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Financial Advocates: Working to Curb the Economic Impact of Cancer

By Amanda Patton, ACCC Communications

February 16, 2016

The financial burden of a cancer diagnosis impacts patients and families at all income levels—insured and uninsured, young and old alike, city folks and those in rural areas. Perhaps nothing communicated this reality more powerfully than last month’s CNN interview with Vice President Joe Biden when he shared the story of how his own family was challenged by the economic impact of his son’s cancer diagnosis. Concerned about providing for his son’s family, the Vice President related how at one point he had considered selling his home and how President Obama offered his financial help.

“Without question, the last challenge cancer patients need to face is the double blow of serious health issues and serious financial issues. Yet “financial toxicity” is increasingly recognized as a potentially devastating side effect of cancer,” writes ACCC President Steven D’Amato, BSPharm, BCOP, in “Curbing Financial Anxiety on the Road to Recovery.”  (The article was published in a special supplement to USA Today distributed in select cities nationwide.)  He describes how many cancer programs across the country are working to curb financial toxicity by adding a new member to the team—the financial advocate—to help patients and providers understand and mitigate the economic burden of cancer.

Increasing Complexity

Since 2012, the Association of Community Cancer Centers, through the ACCC Financial Advocacy Network (FAN), has been creating tools and resources to support these newest members of the multidisciplinary cancer care team. In a healthcare economic environment that is increasingly complex and challenging to navigate—for patients and providers alike—the skill set and role of the financial advocate must change, says Dan Sherman, MA, LPC, clinical financial consultant, at ACCC member cancer program The Lacks Cancer Center.  “. . . we need improvement in this area because even though most hospital settings that provide oncology care having financial counselors who have been tasked to deal with the problem, nonetheless, the problem remains,” he said in an interview published in the 2016 ACCC Patient Assistance & Reimbursement Guide.  Mr. Sherman is a member of the ACCC FAN Advisory Committee.

Evolving Resources

Look for new education opportunities from the ACCC Financial Advocacy Network in 2016 to help cancer programs identify areas of improvement in helping patients and providers cope with the economic implications of a cancer diagnosis, including:

  • Case-Based Workshops providing high-level analysis and fostering collaborative peer-to-peer problem solving. Learn more and register here.
  • Soon-to-be-launched certificate program for financial advocates.
  • Results from the 2015 FAN learning labs for process improvement in financial advocacy services.

According to findings from the 2015 ACCC Trends in Cancer Programs survey, 74 percent of respondents report having a financial specialist on staff.  The ACCC Financial Advocacy Network is here to support these professionals as they work in cancer programs across the country helping patients and families navigate the economic impact of cancer.

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