Financial help for people who have skin cancer

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If you cannot afford treatment for skin cancer, financial assistance may be available to help you get the medical care and medications you need.

Patients are often reluctant to tell their dermatologist or oncologist that they cannot afford to treat their skin cancer. Rather than speak up, many simply don’t get the treatment they need.

Treatment is important. It can prevent the cancer from spreading or becoming disfiguring. If you cannot afford to treat your skin cancer (or think you cannot), there are steps you can take to get the treatment you need.

The resources in this article can help you get medical care, obtain the medications you need, and even pay for related expenses.

Disclaimer: No organization should charge you for financial help. If you are asked to pay a fee, don’t pay it. Seek help from a different organization.

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Financial help for early skin cancer

If you have an early skin cancer, your dermatologist can often remove it during a single office visit. Treating skin cancer early helps prevent it from growing deeper or spreading, so you want to treat skin cancer as soon as you’re diagnosed.

If you don’t have health insurance, consider these options:

  • Ask your dermatologist if the office can give you a discounted bill. If you pay the costs yourself, your dermatologist may be able to give you a discount. The only way to find out is to ask your dermatologist. You may not get an immediate answer, but your dermatologist may be able to find out whether this is possible.

    If you can get a discounted bill, ask what the total costs would be and whether that cost covers everything — removing the cancer, lab fees, and your follow-up visit.

  • Ask your dermatologist if a less-expensive treatment may be an option for you. Your dermatologist will choose the best treatment for your cancer based on the type of skin cancer you have, how far the cancer has spread, your health, and other considerations. Sometimes, another treatment may be an option.

  • Go to a low-cost or free clinic: You can find these clinics throughout the United States. The following websites can help you find a clinic:

Financial help for advanced skin cancer

When skin cancer grows deep into the skin or spreads, treatment becomes more involved. Here’s what you can do to get financial help for:

  • Medical care
  • Prescription medications
  • Related expenses

  1. Figure out your costs. This may seem like an overwhelming task, but it’s a necessary first step. You need to know what you will need help paying for.

    The following resources can help you figure out your costs:

  1. Get financial help for medical care. If you’ve figured out that you’ll need help paying for the cost of surgery, doctors’ visits, and other medical care, here’s what you can do to get the care you need:
  • Tell your dermatologist or oncologist if:
    • Medicare won’t cover your treatment
    • Health insurance refuses to cover the cost

    Your doctor may be able to help. For example, if you are on Medicare, your doctor may be to give you a treatment that Medicare will cover.

    If your health insurance provider denies coverage, some doctors have staff who can help by contacting the insurance company.

  • Cutaneous lymphoma: If you’ve been diagnosed with this type of cancer, you can talk with a health insurance specialist, who can explain your current health benefits and help resolve issues.

    Health insurance counseling
    Caring Voice Coalition

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  • Ask your dermatologist or oncologist how you can speak with a patient navigator. Also called a patient advocate, this person is usually a nurse or social worker, who can help patients get financial support and other services, such as transportation and child care.

  • Contact your state or local department of health. You (or your patient navigator) can contact these departments, which offer different types of aid.

    You can find these departments by looking online. For example, if you live in the state of Florida, type the following into a search engine:

    Florida department of health + financial help cancer

  • Find out if you qualify for financial help from these organizations. To help people get the cancer treatment and medications they need, these organizations offer grants and other types of help.
    • Financial assistance for melanoma patients
      The Melanoma Research Foundation offers resources that help people in need pay for medical care and prescription medications.

    • Financial resources
      Cancer.Net provides links to organizations that offer grants to eligible patients, which can help cover the costs of treatment and other expenses.
  1. Obtain the prescription medications you need. If you need medication that you cannot afford, you’re not alone. Some patients make ends meet by not filling a prescription or using less medication than prescribed. These money-saving tactics can have serious consequences when you have skin cancer.

    These tips and resources may help you get the medications you need:

    Melanoma medications: Some of the medications used to treat this cancer can cost a lot of money. Here you’ll find resources that can help eligible patients pay for these medications:

No prescription drug coverage: If you are without health insurance that covers the cost of prescription drugs, find out if you qualify for a drug-assistance program. These programs are offered by drug manufacturers and provide uninsured people with the medications they need.

If you qualify, you can receive free or low-cost. Most brand name drugs are covered by these programs.

  • RxAssist: Patient Center
    To find out what assistance is available, search for your medication.

  • Melanoma Copay Assistance Program
    When funds are available, The Assistance Fund provides eligible patients who have melanoma with financial assistance to cover the cost of medications they need but cannot afford.

  • Partnership for Prescription Assistance
    This organization helps qualifying patients who do not have prescription drug coverage to get the medicines they need for free or nearly free.

  • RxHope
    This patient assistance program was created to provide free- or low-cost prescriptions to US residents who cannot afford their medications and meet certain income requirements.

  • TogetherRx Access Card
    If you cannot get Medicare, you may be eligible for this card that helps you save on prescription medications. On its website, the organization says this card is free to get and free to use.

  • Drug-assistance programs (by state)
    In the United States, you’ll find a number of drug-assistance programs. Some are for people who receive Medicare, but not all.

Medicare recipients: If you have Medicare, you can get Medicare prescription drug coverage. Should you have trouble paying for this coverage or your prescriptions, these resources can help:


Medicaid recipients: If you’re receiving Medicaid, you can find out about coverage for prescription drugs at:


Saving for everyone (regardless of insurance) who needs a prescription: It doesn’t matter whether you do (or do not) have health insurance. These resources can help you save money on the prescription medications you need.

While you won’t find expensive cancer medications on this list, you may find other medications that your dermatologist or oncologist may prescribe as you go through cancer treatment.

  • Blink Health
    Discounts on generic prescription drugs

  • Good Rx
    This service helps you find the lowest price for a prescription medication

  • NeedyMeds
    Drug-discount card (prescription and non-prescription medications)

  • Rx Outreach
    Non-profit pharmacy

  • WalMart ($4 prescriptions)
    You’ll find the list of medications that WalMart offers for $4.00.

If you have prescription drug coverage, ask your pharmacist how much you’ll pay if you don’t use your insurance. You may pay less by not using your insurance.

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  1. Get help for related expenses: Transportation, childcare, and other costs. If you are unable to work, the costs for getting to and from treatment, childcare, and other expenses, such as non-prescription medications, can quickly add up.

    If you find that you’re unable to afford these expenses, you may be able to get help from the following organizations:

Dermatologists understand that patients can struggle to pay for treatment

While talking about costs with your dermatologist may feel uncomfortable, dermatologists understand that many patients face financial barriers. This is so common that the American Academy of Dermatology Association is working with dermatologists to expand access to necessary medical care.

If you need financial help, take action so that you can get the care you need.


Images: Getty Images

References
American Academy of Dermatology Association’s Practice Management Center. Tips for reducing drug prices.

Steen AJ, Mann JA, et al. “Understanding the cost of dermatologic care: A survey study of dermatology providers, residents, and patients.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2017;76:609-17.