By Lisa Zamosky
It’s hard to imagine anything more gut-wrenching than learning your child has cancer. Until, that is, you consider that for many families, a cancer diagnosis is often compounded by financial trouble brought on primarily by the high cost of treatment.
The American Childhood Cancer Organization and medical social media site Inspire sought to raise awareness about the financial toll cancer takes on families by highlighting the results of a small but telling online survey of more than 100 parents of children with cancer.
An Emotional and Financial Toll
The results of the survey tell a story of high medical expenses, overwhelming amounts of paperwork and medical bills, limits to insurance coverage, debt, high emotional stress and a lack of helpful resources.
According to the survey, 60% of families had health insurance through an employer. Yet, insurance was no guarantee against financial hardship. Half of the families surveyed said they’ve experienced considerable to severe household debt due to their child’s treatment costs:
- 30% spent $2,500 to $10,000 on co-pays, pain management, mental health services, and medical equipment, among other medical related expenses
- 60% spent anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 on non-medical related costs, such as hospital parking, meals away from home, childcare and lodging.
Naturally, at least one parent needs to be available to care for the sick child, who no doubt spends a considerable amount of time away from school and other activities while being treated. Parents spent anywhere from 11 to 40 hours each week care-taking, and to do this, sacrificed their work life and their family’s overall income at a time when money is needed more than ever.
Of the families surveyed, 40% cut their working hours in half, and 33% said one adult completely left the workforce to care for their sick child.
Click here to view an infographic of the survey’s findings.
Where to Turn for Help
Resources are limited when it comes to paying for cancer treatment costs beyond what insurance covers. Most parents surveyed relied on loans from family and friends, raiding their retirement and savings accounts, and credit card advances. Sadly, 9% were forced to declare bankruptcy.
But there is help available that any family facing childhood cancer should tap into. Childhood cancer nonprofit organizations, for example, can be a source of financial help. The American Childhood Cancer Organization offers a list of resources for families in need of assistance with navigating health insurance, locating free lodging while their child is hospitalized, help covering the cost of medicines, and legal advice, if needed.
Share your story: Have you been affected by childhood cancer? If so, how did you cope with the financial and other strains it placed on your family? Please share your thoughts and comments with the community below.