The financial impact of cancer includes medical bills and prescription medications costs of course, but loss of earnings is perhaps the most difficult monetary hurdle to overcome. Making ends meet is hard enough when income is consistent, but periodic or extended absences from work mean no paycheck or a reduced paycheck with which to cover everyday living expenses, let alone major medical bills.
Even if you’re able to receive benefits through an employer-sponsored or private short-term disability (STD) or long-term disability (LTD) insurance plan, it is still likely you’ll only receive somewhere between 60% and 70% of your usual paycheck while you’re off work on medical leave. To complicate matters further, disability and LTD coverage eventually run out, with most disability plans paying about three months of benefits and most LTD plans covering about six months.
Treatment costs vary, but cancer is expensive. Chemotherapy and radiation remain the most common treatment methods, though new biological treatments are increasing in number. Due to their relative newness, biologicals are often pricier, but the costs of cancer drugs in general also continue to rise. In fact, the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics reports the average cost of a one-month supply of cancer drugs hit $10,000 as of 2014.
The costs of fighting or living with cancer don’t end there though. Surgeries, biopsies, imaging scans, lab work, pathology reports, and other diagnostic, treatment, and monitoring costs pile up. The stress of covering these bills, especially when you’re unable to work, can be overwhelming. If you’re able to qualify, Social Security disability benefits for cancer can provide monthly financial support.
Some forms of aggressive cancer can also qualify under the SSA’s Compassionate Allowance (CAL) program. This program ensures applications are reviewed and approved as quickly as possible. Most cancers will qualify as a CAL if one of the following has occurred:
The cancer has spread beyond the region of origin The cancer is inoperable The cancer is recurrent despite treatment