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Monongahela Valley Hospital's Regional Cancer Center Helps Patients Find Organizations to Help Pay Their Co-Pays and Other Diagnosis-Related Expenses

Monongahela Valley Hospital's Regional Cancer Center Helps Patients Find Organizations to Help Pay Their Co-Pays and Other Diagnosis-Related Expenses photo

Pictured (left to right) are Rhea Regul and Bonny Holmes.
(February 26, 2015 - Carroll Township, Pa.)

For some people, a cancer diagnosis can be a financial disaster. Not only are they or their loved ones facing an illness which may prevent them from working, they may have to confront mounting co-pay bills for chemotherapy drugs.

Many people diagnosed with cancer who receive their medical care at Monongahela Valley Hospital's Charles L. and Rose Sweeney Melenyzer Pavilion and Regional Cancer Center find welcome relief from their pharmaceutical co-pays. For nearly eight years, the staff of MVH's Regional Cancer Center has been assisting patients in finding independent organizations that provide funds for cancer drug co-pays. During the past three years, the Center's staff arranged for patients to receive $1,616,773 in co-pay assistance and free chemotherapy prescriptions. As of the first six weeks of 2015, the Regional Cancer Center has helped 17 patients achieve chemotherapy co-pay assistance.

"Approximately eight years ago, we had a patient who had very high chemotherapy drug co-pays so in an effort to provide help, I began researching programs that would offer some financial assistance," explained Bonny Holmes, supervisor of Mon-Vale Oncology. "We were able to have that patient placed in a program and we have been helping our patients ever since."

According to Mrs. Holmes, there are many independent organizations that help fund patients' chemotherapy drugs - some providing thousands of dollars a year for individual patients.

"When people are ill or if they are helping a loved one through a cancer diagnosis, they may not be able to do the research on their own or navigate through the paperwork that must be completed to obtain the financial awards," she explained. "Monongahela Valley Hospital's billing office will forward the 'Explanation of Benefits' statements and invoices directly to us at the Regional Cancer Center and we will apply for the most appropriate assistance. The patients will never see the invoices and the payment comes directly to the hospital so that the patients and/or their families do not need to worry about processing the payments."

Rhea Regul is a medical secretary who works with Mrs. Holmes at MVH's Regional Cancer Center. She spends more than 50 percent of her time acting as a financial advocate finding co-pay assistance for their patients.

"Once we began researching organizations, we found so many programs that exist to help people with cancer," said Mrs. Regul. "And, the foundations make allowances in terms of income. For instance, some programs provide assistance to people whose income is significantly above the federal poverty level," she added.

In addition to organizations that provide assistance with drugs, there are others that provide resources to help people who need transportation to and from their treatments or other types of financial assistance. The staff of the Regional Cancer Center assisted one woman who couldn't return to her job due to her diagnosis. She was having difficulty paying her monthly health insurance COBRA payments. They found one very small non-profit organization to pay her March COBRA premium.

Mrs. Regul shared an email that she received from a representative from one of the organizations that provides assistance to cancer patients. The woman who was dispensing the funds for the organization was going through a personal experience with her own husband having cancer. She wrote, "I want to let you know what an amazing thing you are doing for your patients. Over the past four years, we've dealt with two huge hospitals and cancer centers and never once has a social worker done anything to actually help us with financial assistance (or really anything else). You are a blessing for your patients."

Mrs. Holmes related another story about an elderly couple who received a grant from a different organization. She said that the man came in and started to cry as he told her that "no one has ever done this for us before."

She added, "People really appreciate the help and that's why we do it."

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