“Cancer” can be a terrifying word. As one of the leading causes of death in the United States, it is a devastating diagnosis. Beyond its impacts on your health, this disease can also lead to fears of financial ruin. The American Medical Association reports cancer patients pay $16 billion out-of-pocket annually for cancer treatment.
“I have come across numerous patients who have put off their health care because they had a fear of an inability to pay,” Christine Williams, a financial navigator with Mercy Health – Springfield Regional Cancer Center, shares. “I think it’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about what I do, because we have all of these avenues to help cover those costs so you can get the care you need.”
Christine is one of our ministry’s financial navigators – team members tasked with helping patients find ways to limit the financial burden cancer can create.
“We are an advocate for the patient,” Christine adds. “We review their chart, determine what their coverage is, then find any avenue to help cover costs, regardless of how small or large it may be. Cancer is a very scary thing to have to deal with, but the last thing someone facing that diagnosis should have to deal with is ‘How am I going to afford this?’ or ‘What bill am I not paying?’”
Navigators find copay cards along with grant money to help cover treatment costs. Pursuant to its charitable mission, our ministry also helps patients by directly lowering their out-of-pocket costs for things like medications and other related treatment costs. It’s a service that Cindi Leathers calls priceless.
“I’ve been to the hospital, to doctors’ offices, and I’ve even had surgery, but we’d never seen anything like this,” she shares. “I knew it was expensive – had heard people say it was, but I had no idea. Christine took me in, explained everything, showed me all the paperwork. I don’t know what we would have done without her.”
Cindi’s husband of nearly 39 years, Lawrence, was diagnosed with kidney cancer in January of 2022. The pair ended up at the Mercy Health – Springfield Regional Cancer Center as part of his ongoing treatment plan. They say it was there Christine became their guardian angel before they even knew they needed one.
“We were at the Cancer Center, and they were giving us all these names for people who could help with different things, and Christine was one of the names that came up. However, before I even was able to register all this information, she was calling me, and she’d already started working on it. God love her, she just stepped right in and took care of us.”
Christine helped find ways to cover the costs associated with Lawrence’s immunotherapy treatments. Then, when doctors found another cancerous nodule in his lung cavity in 2023, she came through for the couple again.
“He was put on chemo pills that were going to cost about $3,800 for just 15 pills,” Cindi recalls. “I went to her and said, ‘I can’t do this, but I’ve got to keep him alive!’ She got it all set up to where it doesn’t cost us a dime. I don’t know how she did it, but I thank God that she did. We truly couldn’t have done it without Christine’s help.”
So far in 2023, the Mercy Health – Springfield Regional Cancer Center has provided nearly $1.9 million in free infusion drugs, free oral drugs and/or copay assistance to 88 of its patients.
That breaks down to an average savings of more than $21,000 per patient. And cutting costs for these patients may also pay off for other patients in the long run.
“My job is to help patients, but it’s also loss recovery for the hospital,” Christine explains. “Unfortunately, oncology medications are very, very costly, and if we’re not helping patients manage this, they’re either not seeking care, facing outrageous debt or it’s a loss of revenue for the hospital because we won’t turn patients away. Still, just like any business, there’s a cost to keep the lights on. So, anytime we can decrease costs in one area, we can put those resources back into the hospital in other ways – maybe it’s new chairs for the waiting room or some other things to help improve patient care.”
Learn more about the cancer care services we provide at Mercy Health.