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Spotlight on Financial Advocates

December 16, 2021
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In 2021, the ACCC Financial Advocacy Network began featuring its members and the much-needed support they provide patients in Financial Advocate Spotlights on ACCC’s web site. It is through these spotlights that ACCC celebrates the passion and ingenuity of financial advocates and offers insights into just how different these roles and programs are across all cancer program and practice types—from large academic institutions to rural-based community clinics.  

As we approach the end of 2021, ACCC would like to take a moment to recognize the financial advocates who have been featured in our spotlights and the incredible stories they have shared with us. These stories truly show the dedication and cleverness financial advocates must embrace to ensure patients have access to and can afford their anti-cancer treatments. 


Taveon Brown is a medication assistance program coordinator at the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. He graduated from The Ohio State University in 2018 with the intention of becoming a physician. But he quickly changed course when he found the same passion for addressing affordability in healthcare through financial advocacy. After Brown himself faced large healthcare bills and unaffordable costs for needed medication, he identified the affordability options available to him and applied for them. “I've grown to become passionate about finding access to programs that can provide medications free of charge or help with coinsurances and co-pays that patients may get so that they can live,” Brown says.  

Brown has met many patients who come to him thinking that no one cares about their situation, or who think that no one will help them. “You really just have to be patient and very headstrong about what it is that you want and need for a patient," Brown says. “Everything works out.” With patience and knowledge, Brown helps patients cover both the rising costs of their oncology treatments and their physician appointments. 


Karen Carter is a financial advocate at Carol’s Wish, a community-based financial navigation program in the Colorado Ovarian Cancer Alliance in Denver, Colo. With the patient advocacy skills that she gained when working for AmeriCorps, Carter became one of the first financial advocates at Carol’s Wish. Carter identifies with the patients she serves, since she too is a cancer survivor. “I wanted to jump on board to see what I might be able to do for individuals facing the same journey that I did over a decade ago,” Carter says. “It's not a job for me; it's a calling.” 

Carter has helped many patients. When a widow in her early 60s presented to a partner cancer clinic with abdominal pain and a mass in her abdomen, she was immediately scheduled for surgery and referred to Carol’s Wish. The patient was underinsured and was expected to pay $7,500 out of pocket to receive surgery. With news of the cost, the patient declined treatment, saying, “Oh, the pain is not that bad. I will wait seven months to get another insurance policy during open enrollment.”  

Because the patient was self-employed and exceeded Colorado’s Medicaid income limit for coverage, Carter suggested that the patient gather all her business-related receipts to see if any deductions could be made to bring her income down. Through dedication and great patient engagement, Carter helped prove the patient’s income was low enough to qualify for Medicaid, and she got the patient enrolled later that afternoon. “As a result, the patient had her surgery completed in 22 days rather than six months later, and she had zero out-of-pocket costs,” Carter says. “She was so grateful following the surgery after admitting what a stressor this all really was on her.” 


Wendy Morris is an oncology financial resource specialist for radiation oncology patients at Northside Hospital Forsyth in Cumming, Ga. She provides radiation oncology financial navigation services at two locations, where she reviews patients’ estimated costs, collects deposits in advance, and, most important, helps patients navigate insurance and financial assistance options if needed. “It's a very personal service that we provide,” Morris says. “You get attached to patients. You follow them through their successes, their treatment, and their recovery. It is very rewarding.” 

During one patient’s consult, Morris noticed that the patient was reluctant to schedule her next appointment. The patient was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, and she was uninsured due to job loss. Following the consult, Morris saw that the patient kept canceling her appointments. She quickly got the patient on the phone and learned that the patient was afraid of being denied enrollment into Northside Hospital’s financial assistance program.  

Morris reassured the patient that all she needed to do was come back into the office and complete the application, and she would qualify for financial help. Upon doing so, the patient returned to the hospital for treatment the following week. “So many patients are too proud or afraid to ask for assistance.” Morris says. Through a keen sense of awareness, Morris picked up on the patient’s anxiety and offered support and reassurance that allowed the patient to comply with her treatment plan. 


Amy Elgin is an oncology patient resource coordinator at AnMed Health Cancer Center in Anderson, S.C. She is a self-taught financial advocate who provides services to two oncology programs in her hospital: Anmed Health Cancer Center and a private practice. Elgin was wary of taking her position at first. After losing her mom to cancer when Elgin was 13 years old, she understood that cancer impacts more than just patients’ physical health. The experience of her mother’s battle with cancer drove Elgin’s passion to advocate for oncology patients. Upon being hired, she quickly revamped the cancer center’s oncology patient resource program to better meet patients' financial needs, and she helped the oncology program and health system save money. "I just took things into my own hands,” she recalls. 

Because of her passion and know-how, Elgin provides patients security in their financial health so they can focus on their physical health. “I tell people when they come in here to let me take care of the financial stress, so they can deal with their medical stress,” says Elgin. “Financial stress can impact patients’ health just as much as any other stress. It's a huge part of their treatment plan in my opinion. And I've finally gotten the oncologists on board to understand that."  

Elgin’s work has real impact on her patients’ lives. After helping a patient in his twenties who was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme enroll in Medicaid and receive supplemental security income to pay for his medical bills, the patient and his family never forgot about Elgin and the support she provided. When the patient recently passed, his mom reached out to Elgin to share their sadness and thank her for all the help she provided. “We get those patients that just grab a hold of our hearts, and when they pass you just cry,” Elgin says. “But you also know they're in a better place." 

Financial advocates play a vital role in the psychosocial health of patients who are diagnosed with cancer. By treating their financial-related stress, advocates enable patients to focus on their medical care. It is through patience, dedication, passion, and observation that these financial advocates go above and beyond their daily tasks and ensure patients they will receive their prescribed treatment at little to no cost. 

You can read all spotlights on the ACCC Financial Advocacy Network website. If you have a colleague you would like to nominate for a financial advocacy spotlight, please email Christie Mangir, assistant director, ACCC Education Programs.

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