Cancer patients file bankruptcy at a rate more than two times that of non-cancer patients. Although a greater number of Americans have health care insurance, the out-of-pocket payments are increasing due to high deductible plans. Patients often have difficulty finding financial assistance programs on their own since a cancer diagnosis is a very overwhelming situation. After seeing this evidence, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute (TCI) at Long Beach Medical Center created the Financial Navigation Program to assist cancer patients with understanding their insurance plan and their eligibility for financial assistance programs.

“There is a lot of research and articles to back up the financial stress that a patient goes through when they get a cancer diagnosis,” says Cindy Gotz, DHSc, MPH, registration manager, MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, Long Beach Medical Center. “We looked at opportunities to eliminate some of that stress and the Financial Navigation Program was implemented.”

TCI evaluates each new chemotherapy patient in the Ambulatory Infusion Center using a financial screening process that includes a full insurance review, determines eligibility for co-pay assist programs and other community resources available. The program also assists with understanding bills and facilitates connecting to the appropriate MemorialCare Resources to set up a payment plan. This assessment is reviewed with the patient before their first treatment and given to the patient to keep for their reference.

The Financial Navigation Program provides counseling and education on the patient’s financial options and connects the patient with appropriate resources including co-pay assist programs. As of December 2015, 63 percent of patients screened at TCI enrolled in co-pay assist programs. Programs like co-pay assist help lessen anxiety from financial constraints.

“We help the patient identify programs that can provide financial assistance to them and then encourage the patient to enroll in these programs,” says Gotz.

Financial navigation isn’t exclusively for infusion patients. If a patient in the outpatient clinic expresses a sudden financial need, a screening can be done to help them as well. The Financial Navigation Program works closely with social workers and nurse navigators at TCI to identify opportunities to assist patients outside of the infusion center.

“We tell patients that we are here as a resource and if they have any questions whatsoever about their bills, or explanation of benefits, or anything else related to financing their medical needs they can come to us,” says Gotz.

For more information about the TCI Financial Navigation Program, call (562) 933-0900.