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How To Get Lymphoma Treatment Without Insurance

Posted on December 13, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Mark Levin, M.D.
Article written by
Elizabeth Wartella, M.P.H.

Receiving a lymphoma diagnosis when you’re uninsured can present a financial obstacle. The costs of anticancer drug therapies, hospital stays, doctor visits, potential surgeries and transplants, and radiation therapy for lymphoma can easily add up to thousands of dollars in medical bills. There are also indirect costs of undergoing lymphoma treatment, such as lost wages, childcare, and transportation.

Fortunately, there are programs in the United States to help uninsured people with lymphoma afford and receive treatment. Insurance plans and financial assistance programs provided by nonprofit organizations, hospitals, and other organizations help cover both direct and indirect costs of treatment for different types of lymphoma.

Although getting health insurance coverage is the best way to access and afford treatment for lymphoma, it is not always attainable for everyone. Even with insurance, costs from premiums, deductibles, and copays for lymphoma care can be expensive. This article discusses programs and resources for receiving lymphoma treatment if you’re under- or uninsured.

Enroll in a Health Insurance Plan

Consider your health insurance options when planning your finances for lymphoma care. Although health insurance plans may seem expensive, health care providers and hospitals work with insurance companies to make coverage more affordable, so it will help you to pay less for care in the long run.

There are several public and private health insurance programs that can help reduce your out-of-pocket medical costs.

Public Insurance Programs

Public health insurance programs include the following:

  • Medicaid — For individuals with low income, families, and children. Some states provide emergency Medicaid for a while, allowing you time to obtain permanent Medicaid or another type of insurance.
  • Medicare — For adults over 65 and individuals who receive Social Security Administration (SSA) disability benefits
  • SSA (through Medicare) — For those who have worked jobs that paid into Social Security and cannot currently work due to lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin and several other types of lymphoma are considered to be compassionate allowances. Having a condition included on the compassionate allowances list will help you to receive SSA benefits quicker (if it’s determined that you qualify for them).
  • Children’s Health Insurance Plan — For children and families that make too much money to be on Medicaid
  • Veterans’ Administration hospitals — Provide free care to veterans

Private Insurance Programs

If you do not qualify for a public health insurance program, there are several options for private health insurance:

  • If you or your spouse are employed, you may qualify for health insurance through your employer.
  • If you have recently left or lost your job, you may qualify for a program called COBRA, which allows you to continue receiving health insurance for a specified period of time if you had been on a plan with your former employer. Ask your former employer’s human resources department about the program.
  • If you’re a student, check if your school or university offers health insurance plans.
  • Veterans health care benefits are available to you if you served in the military. Apply at the website here.
  • You may buy health insurance through your state’s marketplace or exchange at healthcare.gov. You must enroll during the open enrollment period, which is usually around November to January 15.
  • You may purchase health insurance directly from a health insurance company, but this is likely the most expensive selection.

Save Money on Medications Without Insurance

Without health insurance, there are different ways and financial assistance programs to help you afford treatment for lymphoma.

Here are some tips for lowering the costs of medications:

  • Ask your doctor if the type of medication you’re taking will affect the cost. Sometimes, different types of medication, for example, an oral medication versus an injection, will differ in price. If the cost is a concern, your doctor may be able to prescribe you the less expensive option.
  • Ask if there are any generic alternatives for your prescribed medications. Generic medications cost less than brand names.
  • Ask if your doctor has samples of your medications that they could give to you.
  • Shop around. Compare prices across different pharmacies by searching online or calling the pharmacy directly. Websites like GoodRx offer drug discounts and also help you compare prices across retailers.
  • Online pharmacies may offer lower prices, but make sure they’re legitimate before purchasing any products from them. Look for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites Seal, also known as the VIPPS Seal, to confirm whether an online pharmacy is legitimate.

Some programs provide drug discounts and other information to help make medications more affordable, whether or not you have insurance. Check if there are any pharmaceutical assistance programs for your lymphoma medications. These programs are offered by drug manufacturers and provide discounts on drug prices. To find them, search the name of your drug plus patient assistance program on Google, or review this chart with popular anticancer medications from Triage Cancer.

Other resources include NeedyMeds, a nonprofit organization that provides resources for affording prescription drugs for many different conditions. The PhRMA’s Medicine Assistance Tool, which matches insured and uninsured people with resources for affording medications, is also helpful.

Discuss Your Financial Situation With Your Hospital or Cancer Clinic

If you are uninsured and cannot afford to pay a medical bill, try meeting in person with someone from the billing department where you received treatment. Explain your situation and ask if they can offer financial help, including things like:

  • Payment plans that could allow you to pay the cost of a bill over a period of time
  • Funding for under- or uninsured people
  • Charity care
  • Discounts that are similar to those provided through Medicare

Hospitals that are Hill-Burton Facilities are obligated to help provide free or low-cost medical services to people who cannot afford them. Check this list to find a Hill-Burton hospital near you.

Consult an Oncology Social Worker

Hospital and clinic-based staff like social workers, patient navigators, and financial counselors can help you navigate resources for affording lymphoma treatment without insurance. They know about different ways to save money on care and assistance programs that you may be eligible for.

Oncology social workers will also know of local city and county-based medical aid options for those with a low income or who are uninsured. Most hospitals and clinics have social workers on staff. If you have trouble locating a social worker, CancerCare offers oncology social workers that you can contact at 800-813-4673.

Consider a Clinical Trial

Whether or not you have insurance, clinical trials could be an option for accessing free or low-cost lymphoma treatments. Clinical trials are FDA-sponsored research studies that examine the efficacy of new drugs and procedures, and they are funded by the National Institute of Health. Ask your doctor if they know of any clinical trials or review the list of clinical trials for different types of lymphoma by the National Cancer Institute.

Although a clinical trial participant may not have to pay for the actual treatment costs, there may be other costs of taking part in a clinical trial like doctor visits and transportation that would be difficult to afford if you’re uninsured. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society offers a list of resources for covering costs associated with a clinical trial.

Explore Other Resources for Financial Assistance

If you’re uninsured and need assistance covering the expenses of lymphoma care, some additional resources and programs offer financial support. Click on the highlighted links below to review each program and its eligibility requirements.

Lymphoma and Blood Cancer-Specific Resources

Some lymphoma and blood cancer-specific financial resources include:

Resources for All Types of Cancer

Some financial assistance resources for all types of blood cancer, including lymphoma include:

Affording Indirect Expenses of Lymphoma Treatment

In addition to financial resources for the medical expenses of lymphoma, there are resources to help with nonmedical expenses, like those for transportation and lodging, childcare, mortgages, and food. The American Cancer Society offers more information about these resources.

Talk To Others Who Understand

Talking to other people who understand what you are going through can be a great source of emotional support.

MyLymphomaTeam is the social network for people with lymphoma. On MyLymphomaTeam, more than 10,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with lymphoma.

Are you uninsured and living with lymphoma? Have you had success getting help with your medical care costs? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

Mark Levin, M.D. is a hematology and oncology specialist with over 37 years of experience in internal medicine. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Elizabeth Wartella, M.P.H. holds a masters in public health from Columbia University and is passionate about spreading accurate, evidence-based health information. Learn more about her here.

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