The cost of cancer care continues to rise. As a result, cancer programs need increased resources to support the growing number of patients who seek financial assistance for their cancer treatment. The ACCC Financial Advocacy Network (FAN) continues to evolve to help financial advocates meet the needs of patients with cancer and help overcome financial barriers to treatment.
Built upon lessons learned in 2014 and in conjunction with four leading financial advocacy experts —ACCC held dynamic case–based workshops for oncology financial advocates in 2015-2016. These interactive, one-day programs featured facilitated discussion of real–world, case–based scenarios with leading financial advocacy experts, high-level analysis, and collaborative problem solving. Attendees—both beginner and seasoned financial advocates representing a wide range of professionals working in financial advocacy—gained take–home, actionable tools, peer-to-peer information sharing, and effective practices to support patients and advance their financial advocacy programs.
Key topics discussed included: Communicating with the Patient and the Care Team; Maximizing External Assistance; Optimizing Patient Coverage; and Improving Patient Collections.
Key Themes Emerging from the 2016 Case-Based Workshops:
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 including Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement (Medigap), Medicare Select, Medicare Savings Program, Medicare Low Income Subsidy (Extra Help), and more. Some cancer programs hold dedicated education and outreach events around the Medicare Open Enrollment Period so that patients understand their options.
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.
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 often tracked.
Although financial advocates in cancer programs typically do not work in the hospital’s billing department, they may still be able to influence the type of billing process patients may experience. According to the Advisory Board Company, the average American has $1,766 in overdue medical debt. Several workshop participants described how they have been offering different loan programs for their cancer patients. Some financial institutions offer patients 0% interest loans and affordable monthly payments.
Growing Need for Financial Advocacy
Throughout the workshops, 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.
Find more takeaways from Case-Based Workshop participants.
ACCCBuzz Financial Advocacy Blogs
- Financial Advocates: Sharing Insights & Strategies
- Financial Advocacy Services — A Patient’s Perspective
- Snapshot of a Case-Based Financial Advocacy Network Workshop
- Financial Advocates: Helping to Close the Gap
Stay tuned for details on future case-based workshops as ACCC continues to expand its Financial Advocacy Network (FAN) program. Be sure to visit accc-cancer.org/FAN often for the latest resources and updates from ACCC. Download the 2017 ACCC Patient Assistance and Reimbursement Guide.
CE Accreditation and Credit Designation Statements
If you attended a FAN case-base workshop this year and have questions about continuing education, please contact ACCC via email or call 301.984.9496, ext. 258.
This project is supported by: