Q. My wife was diagnosed with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and we have health insurance. One of her chemotherapy drugs is very expensive and insurance only pays $1000 per chemo treatment. She is 63 and does not qualify for Medicare. We are looking at co-payment debt of over $100,000. Any suggestions?

A.

We often find that the private health insurance we have is fine when you are healthy, but not sufficient enough when diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, you are correct that she must either be 65 years old or determined to be disabled by the Social Security Administration for 24 months before qualifying for Medicare. I suggest you begin the disability application process if you have not already. Certain cancer diagnoses qualify for expediting the application process (called Compassionate Allowances). You can find out more about the qualifications and can apply online or call to speak with a Social Security representative about your specific situation.

Co-pay foundations are independent charities that assist insured patients who qualify with the co-pay costs of their pharmaceutical products. Current charities that assist non small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients are:

CancerCare also offers limited assistance for transportation, homecare, and childcare for patients who qualify. Some local divisions of the American Cancer Society may also have help with transportation to treatment as well as assistance with wigs.

The Patient Advocate Foundation’s trained case managers provide guidance and support and can intervene on your behalf regarding medical debt. They also maintain a network of volunteer attorneys.

Lawhelp.org provides referrals for affordable and/or free legal assistance programs in one’s area and advice about bankruptcy protection and other financial issues.

And finally, you may read our fact sheets about finding financial assistance in your community for further suggestions: