5 Tips to Reduce Healthcare Costs | Phil Town
5 Tips to Cover the Costs of Multiple Myeloma
Multiple myeloma is one of the more expensive cancers to treat, even if you have good health insurance. Here are some tips to help you cope financially.
Medically Reviewed by Kevin O. Hwang, MD, MPH
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The costs of treating multiple myeloma are daunting, even for patients with excellent health insurance. Consider just the co-payments for drugs like lenalidomide (Revlimid) and bortezomib (Velcade), which can top ,000 a month. Then there are the visits to numerous specialists, hospital stays, and possible stem cell transplants that are increasingly becoming the standard of care.
“Multiple Myeloma is both incurable and chronic,” says Jane Levy, a licensed clinical social worker who directs patient assistance programs for Cancer Care, a national non-profit organization based in New York City that provides support for cancer patients and their caregivers and family. “These patients need lots of supportive care.”
Treatment expenses are typically covered without hassle by insurers, but it can sometimes be difficult for patients to obtain reimbursement for in-home care, wheelchairs, and prosthetic devices, Levy says. Coverage varies widely by insurer and geographic region.
Patients’ out-of-pocket costs can add up quickly, sometimes putting a severe strain on a family’s ability to cover ordinary living expenses, says Paul Hewitt, a cancer information specialist with the International Myeloma Foundation based in North Hollywood, California.
“I’ve had calls from people who still heat houses with oil, saying, ‘I don’t know where I’m going to get money to heat the house this winter,’" Hewitt says. “Because of unforeseen expenses, it really is a hardship. We’ve heard about people going through all their retirement money or having to sell their house.”
Financial planning is critical for patients and their families who are facing what may be a long and expensive battle with multiple myeloma, Hewitt and Levy say. Both recommend talking with patient advocates, such as social workers at hospitals or local agencies on aging.
Here are some additional tips on managing the costs of multiple myeloma:
1. Consult with a patient advocate, case manager, or social workerconnected with your medical center or local agency on aging. These specialized professionals can help you find treatment, social support, and financial help for covering the costs.
2. Talk to your insurer as soon as possible,or have your advocate or caregiver do so for you. You will need to learn the costs of common medications for this condition, as well as your pharmacy and medical treatment annual and lifetime “caps” — the maximum amount the insurer will pay for your care. This will help with financial planning. Many health insurers have caseworkers dedicated to helping people with complex medical conditions coordinate their care and insurance reimbursement.
3. Check that medications are covered.Medicare patients or their caregivers should ensure that needed medications, such as bortezomib (Velcade), lenalidomide (Revlimid), or thalidomide (Thalomid), are covered by the Medicare drug plan, also known as Medicare Part D, or their comprehensive Medicare supplemental insurance. Go to for more information.
4. Keep an eye on your insurance.Your insurance status may change if you are not able to work. To find out your options, including COBRA, consult your company's human resources department. The offers free counseling through its hotline and Web site to help people find out which kinds of private and government insurance plans they qualify for.
5. Look into a viatical settlement.In extreme cases, patients and their caregivers may consider a viatical settlement, in which a patient’s life insurance policy is sold for cash up front, or even bankruptcy. Levy suggests talking with a financial counselor or social worker before taking such steps to cover costs.
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