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Tips for Taking Control of Your Finances
When you or a loved one has received a cancer diagnosis, money may be the last thing you want to think about. But taking control of your finances from the start may be the best way to prevent a crisis later on.
- Talk with your health care team about your financial situation as soon as possible.
Most providers of cancer care understand that patients have concerns about the costs of care. A social worker or financial counselor may be able to help you understand your insurance coverage and help you find further assistance, including financial aid if you are eligible. Many providers will work with patients to set up a monthly payment plan.
- Let your creditors know about your financial situation.
If you're having trouble paying your bills, it's best to face up to the problem now rather than let the bills pile up. You can nearly always negotiate with creditors. A nonprofit credit counseling service may be able to help you work with your creditors. You have a right not to be harassed by creditors. It's up to you to decide which bills to pay and in what order. You may also wish to talk to a financial advisor about the pros and cons of putting your assets into a trust to shield them from creditors.
- Get a handle on your income and expenses.
Figure out how much money is coming in to your household, how much you spend, and what you spend it on. Contact your utility company and mortgage company and ask about setting up a payment plan. You may be able to obtain a disability waiver for your mortgage, car loan, or other debts. Think about how your household could either earn more income or cut back on spending. Do you have money saved for an emergency? Do you have assets (a home, other property, a retirement plan, life insurance) that you can use to obtain cash?
- Understand your benefits and rights under the law.
You may have a legal right to certain benefits. A social worker can help you understand and apply for benefits you qualify for. For example, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (a federal law), you may be entitled to unpaid leave from your job to care for a loved one with cancer. If you leave your job or are laid off, a federal law called COBRA may allow you to keep your health insurance coverage for up to three years. If you change jobs, another federal law called HIPAA may protect you from being denied health insurance coverage.
- Make use of resources in your family, among your friends, and in your community.
Family members and friends may be able to lend you money or help you find sources of financial help in your community. Many community-based organizations offer assistance with housing and transportation and help applying for benefits to people with disabilities. If you can't pay your utility bills, your community may have a Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program that can help.
Next Section: Sources of Financial Assistance for People With Cancer →
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