Dionne Pringle participating at a Wigged Out Wednesday event.

The Cost of Cancer: How Financial Navigators Help Our Patients

Dec 11 2020

The cost of cancer is exponential. One of the leading causes of death and disease in the U.S. takes an enormous toll on the health of patients and survivors, but it also has a tremendous financial impact.

“We always meet with patients, just to let them know what to expect – like their co-pays and their out-of-pocket expenses and deductibles – just so they’re informed,” shares Dionne Pringle, a financial navigator at the Bon Secours St. Francis Cancer Center.

The most recent report by the American Cancer Society says patients and their families shelled out an astounding amount of nearly $4 billion for cancer treatments in 2014. This is one of many reasons we provide financial navigators from the minute a treatment plan is determined, because “sometimes treatment is not covered.”

Financial navigators meet with patients at the very beginning of their cancer journey and again any time their treatment plan changes. The goal is to help patients find sources of funding to limit the amount they’re forced to pay out of pocket.

“A lot of people come in fearing they’re going to have to sell a limb or even their house to pay for treatment. We’re here to help put them at ease,” Dionne says.

These navigators help find co-pay cards along with grant money to help cover treatment costs. When medication isn’t covered by the insurance company, they go straight to the manufacturer to ask for discounted or even free drugs.

“We often have patients sign a limited power of attorney so we can go out and get these grants as well as other opportunities for them if they’re available. If they don’t meet the criteria for any, we help them fill out financial assistance forms. Or, if they’re not insured, we help them sign up for insurance, social security, Medicaid and things like that so they can become insured.”

These navigators also connect patients with the local cancer society, which can offer further help with everything from transportation and medication assistance to counseling and nutritional supplements.

Through her time spent with patients, Dionne also came to realize another important and often overlooked need.

“When I would do financial counseling – after the question of how much is this treatment going to cost, the next big thing was ‘I’m going to lose my hair.’ Most insurance doesn’t cover the costs associated with that.”

Seeing this need, Dionne (pictured above, far right) helped launch a new program at Bon Secours in 2018, called Wigged Out Wednesday. With the help of the Chapman Foundation and the Williams Barber Training School, this event offers cancer patients the chance to receive free wigs and styling as well as scarves and education on various wrapping techniques.

Dionne hopes to continue to expand the program to help with other needs.

“Our big thing is we’re just trying to make sure everybody who walks through our doors is financially navigated so they know what to expect, and we can do whatever is necessary to lower the cost of their treatment. More often than not, we can help.”

So far in 2020, the finance team at Bon Secours St. Francis Cancer Center have been able to save patients $5,699,814.27 in drug recovery costs and another $413,015.57 with co-pay assistance.

Learn more about the cancer care we provide at Bon Secours.

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