Chronic, and often debilitating diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, kidney disease, and many others can be devastating for those who have the illnesses and their families. Not only are the physical symptoms and side effects of these diseases difficult and life altering, but treating them can take a huge financial toll on families.
In fact, according to Bankrate.com, treatment of these and other chronic illnesses makes up more than 75 percent of the nation's annual medical spending. Unfortunately, often, the financial burden placed on patients is too great, and they aren't able to keep their homes. In fact, according to a study reported in the Sun Life Financial Benefits Planning Report (Spring/Summer 2012), almost half of all foreclosures occur due to a homeowner's medical problems.
Following is a resource guide to provide those suffering with a debilitating disease with the information they need to ensure they're able to keep their home as they seek and receive treatment.
Will you be able to keep working? For how long? In order to plan financially, it's important to know how long you'll be able to continue to work while fighting your disease. Below is a selection of resources, listed by disease, with information on how long you should expect to be able to work and what to do when you no longer can.
There may come a time when you will not be able to work. When that happens, you can apply for disability benefits. The Social Security Administration provides detailed information in their guide on disability benefits.
What will your insurance cover? Through their program, 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, notes how important it is to review your insurance coverage. For example, do you understand what you'll be responsible for when it comes to co-payments, deductibles, and so on? They offer a wealth of articles full of great advice on handling health insurance. Here are a few:
What should you do if you don't have insurance? If you do not have insurance through your employer, Cancer and Careers offers advice on how to get a private health insurance policy through the Health Insurance Marketplaces. It is also a good idea to find out whether you qualify for a public program such as Medicare or Medicaid.
How will costs increase as your illness progresses? Before you can set a budget to ensure you'll be able to keep your home, it's important to have an idea of how much your ongoing medical treatment will cost. Below is a selection of resources, listed by disease, with information on how much you can expect to pay, with and without insurance, as you battle your disease.
Do you qualify for mortgage assistance? The Federal government does offer mortgage assistance in certain circumstances through the FHA's Home Affordable Modification Program. Find out whether you qualify for a mortgage forbearance agreement, in which payments are suspended for a period of time, reduced monthly mortgage payments, or refinancing.
What are your fixed non-medical costs? Macmillan Cancer Support created the online budgeting tool to help those diagnosed with cancer plan their finances. Though it was created for cancer patients, its advice on mortgages, savings and investing, loans and credit cards, and other personal finance matters can be helpful for anyone suffering from a debilitating disease.
What are your medical costs? These ten tips by Sarah Krug provide comprehensive, easy-to-understand advice on how to manage the costs of your medical care.
Will you require in-home care? This Home Health Care FAQ from the Visiting Nurse Associations of America explains what kinds of medical situations require home health care and what home health care includes and provides advice on how to select a home health care provider. Here the Visiting Nurse Association (a different organization) explains payment options for home health care.
Can you receive outside help from family/friends or other resources? If you feel comfortable doing so, you may be able to ask family or friends for a loan to ensure you can make necessary payments on your home and for your medical treatment. More and more people are also looking to crowdfunding to help pay for medical treatment. Sites such as FundRazr, GiveForward, and Fundly allow users to tell their story and ask for and accept financial aid from others.
What can you do to avoid foreclosure? The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides ten easy-to-understand tips on how to avoid foreclosure. For example, contact your lender as soon as you realize you have a problem and open and respond to all mail from your lender. There are also several government programs available to assist homeowners at risk of foreclosure.
Should you write a hardship letter? Hardship letters are used to explain to lenders that you are under financial duress and unable to make your payments. One common form of financial hardship is medical expenses. This article provides tips on how to write a hardship letter. For a sample hardship letter, which cites medical bills as the hardship, click here.
What are your loss mitigation options? This “Foreclosure Prevention Resource Guide' from the City of Seattle provides tons of great information on how to avoid foreclosure. For example, it lays out what your loss-mitigation options would be to ensure you don't lose your home. These options include refinancing, working with your lender to create a new repayment plan, asking for a loan modification, etc.
There are many condition-specific organizations that specialize in providing financial assistance and guidance to people suffering from those diseases. If you are in danger of losing your home, you may benefit from reaching out to one of them. Below is a selection of these organizations:
Alzheimer's – The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services runs Alzheimers.gov, a comprehensive resource of information on the illness for Alzheimer's sufferers and their families. For those experiencing difficulty covering the costs of care, the site offers information and resources on how to pay for care and services.
Brain Injury – The Brain Injury Association of America provides information for people with brain injury and their families about how to seek out and receive financial assistance through federal and state government programs.
Cancer – Cancer.net provides access to several financial assistance programs including Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition, CancerCare, and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Financial Aid Program.
Chronic and Life-Altering Illnesses – The Healthwell Foundation provides financial assistance to insured patients who have chronic or life-altering illnesses.
The cost of medication can be a huge burden for anyone suffering from a chronic or life-altering illness. Partnership for Prescription Assistance helps those who qualify get the medicines they need for free or nearly free.
Diabetes – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on receiving financial coverage for diabetes expenses, and specifically on the diabetes-related treatments Medicare and Medicaid will cover.
Heart Disease and other Heart Conditions – The American Heart Association provides detailed information on financial topics for those with heart conditions. Check out the organization's information on health insurance, medication assistance programs, and job protection and your heart health.
HIV/AIDS – Many states receive funding for AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, which help low-income people who are infected with HIV/AIDS. Find out more here.
Kidney Disease – American Kidney Fund provides charitable assistance to dialysis patients.
Multiple Sclerosis – National Multiple Sclerosis Society offers a wide variety of insurance and financial information, including the following resources:
The American Parkinson Disease Association – National Young Onset Center helps connect those with Parkinson's to charitable organizations that provide information or assistance with rent or mortgage payments.
Stroke – This resource provides tips on how people who've had a stroke and their families can seek and receive financial assistance to help cover the cost of stroke care.