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Financial Advocacy Strategies to Maximize Charitable Patient Assistance

By Audrey Quartey

August 17, 2022
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For 18 years, the Patient Access Network (PAN) Foundation has helped patients pay their out-of-pocket treatment costs. As an independent charitable organization, PAN Foundation offers 70 disease funds and 12-month grants that provide financial assistance for patients’ medication co-pays, health insurance premiums, and transportation costs. 

Around half of patients with cancer and survivors of cancer are dealing with financial toxicity , and one of the best ways to handle this is through financial navigation. The resources provided in this article can help ease patients’ financial burdens without adding too much to the oncology professional’s workload. 

In my role at PAN Foundation, I support and educate healthcare professionals on how to efficiently identify and secure charitable funding to support oncology patients’ financial well-being. Below are three tips to maximize charitable patient assistance while streamlining your workflow:

1. Implement a Screening Tool to Simplify Referrals

Our goal at PAN Foundation is to better support patients while considering the impact of social drivers of health. 

We created a brief screening tool to help any cancer program or practice tailor its referrals and services to each patient’s needs. This screening tool consists of seven multiple choice questions that help identify the social drivers of health that are impacting a patient. Those who respond affirmatively to any of the questions may need extra support or referrals for the social drivers identified.

Additional tools to support patient screening for financial toxicity at your cancer program or practice are available in the ACCC Financial Advocacy Network Toolkit.

2. Work Smarter, Not Harder

Confirm patients’ eligibility for financial assistance, whether it be from charitable foundations, oncology-product manufacturers, or federal- or state-based programs, in advance.

Medication coverage and assistance amounts may differ across independent foundations, even for funds that cover the same disease. PAN Foundation’s website hosts an eligibility finder and “ Find a Disease Fund” page that lets you quickly determine patients’ eligibility for a PAN Foundation fund or grant. Additionally, it lets you know if the prescribed treatment is covered by the fund or grant before applying.

Another best practice when confirming patients’ eligibility for financial assistance is to use an online calculator to determine their percentage of the federal poverty level. Funds and grants may limit assistance to patients who fall within a certain range of the federal poverty level. A tool to calculate this percentage is available at NeedyMeds and other helpful websites.

Other foundations have similar tools and information on their websites, so you can better assist your patients before applying for an available grant or fund.

Sign up for a fund or grant’s waitlist.

Charitable foundations like PAN Foundation receive donations for a specific disease fund. This allows some funds to stay open year-round, while higher patient demand may dictate the closing of other funds. If the fund you wish to apply to on a patient’s behalf is currently closed, check if there is a waitlist available. If so, sign up for the waitlist to be notified if/when additional funding is available.

3. Take Advantage of Any Extra Services

Find available assistance using PAN Foundation’s FundFinder .

There are about nine charities, including PAN Foundation, that offer direct financial assistance to patients for their medication and treatment-related costs. However, tracking funding availability across these various organizations can take time.

By using FundFinder , healthcare professionals and patients can sign up to receive real-time texts or email alerts when funds become available at a foundation, which ensures you and your patients never miss an opportunity to apply for financial assistance. 

Additionally, oncology professionals can sign up for PAN’s provider newsletter for quarterly patient assistance updates and resources designed to support your workflow.

For direct financial assistance options from oncology product manufacturers, patients and healthcare professionals can access the digital ACCC Patient Assistance & Reimbursement Guide. Search for any applicable oncology-related product or manufacturer and further streamline your results by adding a filter (e.g., coverage or assistance type). 

Sign up for transportation assistance.

PAN Foundation understands that obstacles to accessing treatment often go beyond the inability to afford medication. That is why we offer a transportation benefit fund to eligible patients who are already enrolled in a PAN Foundation fund or grant. This fund provides covered costs for transportation to medical appointments, groceries, and social support. 

Enroll patients in Medicare’s Extra Help program

Thousands of Medicare beneficiaries may qualify for the Extra Help program—a program dedicated to helping people with limited incomes pay for their Medicare prescription drug program costs—but are unaware of the program’s eligibility requirements. So, PAN Foundation built a robust Extra Help education hub for healthcare providers and patients that includes custom tools to simplify the Extra Help program’s application process. By using the Extra Help program, patients can reduce their out-of-pocket medication costs by up to 85 percent.

Audrey Quartey is senior manager of Provider Relations at Patient Access Network Foundation.

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