Supporting Affordable Care
- Rapper Fat Joe marched on Washington this week in support of affordable health care and making sure there is transparency in treatment prices.
- He was advocating with the nonprofit group Power to the Patients, which says hospitals should “obey a federally mandated rule that took effect in January 2021 requiring all U.S. hospitals to provide clear, upfront pricing information for all of the services they provide.”
- Recent findings estimate that American cancer patients spent more than $21 billion on their care in 2019.
- Cancer treatments are pricey, even with help from insurance. And some people lose income as they’re unable to work and/or they must pay for childcare while undergoing treatment.
- If you have had trouble finding resources or answers about how to get help paying for cancer, there are a few routes you can consider. You can negotiate payment plans, seek out government assistance programs, or look to advocacy groups.
Fat Joe’s name is Joseph Antonio Cartagena, and the 52-year-old musician is loved for his 2004 hit with Terror Squad “Lean Back” and the 2002 single “What’s Luv?” with Ashanti and Ja Rule.Read More
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The father of three and Latino superstar shared some photos and video on Instagram after rallying on Washington, writing, “@powertothepatients_ always speaking for the voiceless. It’s your right to know HOSPITAL PRICES.”
Fat Joe was seen wearing sunglasses and holding up a sign reading, “Prices are now a patient’s right. Power to the Patients.” He was also seen alongside members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, chatting with politicians, and speaking as an advocate for patients struggling financially.
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In footage shared by TMZ, showing Fat Joe speaking on Capitol grounds, the rapper is heard saying, “They know they got somebody here who’s willing to step up and fight for their rights and fight for their families, fight for their health.”
We proudly stand with patients, nurses, families, employers, and unions across the country who demand a more affordable, equitable, and honest healthcare system. We need hospital prices and transparency in healthcare. #powertothepatients@fatjoe @potus @whitehouse @CMSgov… pic.twitter.com/KiotQarFb9
— Power to the Patients (@PowertoPatnts) February 16, 2023
The Grammy-nominated musician and philanthropist continued, “This is not a rocket scientist thing. Just show us the prices so we can know whether we want to go to this hospital or if we want to go to the other hospital.”
In a recent Power to the Patient’s press release, the organization explained, “The partnership [with Fat Joe] is a collective effort to urge hospitals to obey a federally mandated rule that took effect in January 2021 requiring all U.S. hospitals to provide clear, upfront pricing information for all of the services they provide.”
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“Although the Hospital Price Transparency Rule requiring hospitals to post their prices took effect more than 16 months ago, many hospitals continue to flout its requirements, leaving patients in the dark and vulnerable to financial turmoil,” the national nonprofit continued.
“Right now, prices for the same care can vary by thousands within the same hospital. This federal rule allows patients and their families to understand the real financial obligations of their healthcare decisions upfront and, with compliance, would also create a marketplace with meaningful price competition, resulting in better quality of care at lower costs for all patients in America.”
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Fat Joe criticized hospitals for “robbing us” and having “corporate greed” in a recent public service announcement for Power to the Patients.
In an exclusive statement sent to The Hill earlier this month, Fat Joe insisted he’s working to give a voice for the “voiceless.”
“We must demand accountability from hospitals and insurers, so people can get a transparent understanding of the cost of their medical bills and make more informed financial decisions on healthcare services,” the rapper said.
“With prices hidden, oftentimes, the bills are not even consistent at the same hospital. It’s tearing families apart.”
Rising Medical Costs in the U.S.
According to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, increased healthcare costs is the “key driver of America’s unsustainable national debt.”
The foundation notes that in 2021, healthcare spending in the U.S. reached 4.3 trillion, averaging out to approximately $12,900 for each person.
“By comparison, the average cost of healthcare per person in other wealthy countries is only about half as much,” the foundation explained. “While the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the trend in rising healthcare costs, such spending has been increasing long before COVID-19 began. Relative to the size of the economy, healthcare costs have increased over the past few decades, from 5 percent of GDP in 1960 to 18 percent in 2021.”
Some possible reasons, according to the foundation, behind the rise in healthcare costs include:
- “The introduction of new, innovative healthcare technology can lead to better, more expensive procedures and products.
- “The complexity of the U.S. healthcare system can lead to administrative waste in the insurance and provider payment systems.
- “The consolidation of hospitals can lead to a lack of competition or even a monopoly, granting providers the opportunity to increase prices.”
Meanwhile, a White House report from earlier this year states that unpaid medical debt makes up for more than half of all debt in collections, meaning the debt is more than personal loans, credit card, utilities, and phone bills combined.
And when it comes specifically to cancer care, recent findings estimate that American cancer patients spent more than $21 billion on their care in 2019.
That number includes out-of-pocket and “patient time” costs, which takes into account the time spent traveling for, waiting for and receiving care, leaving a heavy financial burden on people already fighting the most important battle of their lives.
How Cancer Patients Can Cope With Medical Bills
Cancer treatments are pricey, even with help from insurance. And some people lose income as they’re unable to work and/or they must pay for childcare while undergoing treatment.
Even the cost of parking at the hospital can add an extra burden to any available funds. Often referred to as the financial toxicity of cancer, it can take a toll on anyone’s budget.
How to Get Help With the Cancer Bills
A diagnosis can serve as motivation to get important finances in order, and to think about our long-term finances.
Paul Karger, co-founder and managing partner of TwinFocus, a premier financial advisement firm with offices in Boston and London, previously spoke with SurvivorNet about financial advice for cancer patients.
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“Interestingly enough the whole world has faced this similar topic with [the COVID-19] pandemic,” he said.
“People wake up and realize that whether you have significant means or not, there are still some basic planning items it makes sense to have in place, especially if you have children.”
Paying for Cancer — Find Someone Who Will Advocate for You
When it comes to paying for treatment, the bills can feel overwhelming. While there are resources that may help in some cases, Niv Persaud, managing director at Transition Planning & Guidance LLC, in Atlanta, said there are some other steps those diagnosed with cancer may want to take, including:
- Calculate deductibles and estimated out-of-pocket costs for medical treatment.
- Total the amount you have available in your emergency reserve, health savings account, and flex spending account.
- Tighten your budget by reducing or eliminating non-essential expenses. Look at money spent on shopping, food delivery, entertainment, subscription services, etc.
- Review your payroll deductions and reduce or eliminate those that are optional where it makes sense. Some pre-tax deductions will have minimal impact on your take-home pay. Before making any changes, ask your HR contact to calculate the impact.
Should you ever borrow from a retirement plan to pay for treatment? Karger said there are no hard and fast rules.
“Personally, I think when you’re faced with a life-threatening illness, your health is number one,” he told SurvivorNet. “You do whatever you have to do.”
People struggling to pay for cancer treatment also have a few options to get help with medical bills.
Many cancer centers have social workers or patient navigators on staff who can help patients navigate finances, work out payment plans, and look into whether they are eligible for any financial assistance programs.
Getting Financial Help & Assistance Amid Cancer
If you have had trouble finding resources or answers about how to get help paying for cancer, there are a few routes you can consider. You can negotiate payment plans, seek out government assistance programs, or look to advocacy groups.
These are a few of the options cancer patients and their loved ones have to get help covering costs associated with treatment (from drug co-pays to travel assistance):
Covering Caregiver Costs
- Some states offer compensation to cancer caregivers. You can check with the Department of Health and Human Services for local resources.
- CancerCare offers free services to caregivers as well, and their oncology social workers may be able to connect struggling caregivers with mental health professionals, support groups, and other resources.
For Help With Treatment Bills
- The Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition can direct patients and their families to available local services.
- Many treatment centers offer extended payment plans and some may offer temporary payment delays, according to the American Cancer Society.
- CancerCare, which connects patients with oncology social workers, may be able to assist with co-pays, transportation, and other costs associated with care.
- The HealthWell Foundation may be able to help uninsured patients pay for treatment.
- The American Cancer Society may be able to link patients and their families up with local resources (they offer a 24/7 helpline).
- The Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF) works with patients and their insurance companies to resolve issues and may provide direct financial support to some patients.
- The Patient Access Network Foundation may be able to help with out-of-pocket costs associated with cancer treatment.
For Help With Transportation and/or Housing
- There are several programs that may be able to assist patients if they need to travel by plane to get treatment, including Air Care Alliance, the Corporate Angel Network, and PALS (Patient Airlift Services).
- Patients with Medicaid may be entitled to help paying for transportation costs to and from treatment.
- The American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program can hook patients and their families up with volunteer drivers.
- Mercy Medical Angels may be able to help patients and their families pay for transportation.
- The Healthcare Hospitality Network can assist with housing if a patient must be treated far from home.
- The American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Program gives patients and their caregivers a free place to stay during treatment in dozens of cities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
For Help With Food
- Food assistance may be available to people going through cancer treatment and their caregivers. Look into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – aka SNAP – or a program like Meals on Wheels.
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Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff
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