A cancer diagnosis is often among the most devastating news families receive. For particularly severe cancers like mesothelioma and lung cancer, the effects of treatment can be debilitating not only physically and emotionally, but financially as well. Our team of mesothelioma lawyers has 30 years of experience advocating for lung cancer patients. Here, we highlight some of the financial issues families should address after diagnosis.
A recent study found that the average American adult diagnosed with cancer of any type will miss five weeks of work, with family income declining by 20%. Unfortunately, the numbers for patients fighting lung cancer or mesothelioma are likely much higher. Making matters worse, most companies in the United States have either no or very limited policies for sick leave, and there are few protections for patients diagnosed with cancer.
Perhaps it is unsurprising, then, that most bankruptcies in the U.S. are caused by illness. Most people are wholly unprepared for a cancer diagnosis and are thrust into the complex world of healthcare, insurance and disability policies.
The Family Medical Leave Act requires companies to provide job-protected and unpaid leave for certain medical and family circumstances. This includes 12 workweeks of leave in a one-year period for serious health conditions or to care for a spouse or parent with a serious condition. However, this Act applies only to employers that meet specific criteria, such as a private employer with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks. More information on this Act can be found here.
Human Resources departments may also offer short-term disability and early retirement as options.
Insurance coverage is very important when facing cancer treatment. Even with great coverage, out-of-pocket, high deductibles, or additional therapy costs may become burdensome. It is critical that you find out what you will be responsible for paying and what your particular plan covers before you begin any treatments.
Do not assume something will be paid for before making an appointment. One of the major flaws in our healthcare system is that each specialty, each test and treatment is billed separately. You must investigate and understand both your insurance policy and your treatment plan so you are prepared for what lies ahead.
It is often helpful to have one point of contact in your insurance company, ideally someone you feel you can trust, who will help you. It is not uncommon for cancer patients to have an appointed case manager or advocate, who works alongside the family for long-term or complex conditions. Social workers are also available for patients at hospitals or clinics.
Though paperwork is likely the last thing you want to worry about, it is a good idea to keep personal copies of your medical bills and records. You can request copies from the various hospitals, doctors offices or specialty clinics you’ve visited. Records you should keep include tests, treatment history, lab results, scan reports, prescriptions and nursing notes. Many of these can be placed on a CD for more efficient and organized record keeping.
In the same place you keep your medical records, also include copies of your healthcare proxy, medical directives, and do not resuscitate instructions.
All this can be overwhelming, intimidating and disconcerting, particularly for patients diagnosed in the later-stages of the disease. Our lung cancer lawyers help patients order and obtain their medical records, ensure all directives are state compliant, and can even help apply for social security disability. It is our job to take care of all the legal and technical details so you can focus on fighting your illness. We work exclusively on a contingency-fee basis, meaning our clients do not pay anything out-of-pocket, including requests for medical bills. We only get paid if we win you a settlement.
Our book, 100 Questions & Answers About Mesothelioma, is available to anyone free of charge. Just go to our website, fill out the contact form on the right, and we will ship a book to you without any obligation.