Metastatic Breast Cancer: Money, Insurance & Career
Living with metastatic breast cancer can cause significant financial burden. Managing medical and living expenses during ongoing treatment may seem overwhelming when you are feeling anxious about your health. Talking about money can be difficult, and you may not know where to go for help.
Learning how to navigate the healthcare system, health insurance and your personal finances allows you to take control and to focus your energy where it is needed the most—on your physical and emotional needs. We encourage you to talk openly with your healthcare team about the costs of your care. Many resources are available to provide financial support, help you feel in control and budget your expenses over time.
You may want (or need) to continue working after your diagnosis, especially if you have health insurance through your employer. Continuing to work can also keep you grounded by maintaining some familiarity with your life before metastatic breast cancer.
At work, you have a right to privacy. You don’t have to give out personal information if you don’t want to. Since you may see your co-workers every day, carefully consider who, if anyone, you want to tell about your diagnosis. Decide if sharing the news may disrupt your day-to-day work life or expand your support network.
Adjusting your work schedule around your treatments and doctor’s appointments and managing side effects like fatigue may be difficult, but there are resources to help you.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): If you work for a private employer with 15 or more employees and are otherwise eligible, you may ask for “reasonable accommodations” under the Americans with Disabilities Act such as shortened hours, time off for treatment, or use of employer equipment to communicate with your doctors. Visit the Job Accommodation Network for more information. State or local laws may also protect you. For information about state laws and resources, visit Triage Cancer.
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave without the threat of losing your job or health insurance benefits, during a 12-month period. Not all employees are covered under these laws; it depends on the size of your employer and other factors.
- Employee Assistance Programs can help you deal with personal problems that may affect your performance, such as emotional and financial concerns. Talk to your human resources representative to see if benefits are available.
If you need to take time off for treatment, use disability benefits or change your work hours, you may be required to disclose some medical information to your employer.
Disability insurance replaces part of the income people lose due to medical conditions that prevent them from working.
If you think you might not be able to work for any length of time, consider filing for long- or short-term disability. Find out if and when you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits. You do not need to work full-time at the time of your diagnosis to receive these benefits.
Here are some tips on how to apply:
- Before leaving your job, get a copy of any employer-sponsored disability insurance plan your employer provides. Read what you must show to qualify. Find out if your state offers short-term disability coverage, or if your private policy covers it.
- Whether currently working or not, learn if you qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), a long-term disability program. This has an expedited approval rule, called Compassionate Allowances, for metastatic breast cancer. After 2 years on SSDI, you qualify for Medicare, regardless of your age. View your estimated benefit on ssa.gov.
- You may also qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a program that pays a fixed amount to adults with disabilities who meet limited income and asset qualifications. View eligibility requirements on ssa.gov.
- Apply for disability as soon as you stop working. Include a letter from your doctor that confirms your diagnosis, states you can’t work and has your doctor’s contact information. Include your medical records.
- Consult with a lawyer who specializes in disability or government benefits before applying or if your application is denied. The National Cancer Legal Services Network includes groups offering free or low-cost legal help. You can also contact lawhelp.org for legal assistance in your community or your local country bar association, which may have a lawyer referral service or a pro bono legal services program.