide care at lower costs. So not having any insurance at all means you will be billed at a higher rate.
If you simply can’t get insurance or you can’t afford the premiums and out-of-pocket costs, see if your hospital or cancer center has any kind of discount program for people without health insurance. If it doesn’t, there may be another hospital in your area that does. Selected hospitals and other nonprofit medical facilities get money from the federal government to provide free or lower-cost services to people who can't pay.
There are programs that may be able to help you get coverage or help you pay for treatment costs. You may need to meet certain age or income requirements to enroll in some of these programs.
Medicaid is a federal government program that pays for medical care for people whose income and assets are at or below a certain level. Medicaid programs are administered by the states, and each state has its own eligibility guidelines. The easiest way to find out if you’re eligible for Medicaid in your state is to go to the Health Insurance Marketplace at www.HealthCare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596.
All 50 states plus the District of Columbia have chosen to provide Medicaid coverage for women who are diagnosed with breast cancer through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. The program offers breast cancer screening to low-income, uninsured women. However, states have different age, income, and other requirements that women must meet to qualify for treatment through Medicaid.
Medicare is a federal government program funded by the Social Security Administration. Medicare offers health insurance to people who meet the eligibility requirements. In most cases, you're eligible for Medicare if you're 65 or older or are disabled at any age and have been collecting Social Security benefits for 2 years.
Some states offer state-subsidized health insurance plans for low-income residents. Contact your state's Department of Insurance office for more information.
Health insurance risk pools are special state programs that offer insurance to people who have pre-existing medical conditions. However, because the Affordable Care Act prohibited insurance plans from denying coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions, many states have done away with them. Contact your state Department of Insurance for more information.
Medicine assistance programs, listed on our Tips to Lower Medicine Costs page, can help pay for your medicines or allow you to buy them at a reduced cost.
The resources listed in this section are based in the United States and the regulations mentioned are U.S. regulations. Other countries may have different laws regulating insurance coverage and hospital operations. If you live outside the United States, ask your doctor about resources in your country.