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Financial Help for Chronic Illnesses: 22 Resources You May Not Know About

Financial Help for Chronic Illnesses: 22 Resources You May Not Know About

Chronic illnesses often come with a hefty price tag, from medications and doctor visits to specialized treatments and therapies. If you’re struggling to keep up with the financial demands of your condition, you’re not alone. Many people face similar challenges, but there are programs that offer financial help for chronic illnesses, so there are steps you can take to ease the burden and regain control of your finances.

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As someone who wrestles with an autoimmune disorder, I’m well aware of just how painfully expensive these treatments can be. It took me over a year to figure out how to get my $17,000 a month medication covered by my insurance.

Over the years, I’ve learned about a lot of different programs that can help you when you’re struggling. Let’s dive in and see what help you may qualify for.

Direct Cash Payments

If your chronic illness prevents you from working, or significantly impacts your ability to earn a living, government programs can offer much-needed cash assistance to help cover essential expenses. These programs provide a lifeline for many individuals with disabilities, ensuring they have the means to afford housing, food, medical care, and other necessities.

Social Security Programs

If your chronic illness severely limits your ability to work, Social Security offers two vital programs that can provide essential financial support: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These programs are designed to help individuals with disabilities maintain a basic standard of living and cover essential expenses.

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  • SSDI is for workers who have become disabled after paying a certain amount of Social Security taxes. The amount you receive is based on your lifetime average earnings. The more you earned, the more you can receive.
  • SSI is for adults and children with disabilities who have very limited income and resources. This monthly payment is offered to help you meet your basic needs. The amount you receive is based on where you live.

You can apply for SSDI and/or SSI online, by phone or in person at a Social Security office. Most SSDI applications are denied, usually for technical reasons, so it helps to have a qualified attorney on your side. Most attorneys will not charge you anything until or unless you win your claim, so start with a free claim review today!

VA Disability Programs

If you’re a veteran whose chronic illness is connected to your military service, you may be eligible for VA disability compensation. This benefit provides monthly tax-free payments to veterans with service-connected disabilities, helping to offset the financial challenges associated with your condition.

To be eligible for VA disability compensation, you must meet two criteria:

  • Service Connection: Your chronic illness must be linked to an injury or event that occurred during your military service, or your service must have worsened a pre-existing condition.
  • Disability Rating: The VA will assign a disability rating based on the severity of your condition, which determines the amount of your monthly compensation.

To apply for VA disability benefits, you can file a claim online, by mail, or in person at a VA regional office. You’ll need to provide medical records documenting your condition and evidence linking it to your military service.

Other Disability Programs

Beyond federal programs, there may be additional disability benefits available at the state level. These programs can vary significantly depending on where you live, but they often provide supplemental income or additional support services to individuals with disabilities.

Here are some examples of state-level disability benefits to look into:

  • State Supplemental Payments (SSP): Many states offer supplementary payments to individuals receiving SSI benefits, increasing their monthly income. The amount of the supplement varies by state and may depend on living situation or other factors.
  • Aged, Blind, or Disabled (ABD) Programs: Some states have programs specifically designed to provide cash assistance to elderly, blind, or disabled individuals who meet certain income and resource requirements.
  • Disability-Related Medical Assistance Programs: States may offer programs that help with medical costs not covered by Medicare or Medicaid, such as prescription drug assistance or waivers for long-term care services.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Services: These programs can help individuals with disabilities gain or maintain employment by providing job training, counseling, and other support services.

To find out what disability benefits are available in your state, start by contacting your local Social Security office or state Department of Human Services. They can provide information on eligibility requirements, application processes, and benefit amounts. Additionally, organizations like the National Disability Institute and the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund can offer helpful resources and advocacy support.

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Remember, exploring all available options is crucial to maximizing your financial security and well-being while living with a chronic illness. Don’t hesitate to seek out assistance and information from reliable sources to help you navigate the complex world of disability benefits.

Patient Assistance Funds

If you’re struggling to afford the medications or treatments your chronic illness requires, Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) can be a lifeline. These programs, offered by pharmaceutical companies and non-profit organizations, provide financial assistance to eligible patients to help them access essential medications and therapies. Some of these programs can provide help with transportation and other expenses as well!

HealthWell Foundation

The HealthWell Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing financial assistance to individuals struggling to afford their medications and treatments. They offer grants to help cover insurance premiums, deductibles, copays, and even travel expenses related to medical care.

If you’re underinsured or facing high out-of-pocket costs, the HealthWell Foundation might be able to offer the support you need to access essential healthcare.

National Organization for Rare Disorders

The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) is a beacon of hope for those living with rare diseases. It serves as a comprehensive resource hub, providing information, support, and advocacy for individuals and families affected by these often overlooked conditions.

NORD offers a wealth of resources, including an extensive rare disease database, information on clinical trials, and connections to patient support groups. They also work tirelessly to advocate for policies that promote research, development, and access to treatments for rare diseases.

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If you or someone you know is living with a rare disease, NORD can be an invaluable ally in your journey.

Patient Advocate Foundation

The Patient Advocate Foundation goes beyond financial assistance to offer comprehensive support services for individuals with chronic, life-threatening, and debilitating illnesses. Their case managers work directly with patients, healthcare providers, and insurance companies to resolve issues related to insurance coverage, medical debt, and job discrimination.

They offer case management, copay assistance, and can even help you connect with grants. The financial assistance programs they refer to can help you with non-medical expenses like rent, utilities, food, lodging and more. Most of these grants offer $1,000 or less, but some go up to almost $5,000 if you’re eligible. 

If you’re facing complex challenges related to your chronic illness, the Patient Advocate Foundation can be a valuable ally in navigating the healthcare system and advocating for your needs

PAN Foundation

The PAN Foundation is a leading non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals with life-threatening, chronic, and rare diseases access the treatments they need. They offer a variety of financial assistance programs, including copay grants, to cover out-of-pocket costs for medications.

With over 70 disease funds covering a wide range of conditions, the PAN Foundation strives to make life-changing medications more affordable for those who need them most. They also provide valuable resources and information to patients and caregivers, helping them navigate the complex healthcare system.

If you’re struggling to afford your medications, the PAN Foundation is a great place to explore your options for financial assistance.

Prescription Assistance Funds

Prescription Assistance Programs (PAPs), often offered directly by pharmaceutical companies, can provide a vital lifeline for individuals with chronic illnesses. These programs offer free or discounted medications to those who meet certain eligibility requirements, such as income level and insurance status.

PAPs can vary significantly in their eligibility criteria and application processes, so it’s important to research the specific programs offered for your medications. You can often find information about PAPs on the pharmaceutical company’s website or by contacting their patient assistance department. Additionally, organizations like NeedyMeds and RxAssist can help you search for and apply to relevant PAPs.

While navigating the world of PAPs can be overwhelming, the potential savings they offer can make a significant difference in your ability to afford the treatments you need to manage your chronic illness.

State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs

Many states offer State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs (SPAPs) to help low-income individuals, seniors, and people with disabilities afford their medications. These programs can vary widely, but often provide direct financial assistance for prescription drugs or help with Medicare Part D premiums and copayments. Check with your state’s Department of Health or Aging to see if you qualify and learn how to apply.

Specific Disease Foundations

In addition to broader organizations like NORD, many foundations focus on specific diseases, offering targeted support and resources. For example, the American Diabetes Association provides comprehensive information on diabetes management, research updates, and community support. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society offers a wide range of programs and services, including financial assistance, emotional support, and advocacy efforts.

These disease-specific foundations often have a deep understanding of the unique challenges faced by those living with their particular condition. They can provide tailored resources, connect you with specialized healthcare providers, and offer a community of support from others who understand your journey. Researching and connecting with foundations relevant to your specific chronic illness can be an empowering step in managing your condition and accessing the resources you need.

Help with Medical Bills

Even with insurance, chronic illnesses can lead to a mountain of medical bills. Fortunately, there are several options available to help you manage and potentially reduce these costs. From hospital financial assistance programs to negotiation strategies and charitable organizations, exploring these resources can make a significant difference in your financial well-being.

Medical debt can be overwhelming, especially for those already struggling with the costs of a chronic illness. CareConnect USA offers a Medical Debt Relief Line, a resource that can help you understand your medical bills, negotiate with healthcare providers and insurance companies, and explore options for reducing or eliminating your debt. You can call them at (866) 530-9949 for help.

Hospital Programs

Many hospitals offer financial assistance programs, also known as charity care, to help patients with low incomes cover their medical bills. These programs typically offer free or discounted care based on your income and family size.

Sometimes this relief is offered through the Hill-Burton Act. This federal law was enacted in 1946 and provided funding for the construction and modernization of hospitals and other healthcare facilities across the United States. In return for this funding, these facilities are obligated to provide a certain amount of free or reduced-cost care to individuals who cannot afford to pay.

Eligibility requirements and application processes vary from hospital to hospital, so it’s important to contact the hospital’s financial assistance office or billing department directly to inquire about their specific program. Don’t hesitate to ask about charity care, as it could significantly reduce your medical expenses.

Medicaid

Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides health coverage to millions of Americans, including eligible low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults, and people with disabilities.

Medicaid covers a wide range of medical services, including doctor visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs, and long-term care. If you have a chronic illness and meet the income requirements, Medicaid can be a crucial resource for accessing affordable healthcare. Eligibility and coverage vary from state to state, so check with your state’s Medicaid agency to see if you qualify.

Medicare

Medicare is a federal health insurance program primarily for people age 65 or older, but certain younger people with disabilities may also be eligible. Medicare offers several different parts, each covering different aspects of healthcare.

  • Part A (Hospital Insurance): Covers inpatient hospital stays, skilled nursing facility care, hospice care, and some home health care.
  • Part B (Medical Insurance): Covers certain doctors’ services, outpatient care, medical supplies, and preventive services.
  • Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage): Covers prescription drugs through private plans that contract with Medicare.

If you have a chronic illness and are eligible for Medicare, understanding the different parts and what they cover can help you make informed decisions about your healthcare and manage your medical expenses.

VA Health Care

If you’re a veteran, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) offers a comprehensive healthcare system that can be a vital resource for managing your chronic illness. VA healthcare covers a wide range of services, including primary care, specialty care, mental health services, prescription medications, and more. Eligibility for VA healthcare varies depending on your service history and income, but many veterans with chronic conditions qualify for comprehensive and affordable care.

To explore your VA healthcare benefits and eligibility, visit the VA website or contact your local VA medical center. Taking advantage of VA healthcare can be a significant step in managing your chronic illness and reducing your financial burden.

Other Financial Resources

Beyond disability-specific programs, there is a range of other financial help for chronic illnesses to help you manage your everyday expenses and access essential services. These programs can offer crucial support for housing, food, utilities, and other necessities, easing the financial strain associated with chronic conditions.

Food Benefits

If your chronic illness makes it difficult to work or afford groceries, food assistance programs can provide crucial support. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, helps low-income individuals and families purchase nutritious food. Eligibility and benefit amounts vary by state, but SNAP can be a lifeline for those struggling to make ends meet.

Legal Aid

Legal issues can arise for those with chronic illnesses, such as discrimination in the workplace or denial of disability benefits. Legal aid organizations offer free or low-cost legal services to low-income individuals, helping them navigate complex legal systems and advocate for their rights. If you’re facing legal challenges related to your illness, seeking legal aid can be a crucial step in protecting your interests.

Utility Assistance

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federal program that helps low-income households with their heating and cooling costs. LIHEAP can provide crucial assistance, especially for individuals with chronic illnesses who may have higher energy needs due to medical equipment or temperature sensitivity.

Housing Assistance

Safe and affordable housing is essential for everyone, but it can be particularly challenging for those with chronic illnesses. Housing assistance programs can provide rental subsidies, housing vouchers, or help with down payments, making it easier to secure stable housing. Contact your local housing authority or social services agency to explore the housing assistance options available in your area.

General Welfare

In addition to the programs mentioned above, your state or local government may offer additional welfare programs to help low-income individuals and families with basic needs. These programs can include cash assistance, childcare subsidies, transportation assistance, and more. Contact your local social services agency or community action agency to learn about the resources available in your community.

Relief Recap

From government programs to patient assistance funds, there are numerous resources that provide financial help for chronic illnesses. By understanding the options available and taking proactive steps, you can ease the financial burden and focus on your health and well-being. Remember, exploring all avenues of support is key to finding the solutions that work best for you.

Sheree Burkett

Thursday 30th of May 2024

Husband has terminal heart failure. We are experiencing very difficult financial issues. Wondered if there were grants for people like ourselves. He has been unable to work for over a year now.

Catherine Marucci

Tuesday 18th of June 2024

Hi. If the resources above don't cover his condition, it may be worth calling 211 to see if they know of anything else. I hope you find something!