My time to track down assistance as an uninsured cancer patient has left me little time to consider the reality of the cancer itself. If you know of someone who is in the position of being uninsured, under insured or will need assistance of any kind please pass on this blog. Although the task of applying for assistance is daunting and it is hard to find organizations who have funds to help, there are some worthy resources available. I found possible insurance this late in the game, help with utility bills, house payments, rides, companionship, counseling and the list goes on. I know not one agency who has all the answers but collectively they make an impact in the lives of those who are struggling with an illness.
1) For the uninsured with pre-existing illness. PCIP insurance was initiated as part of the Obama health care plan. If you have a pre existing illness and you cannot get health care coverage, have not had health coverage for the last 6 months or been denied health coverage because your illness and you are an US Citizen, you are eligible for health insurance. Go to www.pciplan.com. Phone # 1-800-220-7898. Make sure to call this number.
2) Federal, State and Local assistance. This one is tough to get and you have to apply for it in the right order or else you may find yourself starting all over. Make sure you have all the documents they request. You will need to disclose all of your retirement funds, cash on hand, bank account balances and assets. The workers at the independent agencies do not always know how the system works. Keep all your paperwork in a three-ring binder. Record names, dates and conversations.
- First, make an appointment for the Social Security office. File an application for both SSI and Disability. Make sure you apply for both! It may take up to 6 months to be approved for SS, but you can be approved for State and Local assistance sooner. You just need to be in the system. If you have any additional medical procedures make sure to send your information in for your case worker to keep in their file. You will not be able to get any assistance if you don’t start here first. Clark County will not help you if you didn’t ask the State of Nevada first, and the State of Nevada will not help you unless you ask the Federal Government first.
- Second, Medicaid programs are found at the Nevada State Welfare Division. There are several physical offices you can go to. You can print the application online and then go to the office to submit it. Your approval at Social Security will help with the approval at Medicaid. Medicaid will issue you a letter in 7-15 days. You will receive at case number and PIN number to track your information.
- Social Services is Clark County’s program for assistance. Social Services requires the most paperwork by far, so be ready to start gathering all your documents. The will require an appointment to bring in all your medical and financial records which takes approx 3-4 weeks to get. You must apply in person to get the appointment. You will need to be in the Medicaid database before you can see Clark County Social Services at your scheduled appointment.
3) Negotiate your bills! Doctors, Hospitals and other medical facilities can and will negotiate better prices with the uninsured. Some may want cash up front and others will allow you to make payments. They want to help but it takes a little pre planning. Call ahead, tell them who you are and negotiate ahead of your appointment. I was able to negotiate 80% off of my hospital bill.
4) Hold a fundraiser. You don’t have to do this all on your own. Everyone has someone in their sphere of friends and family who has the perfect personality to help out in this area. Think creatively and have fun with it.
5) There are hundreds of Non-Profit cancer support groups that have funds and man hours available to help. Here are a few I found helpful
- Susan G Koman, not only has funding but has resources to help your families with counseling, wigs and prosthetics to massages. They provided that pink book bag I spoke of in an earlier blog post
- Access to Healthcare- 877-385-2345. They are a patient advocate group. They will help you with negotiating medical bills and finding financial aid. Their program has been so successful that they have now gone before a federal committee as a model program for national needs.
- State of Nevada Consumer Health Assistant Program. I called them last and when I did, I wished I had called them first! They had all the information I dug up, including the information about PCIP for pre-existing insurance.
- Your treatment facility will have social workers who can also help you with medical needs, other financial needs and emotional needs. Use them, that’s what they are there for!