Grants for cancer patients
Having a health insurance company that picks up 80 percent of your medical bills sounds great, until you get cancer and your care could be upward of $120,000 a year.
“Medical expenses when you are seriously ill can be overwhelming, especially if you are retired or trying to work and raise a family,” says Krista Zodet, vice president of HealthWell Foundation. The organization she works for is set up to help. HealthWell Foundation currently (late 2013) has 17 funds to assist with medical expenses, established by specific disease, whether cancer or other serious illness.
“We give out what we can until it’s gone and we have to close the fund. But sometimes we can go back and get more support for that particular illness,” says Krista. The amount one patient can receive ranges from $2,000 to about $15,000.
“You can reapply year after year for as long as you need assistance and funding is available. We have been able to help a majority of the people who qualify,” she says.
HealthWell cancer funds and how you qualify
Currently, grants are available to provide for head and neck cancer, Wilms’ tumor, chronic myeloid leukemia, metastatic melanoma and carcinoid tumors. You can go to HealthWell’s website to look for current funding, or to periodically check to see if it becomes available later (links below). The website also provides eligibility criteria. To qualify applicants must have some form of insurance and meet financial requirements, which is an income at up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. As of 2013 those numbers were about $45,960 for an individual, $62,040 for two people, and $94,200 for a family of four.
You are preapproved immediately after confirmation that you meet the criteria. Then you simply submit a copy of your insurance card and doctor’s statement briefly explaining your treatment regimen.
How to get reimbursed
The grant is immediately earmarked for each patient. Typically, reimbursements for eligible costs are processed in 7 to 10 days. You or your practitioners must submit a request for reimbursement for every date of service. And payments are usually made directly to the provider.
“We want to make it as easy for patients as we can, as they are often not feeling well or very busy. We don’t want to ask them to go through one more process,” says Krista, adding that your doctor or a social worker can apply on your behalf. Go to the website section called “Providers and Applicants” for information that your provider will need.
“If by chance we don’t have funding, we send patients to other foundations and or the manufacturers of medications they are taking,” says Krista who also points patients to HealthWell’s Resource page (link below) for additional assistance.
Applying for assistance
You can apply on line or by calling 1-800-675-8416 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST to speak to a HealthWell representative.
A patient’s story
Just over a year ago, a lump popped up on Stella Caracci’s neck that was as big as the end of her thumb. She learned in days that it was non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But there was a drug to treat it called Rituxan.
“I thought Humana would take care of the expense, which was going to be $10,000 a year for at least two years. When I learned I had only very minimal coverage, I nearly dropped my teeth. There was no way I was going to be able to pay for the treatment,” says Stella.
Eighty-six-years-old and retired, she was strapped; the family’s medical bills were already staggering as her husband was fighting bladder cancer and prostate cancer.
Stella’s doctor’s office contacted HealthWell Foundation, and within two weeks the organization came through with a grant to cover her first year of treatment. The second year she had to look elsewhere as the Foundation did not have enough funds at the time. She started the process again the following year when she, once again, was out of financial resources.
“Between my doctor’s office, my sister and me, we were looking for anyone and anybody who might have grant money. But I couldn’t get anything. So I wrote to HealthWell and told them my doctor thought I’d be in remission by the end of the year if I could take eight more weeks of treatment. And I asked, ‘Since I could not have started without you, do you think you could find a way to help me finish my treatment?’
“It hurt to the core to have to ask.
“We are supposed to be able to take care of ourselves. When I couldn’t anymore, I felt so bad. But when I got the call back, and this wonderful person on the other end of the line told me there were more funds available–that I could depend on them again–the sadness turned to elation. I broke down and cried.”
Stella completes her last treatment in December 2013. “My doctor thinks I will be in remission then.”
How the Foundation keeps going
In 2011 over 44,000 patients were assisted by HealthWell Foundation. Some of them, like Stella, received support more than once, as the Foundation reopens funds as they receive donations. Funding comes from corporations and individuals, including patients who have tapped into the program, not used their entire grant, and returned the remainder to the pot to help someone else.
HealthWell Foundation list of covered diseases and medications
HealthWell Foundation reimbursement request form/other forms
Other helpful resources
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