By Joseph Kim, MD, MPH, MBA
ACCC recently held its first Financial Advocacy Network (FAN) Case-Based Workshop of 2016. Attendees representing a wide range of professionals working in financial advocacy joined in lively discussions across the continuum of cancer care in the community. Even today, many cancer programs do not have enough dedicated financial advocates providing support and assistance to cancer patients who struggle to pay for their care. As a result, social workers continue to shoulder the bulk of the responsibility of identifying financial resources and assisting patients with the process of completing online applications and forms for patient assistance programs.
Solving Real-World Scenarios
At the May 23 workshop held in Cleveland, Ohio, participants jumped right into dynamic case-based discussions, drilling down into specific scenarios that required them to uncover clues and develop customized plans for patients based on the unique circumstances presented case by case. Throughout the day, several key themes emerged:
Medicare: Discussions touched on improving health insurance coverage for patients who are on Medicare. There is clear need to educate both providers and patients about the complexity of Medicare and the different options that range from Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement (Medigap), Medicare Select, Medicare Savings Program, Medicare Low Income Subsidy (Extra Help), and much more. Some cancer programs hold dedicated education and outreach events around the Medicare Open Enrollment Period so that patients understand their options.
Improving Communication: Another issue that resonated with most attendees was the need to improve communication about patients’ financial concerns across all the members of the cancer care team. Since this information is often not clearly documented in the patient’s chart, it may be difficult for nurses, and medical oncologists to truly understand the total impact the costs of treatment may have on a patient’s life. Improving those lines of communication could lead to creative and innovative ways to reduce the financial burden placed on cancer patients.
Tracking Savings: Almost every cancer program helps patients find various drug assistance programs, but many may not be effectively tracking their savings across their entire financial advocacy department. Attendees remarked how they were using manual spreadsheets to record the direct amounts received from patient assistance programs, drug replacements, and donations from foundations and other charitable organizations. Some track how their hospital-based charity programs are helping cancer patients with their costs of treatments. There are also savings that can be measured when financial advocates help patients improve their insurance coverage options, but these savings are not frequently being tracked.
Growing Need for Financial Advocacy: Throughout the workshop, attendees agreed on the need to strengthen and grow their financial advocacy programs. The complexity of cancer care is rising and the out-of-pocket costs are becoming significant burdens that may impact how patients receive care.
If you missed the FAN Workshop in Cleveland, be sure to mark your calendars for the upcoming FAN Workshops in Dallas, Texas, on August 17, 2016, and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on September 29, 2016. Learn more and register here.
In the meantime, check out the resources available to financial advocates on the ACCC Financial Advocacy Network section of the ACCC website.
Guest blogger Joe Kim, MD, MPH, MBA, is serving as the facilitator for the 2016 ACCC FAN Case-Based Workshops. Dr. Kim is President of Xaf Solutions.