No matter what you may do to prepare yourself, being told that a lump is indeed breast cancer is always a shock. And before you have time to think straight, you're plunged into a sea of new information and difficult decisions. Although you may feel very alone, you're not: The road to good treatment is well traveled. Our guide will steer you through these tough times.
By Janis Graham
The fine print on a health insurance policy is probably the last thing you want to think about now, but it's arguably the first thing you should give your attention to. Here's how to find out how much coverage you have—and what to do about any gaps.
Pick up the phone. You could read every word of your policy, but it's easier to speak with someone at your insurance company who will explain what benefits you have. Get details on procedure pre-approval rules and whether the policy pays the cost of a second (or even third) opinion. If you think you might need more insurance, ask if it is available. Keep records of what was said and when, and with whom you talked.
Don't be denied. If an insurance claim is turned down, find out why. Ask to speak to a supervisor if you're not satisfied with the information you're given by customer service. Enlist a doctor's help if fees, charges, or procedures are questioned. Most physicians have staff who have experience working with insurance companies. Your hospital or cancer center may also have patient representatives—professionals hired to act as advocates in case of a dispute with an insurance company.
Ask for assistance with bills. If you're underinsured, try to negotiate fees with your doctors. Some will "forgive" the amount not covered by your plan. Many hospitals will work with you to make special payment arrangements if you let them know about your situation. The Patient Advocate Foundation (copays.org) and CancerCare (cancercare.org) have programs to provide financial assistance for cancer patients, plus they can direct you to a variety of additional resources.