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How To Get Ovarian Cancer Treatment Without Insurance

Posted on December 15, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Howard Goodman, M.D.
Article written by
Elizabeth Wartella, M.P.H.

Treatment for ovarian cancer care can be extremely expensive. Even with health insurance, treatment can cost thousands of dollars. Researchers have found that in the U.S., costs for care in the first year after surgery are around $100,000. Managing a cancer diagnosis and treatment is stressful enough without this amount of financial burden.

Fortunately, there are many different programs in the United States to help with the cost of ovarian cancer care. Insurance companies, hospitals, patient assistance programs, nonprofits, and other organizations offer financial assistance programs to help cover treatment costs like medications, doctor visits, scans, radiation, and chemotherapy. They also help with indirect costs such as transportation, child care, and lodging during treatments.

Although health insurance premiums and copays may seem unaffordable, navigating ovarian cancer care without insurance will be a much higher expense. This article discusses options for gaining health insurance coverage and additional financial resources to help with ovarian cancer treatment if getting health insurance is not an option for you.

Options for Health Insurance Coverage

Health insurance is an important option when planning your finances for ovarian cancer care. Although health insurance can be expensive, health care providers and hospitals work with insurance companies to make coverage more affordable, and so it will help you to pay less for care in the long run.

There are several public and private health insurance programs that can help reduce your out-of-pocket medical costs.

Public Insurance Programs

Medicaid is a state-based public program that provides health insurance for low-income individuals, families, and children. Medicare is the national health insurance program available to adults over 65 years old and to individuals who receive Social Security disability benefits.

“I am on Medicare and a Medex plan. Fortunately, everything has been paid for. I have had no out-of-pocket expenses,” wrote a MyOvarianCancerTeam member.

If you have worked jobs for which you paid into Social Security and cannot currently work due to ovarian cancer, you may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. A Social Security application may take months to process, but ovarian cancer qualifies for a compassionate allowance, which will speed up the process of receiving benefits. If you are approved, you will be eligible to apply for Medicare even if you are younger than 65.

You can review details about eligibility and enrollment at the Social Security website and learn more about Medicare at the Medicare website.

Private Insurance Programs

If you do not qualify for a public health insurance program, there are several private health insurance options. You may qualify for job-based health insurance through an employer if you or your spouse are employed.

If you’re a student, check if your school or university offers health insurance plans. If you are a military veteran, you may qualify for Veterans Affairs health care benefits.

You may also buy health insurance through your state’s marketplace or exchange, at healthcare.gov. To enroll in a state marketplace insurance plan, you must do so during the Open Enrollment period, which is usually around November to Jan. 15.

Purchasing a plan directly through a health insurance company is an option, but this is likely the most expensive selection.

If you have recently lost your job and your job associated with health coverage, you may be eligible for a program called COBRA, which allows you to continue your health care coverage. Speak to your HR department for information on this program.

Ways To Lower Medication Costs

If you absolutely cannot get a health insurance plan, other resources can help cover the medical expenses of ovarian cancer treatment. These programs differ by the type of care or services they cover.

Consider some of these tips for lowering the costs of your medications.

  • Ask your doctor if the type of medication affects the cost. Sometimes, different types of medication (for example, an oral medication versus an intravenous injection) will differ in price.
  • Ask about generic medications. Generic medications historically cost less than brand names. Ask your doctor about lower-cost generic alternatives.
  • Ask for samples of your prescribed medications. Your doctor may have samples of medication in supply, and they may be able to offer them to you (free of charge) if you are testing out a medication to see if it works.
  • Explore online pharmacies, which may offer lower prices. Make sure to check the legitimacy of an online pharmacy before purchasing products. Look for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) Seal to confirm whether an online pharmacy is legitimate.
  • Compare prices. Different pharmacies may provide the same drug for lower prices. Search online or call pharmacies to ask about the prices of your prescribed drugs and go to the pharmacy with the least expensive option.

Medication Assistance Programs

Different programs and nonprofits help provide access to low-cost or free prescription drugs. They have various eligibility qualifications, so review each program’s requirements to find a plan that you may qualify for.

  • Patient assistance programs are financial assistance programs for drugs offered directly by drug manufacturers. Explore patient assistance programs for approved ovarian cancer therapies on the Breastcancer.org website.
  • RxAssist Patient Assistance Program Center is a resource that provides information and a comprehensive directory of available patient assistance programs for all diseases.
  • NeedyMeds is a nonprofit that provides information and resources for affording prescription drugs. The website also offers a list of state-sponsored programs that help with financial assistance for medications.
  • PhRMA’s Medicine Assistance Tool matches insured and uninsured people with resources for affording medications.

Members of MyOvarianCancerTeam discuss using patient assistance programs to reduce the cost of their medications.

“I’m on Lynparza, also a PARP inhibitor, which is so expensive that even my copay would be unaffordable! Fortunately, I’m able to get my Lynparza for free directly from the manufacturer,” wrote one member.

Consult Your Care Team

Your cancer care team and hospital workers are a great resource to help make your treatments more affordable. Here are some ways they may be able to help:

  • Meet in person with someone in the office or hospital that sent you the bill. Explain the issue and your financial situation to someone in the financial department or the office manager.
  • Ask about hospital or treatment center funding, charity care, discounts similar to those provided through Medicare, or payment plans to help you afford to pay medical bills.

Consult an Oncology Social Worker

Meet with an oncology social worker, patient navigator, or financial counselor to explore all financial resources that may be available for ovarian cancer medical care. They may know of strategies to save money on care, like scheduling multiple treatments at the same time to save on inpatient and outpatient visit costs. Many local municipalities around the country have resources to provide medical aid for residents of their cities or counties. Your oncology social worker may be able to provide this local information to you.

Most hospitals and clinics have a team of social workers on staff, so ask your oncologist, nurse, or health care provider about working with a social worker. The Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance has a social worker on staff to assist at 212-268-1002. CancerCare also offers oncology social workers that you can contact at 800-813-4673.

Other Resources for Affording Ovarian Cancer Care

Additional resources that offer or can help you locate financial assistance for ovarian cancer treatments include:

  • The nonprofit Ovarcome offers a patient assistance program for ovarian cancer treatment.
  • The American Life Fund offers financial assistance to individuals with gynecologic cancers.
  • CancerCare’s Co-Payment Assistance Foundation helps cover the costs of co-payments for cancer care.
  • The Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance offers financial resources and support for people with ovarian cancer
  • FundFinder is a web-based app developed by the Patient Access Network Foundation. It will notify you when financial assistance (for medication, doctor visits, travel expenses, and insurance premiums) from charitable organizations becomes available.
  • BenefitsCheckUp is a free service from the National Council on Aging. It allows seniors to search for benefits programs that help in covering expenses from health care to housing.

Consider a Clinical Trial

Clinical trials are research studies that examine how well new treatments work in a population of people. Some clinical trials offer treatment free of cost to those that participate. Ask your doctor about your eligibility for participation in a clinical trial. The National Cancer Institute offers a list of upcoming or current clinical trials for ovarian cancer treatment on their website.

“I am enrolled in a clinical trial now that will find the efficacy of new drugs not approved by the FDA yet. My oncologist is hopeful. It gives me a reason to hang in there,” wrote a MyOvarianCancerTeam member.

Affording Indirect Expenses of Ovarian Cancer Care

In addition to financial resources for the medical expenses of ovarian cancer treatment, there are resources to help with nonmedical expenses related to treatment.

The American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge program offers free short-term housing if you have to travel far from home for cancer treatment. The Healthcare Hospitality Network also offers options for low-cost housing during cancer treatment.

Resources for other expenses like transportation, caregivers, food, housing, and mortgage assistance can be found on the American Cancer Society’s website.

Get Support From Others Who Understand

Talking to other people who understand what you are going through can be a great source of emotional support.

MyOvarianCancerTeam is the social network for people with ovarian cancer. On MyOvarianCancerTeam, more than 3,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with ovarian cancer.

Are you uninsured and living with ovarian cancer? Have you had success getting help with your medical care costs? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Howard Goodman, M.D. is certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and specializes in the surgical management of women with gynecologic cancer. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.. Learn more about him here.
Elizabeth Wartella, M.P.H. is an associate editor at MyHealthTeam. She holds a masters in public health from Columbia University. Learn more about her here.

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