After the emotional and physical impact of a breast cancer diagnosis, dealing with insurance can be overwhelming. The information in this section may help you understand insurance.
Step 1: Understand the basic types of insurance
The types of insurance most important for people with breast cancer are:
- Health insurance pays for some or most of your medical care costs. You may have insurance through your employer or the government (such as Medicare). Or, you may have a plan you bought yourself.
- Disability insurance provides part of your income if you can’t keep working during or after breast cancer treatment. It can be short-term or long-term.
- Long-term care insurance covers any help needed if you become unable to care for yourself. You may get this care in your own home or in a nursing home.
Step 2: Review your current insurance plans
The next step is to review your current plans to see what coverage you have for each type of insurance.
If you work, start by reviewing the coverage given by your employer. It’s a good idea to meet with someone from the human resources department to go over your questions.
If you don’t work, you may want to talk about your insurance options with a hospital social worker or someone in the hospital financial information office. You can also contact your state or local health department.
When reviewing your insurance plans, be sure to read the policies themselves and not just the marketing brochures that describe them. An insurance policy is a legal contract that describes your rights and responsibilities, as well as those of the insurer. It deserves the same level of attention as any other legal document.
Step 3: Talk to a financial counselor at your hospital or medical center
Most hospitals and treatment centers have financial counselors. They can help you with the details of your insurance paperwork and give you an estimate of the cost of your treatment.
Financial counselors can also help you work out a payment plan for the costs you’ll have to cover. If you’re not able to pay, some places may reduce or wave the costs if you ask.
No matter your income, you may qualify for financial aid from federal or state programs. A financial counselor can help you learn about these programs.
Things to keep in mind when working with insurance providers
When buying insurance:
- Work with an insurance agent or agency that’s licensed by your state insurance department.
- Never cancel an old policy until a new one is in effect.
- Make sure you know the limits of your new policy.
- Check the application to make sure the information is correct. False or incorrect information may cause denial of some benefits or even cancellation of a policy.
When dealing with an insurance company or agent:
- Understand and follow the policies and procedures as best you can.
- Ask questions about any unclear policies and procedures.
Make a folder for each insurance policy:
- Keep copies of the policies, claim forms, invoices and letters.
Keep a log of phone calls, including:
- The date and time of the call
- The person you spoke to (name and job title)
- A brief summary of the call
- Any actions that were to result from the call
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