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What Financial Support Options Exist for AML Patients?

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Published on March 4, 2021

Doctor Explains Financial Support Options for Patients

In the eighth episode of a nine-part podcast series, Dr. Thomas LeBlanc, MD, Leukemia Specialist and Patient Experience Researcher at Duke University School of Medicine, discusses the resources available to help AML patients navigate what can be a very complicated financial process. There is often a support person who specializes in patient financial services, and there are several programs to help offset out-of-pocket costs for medications and treatments. In addition, organizing the financial paperwork associated with your care can be a great task for a financially-minded family member or care partner.

Support for this series has been provided by AbbVie, Inc. and Genentech, Inc. Patient Power maintains complete editorial control and is solely responsible for program content.


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Transcript | What Financial Support Options Exist for AML Patients?

How Can AML Patients Access Financial Support?

Dr. LeBlanc: I'm Tom LeBlanc from the Duke Cancer Institute in Durham, North Carolina. I am a leukemia specialist and a patient experience researcher. And we're going to talk a bit about financial toxicity and financial resources that might be available to patients and families who are dealing with an AML diagnosis. So one of the things that many people don't think about, or we may not actually talk to people about upfront when they're facing a cancer diagnosis with all of the other things going on around, what does this mean for me and what treatment do I decide on and how do I choose, and what are the side effects going to be, is this issue of cost. But we often find that especially with some of these newer expensive, largely oral therapies, that insurances will cover those differently than they will cover IV treatments that you would get in the treatment room. And the way that might be paid for, or how uniquely different the coverage can be from person to person and plan to plan, even within the same insurer, it is just mind-boggling and nobody can know it all and keep track of it.

When I prescribe these medicines, I never know what to expect is going to happen to that person. So we will often counsel patients that they may have really high co-pays for certain oral medicines. Sometimes there also are significant payments for IV medicines and hospitalizations and other aspects of cancer care. But sometimes people find out the hard way when they get a bill three to six months later, and it's a bad surprise. So I encourage all patients and families to ask about this upfront and to know what resources may be available to help them with these kinds of issues. The first thing is: find out who is in charge of these things at your clinic and cancer center and hospital that you're going to.

Who Can Advise on Managing the Cost of Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment?

Sometimes it's a social worker. Sometimes it's a case manager that may or may not have social work training. That may be a nurse, actually. In our case, we have a financial care counselor whose job it is to identify these issues, and most importantly, help identify programs that may help a particular patient and family in their unique situation. So for example, how this often comes up for me is that I might prescribe a new medication that has a significant co-payment or co-insurance amount for that patient. Once we find out that it's going to be, say, $2,000 to get a one-month prescription, most people can't swing that. That's a lot of money. We talk to our financial care counselor and ask what resources there are available and encourage the patient and family to also explore options. And that includes from philanthropic societies, like the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the American Cancer Society, and others that may have grant programs specifically to help pay for expensive cancer medicines.

And sometimes these are on the basis of a certain diagnosis or being treated at a certain place. Sometimes they are more general. Sometimes they are even assistance programs and coupon kinds of programs from the actual manufacturers. It may depend on your income. There's usually a lot of paperwork involved. But the important thing is that you should be empowered to know that there are resources to get help, even sometimes with lodging, if you have to travel far to get to an appointment to get a treatment you can't get close to home. So find out who's in charge, who can help you. Ask questions. Think about it early. And also explore some of the advocacy groups and agencies on the web and look at things like LLS, cancer.net, American Cancer Society, et cetera. Because again, it takes a village, and there should be resources to help you when you have trouble with these kinds of issues.

And if you're a caregiver who's listening, or if you're a patient who has a family member or a friend or other caregiver who's not sure what to do to be helpful, but who's looking for something to do to help you out, this is a really great area where somebody else can really advocate for you and improve the whole process of care by helping with financial assistance issues. So if someone brings you to an appointment and they're waiting for you and you're in the treatment room, getting transfusions or treatments or whatever it might be, maybe that person with you can go talk with the social worker or the financial care counselor, or they can be helping you to bird-dog these kinds of issues and stay ahead of it. Just in the same way that we always recommend bringing somebody with you to your appointments, even if to have a second set of ears and to have somebody who can take notes. Because it just... it's too much to take in sometimes. All of the new, complicated, difficult information that comes out in those often short, pretty action-packed visits.