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ASCO 2016

Patricia Goldsmith Describes the Financial Challenges Oncology Patients Face

CancerCare provides oncology patients with many services that offer both educational and financial support as well as any help the patient may need with his or her family, such as child care and housekeeping needs. However, Patricia Goldsmith, CEO of CancerCare, explained that there are many financial challenges, including transportation and high out-of-pocket costs, that oncology patients continue to face.


CancerCare provides oncology patients with many services that offer both educational and financial support as well as any help the patient may need with his or her family, such as child care and housekeeping needs. However, Patricia Goldsmith, CEO of CancerCare, explained that there are many financial challenges, including transportation and high out-of-pocket costs, that oncology patients continue to face.

Transcript (slightly modified)

How does CancerCare assist oncology patients?

CancerCare assists oncology patients in many different ways. Last year, we directly served 180,000 individuals in 90% of the counties in the U.S. We did that through the work of 42 masters-prepared oncology social workers that actually provide free counseling, free group counseling, free support services.

In addition, we also provide education where we use KOL’s that actually present 1-hour workshops on many different topics in cancer. Last year, we conducted 58 of those that reached 70,000 individuals.

In addition, we are the largest provider of non-copay financial support to help individuals with their transportation, child care needs, housekeeping services, and meals and we gave out approximately $5 million for that last year.

We also provide copayment assistance through a copayment foundation, free wigs, breast prosthesis as well as bereavement camp and many other services.

What are the biggest challenges with treatment that patients approach CancerCare with?

60% of the individuals that approach CancerCare are actually looking for some form of financial assistance. But, what we do find is that it’s not just financial support that those individuals need. The largest request for financial support actually comes for transportation.

Money that individuals need to either go to a clinical trial, participate in a trial or actually to be able to afford gasoline or cab fare to their physician’s appointments. So, financial issues are very large.

But, the distress and the psychosocial issues are also very large for individuals and for their families. Cancer is not just a disease of the patient. It impacts the entire family so there are many different services that individuals need.

What has changed with cancer care that patients are finding it increasingly difficult to afford care?

I think it’s really everything but if I had to nail it into a few buckets, I would say that the biggest changes that are impacting cancer patients and their finances relate to benefit design, cost shifting, the increasingly large copays and deductibles, the increasing shift of agents into different formulary categories, which sometimes result in a 40% out-of-pocket cost.

As well, the consolidation of oncology practices is forcing patients to drive further for their treatment and that of course has a cost. So those are just some of the things that are changing that are having a dramatic impact on cancer patients. 

 
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