Health insurance plans are complicated and can be overwhelming, but it is important to know what services your plan covers. Knowing up front the amount of coverage you have for treatment will help you budget your income. The first step is to know exactly what your policy covers, including treatment, medications and co-pays for doctor visits. Having this information allows you to calculate out-of-pocket expenses.
When the financial cost of health care has exceeded your ability to pay, there are some options available to cover medical and indirect expenses. Some indirect expenses include transportation, lodging when treatment is far away from home, long-distance telephone charges, nutritional supplements and special equipment.
Some options include:
Life Insurance: “Living Benefits” allow you to use the policy death benefits and access the money you would receive upon your death. The policyholder receives the money that would typically go to your family at your death. You should contact your insurance company to see if this benefit is an option for you.
Viatical Settlement: Another option is to sell your life insurance policy through a “viatical.” Viatical settlements were originated as a way to help the gravely ill pay their bills.. The insured terminally ill patient gets a percentage of the death benefit in cash, and the investors get a share of the death benefit when the insured dies.
Loans: You may be able to use your life insurance policy as collateral for a loan. Some banks may lend money to chronically ill patients who have a life expectancy between six months and five years. You should contact your bank to see if they make this type of loan.
For questions regarding loans and life insurance policies, you should contact:
Alabama Department of Insurance
201 Monroe St.
Montgomery, AL 36104
Phone (334) 269-3550
Fax (334) 241-4192
Social Security Disability Insurance
If you have paid into Social Security for much of your life and then become disabled, you may qualify for disability benefits. Benefits begin after five months of becoming disabled. The Social Security Administration has a very strict definition of disability. If you are denied coverage, you may appeal the decision. You may decide to hire an attorney for the appeals process for better representation of your case.
If you do receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you can become eligible for Medicare after 24 months. To apply for SSDI, you should call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or apply online at http://www.ssa.gov/redbook/eng/main.htm.
Supplemental Security Income
This is a supplement to your income or the family of someone who is disabled. To qualify, you must have low income and assets and be disabled, over age 65 or legally blind. The Supplemental Security Income Web site has a Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool (BEST) to see if you are eligible. For more information, you should call 1-800-772-1213 or go to their Web site at http://www.ssa.gov/ssi/index/.htm.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
This is a program that provides financial assistance to low-income families by granting federal funds to state entities. In Alabama, the AL Department of Human Resources allocates money through the Family Assistance Program. Qualifications include an age limit (either 18 or 19), limited family income and participation in the JOBS program. For more information on the Family Assistance Program, call 334-242-1773 or go to their Web site at http://www.dhr.state.al.us/page.asp?padieid=357.
Drug Assistance Programs
Some pharmaceutical companies and foundations offer free or nearly free medications to patients who are underinsured or cannot afford them. To meet qualification requirements, you will need to provide tax forms, pay stubs and/or bank statements. You will need to contact the individual company or foundation. The Caring for Cancer Program has an online database that gives information and forms for almost every cancer drug and pharmaceutical program. Go to http://www.caring4cancer.com/go/cancer/financial/help-with-costs/DrugAssistancePrograms.aspx or Google Caring4Cancer and follow the links to Patient Assistance Programs for the Underinsured.
There are other organizations that provide small grants to help patients for short periods of time. Some programs are diagnosis-specific, while others will only cover certain parts of your treatment, co-pays and medications.
Financial Assistance Programs
American Cancer Society
CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance
Chronic Disease Fund
Patient Access Network Foundation
Partnership for Prescription Assistance
Patient Advocate Foundation's Co-Pay Relief Program
Susan G. Komen for the Cure
Ronald McDonald House Charities
For additional information, please contact Social Services at:
Inpatient (UAB Hospital) - (205) 934-4737
Outpatient (The Kirklin Clinic) - (205) 801-8269