April is Financial Literacy Month: BCFM Offers Tips for Managing Finances During a Serious Illness
Developing financial habits and skills is critical for financial well-being during times of hardship, especially now with the economic uncertainties caused by COVID-19. Now, imagine managing your finances when faced with a serious illness. This is the reality for the thousands of patients serviced by The Blood Cancer Foundation of Michigan (BCFM) each year. Among the costliest cancers to care for and treat, blood cancer immediately changes patients' financial lives and plans. In many cases, the moment a patient is diagnosed, they are already living above their means.
BCFM's Patient Support Specialists address the priority and immediate emotional, educational, financial and social needs of families going through a blood cancer diagnosis using a hands-on, personalized approach. This includes educating families on proactively managing their finances, and being resourceful and advocating for themselves, throughout the journey to ensure ongoing stability and overall well-being.
In honor of Financial Literacy Month, BCFM offers tips to help families manage finances when faced with a serious illness:
- Evaluate your household expenses and develop a budget. By understanding where your money goes, you can evaluate your priorities and reduce costs where needed to accommodate the extra costs of a diagnosis.
- Set up payment plans. Frequently, when a life situation like cancer occurs, patients can work with student loan or utility companies, for example, to set up interest-free payment plans with minimum monthly payments throughout their medical care or even defer payments. Similarly, hospital financial navigators can get patients on a payment plan through the hospital.
- Determine what outside resources available to help with expenses (and don't be afraid to ask for them!) Now is the time to get creative. Determine what outside organizations are available to offer financial support and assistance. For example, BCFM provides direct financial assistance (prescription and travel reimbursement and special needs grants) and connects patients with other healthcare or financial resources.
- Talk to Human Resources to understand your company's healthcare benefits policy. If currently employed, make an appointment with your company's HR representative to make sure you understand all benefits available to you, including paid time off, sick leave and disability.
- Talk to healthcare and insurance providers. Find out what they expect to cover and what you can expect to pay for all of your medical services and supplies.
- Review medical bills before paying them. Ask your insurer and your healthcare provider questions about the paperwork and billing statements to ensure all charged dollar amounts are appropriate (mistakes do happen).
- Keep tabs on your emotional health related to your finances. Patients may experience anxiety when they get diagnosed, receive their first medical bill, or review their bank account throughout the cancer journey. It is essential to keep your emotional health in check throughout the process and ask for help when needed. No matter the situation, there is always another component of need, which is why BCFM's services are wholistic.
For community members who want to get involved in creating a stable and sustainable future for anyone experiencing a blood cancer diagnosis, visit bloodcancerfoundationmi.org/how-you-can-help.
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