Health Insurance

Last Updated: August 20, 2018
Moving Forward: Perspectives from Survivors and Doctors. A Patient Education Video Series.

Health insurance coverage is a particularly important issue to review when facing a cancer diagnosis. In these two “Moving Forward” videos from ASCO and the LIVESTRONG Foundation, learn more about managing the financial aspects of cancer from oncology experts and young adult survivors.

Managing the Cost of Cancer Care

Tracking Medical Bills and Health Insurance Claims

Cancer in Young Adults

“Moving Forward” Video Series for Young Adults with Cancer

Full text transcript: 


Video 1

Cancer.Net® A Patient Education Series for Young Adults with Cancer

ASCO® American Society of Clinical Oncology

Health Insurance

Lidia Schapira, MD; Member: American Society of Clinical Oncology: As a patient you may feel that there's another burden that complicates your treatment, and that's all the bills you get, and all paperwork you get.

Diane Blum, MSW; Member: American Society of Clinical Oncology: Health insurance is crucial when you're being treated for cancer. And health insurance is very, very complicated. Now as a young adult you might be without health insurance. Health insurance is often not something that young adults have thought about.

So if you have been diagnosed, if you are being treated, if you don't have insurance of your own, the absolute first thing to do is to look at whether or not your parents can insure you through their insurance. The second thing, if that isn't possible, is to find out what's available to you through government financing and perhaps through some help from private organizations. The bills that you're going to have from cancer treatment are doctors bills, and treatment bills, and bills for scans, and perhaps you're admitted to a hospital. There's a whole range of costs that you're going to have, and they mount up pretty quickly. So health insurance is really key. So it's a question that either you or someone who's close to you should ask early on and start to explore what your insurance actually covers.

When you're being treated for cancer you're going to get bills from people you don't remember seeing. It's going to be really confusing. And they're going to start to come in probably weeks, months after you've started all this. There's a lot to be said for trying to organize in some way.

Dr. Schapira: I'd suggest to you that you keep track of it, either have a folder or perhaps you can delegate somebody in your immediate circle, some relative or friend, to help you with it. Let's stay on top of it. Ask questions, make sure you don't fall behind, because otherwise you might find that you have even more problems when you end your cancer treatment.

Diane Blum: At a bare minimum, you should take all of these bills and put them in one place. That's the absolute bare minimum. Take a shoe box and put them all there. It is more useful than doing just that, to actually have a system. These are bills from the physician, these are bills from treatment, these are bills for scans or tests that I've had. So you have some organization that tells you what's been paid, what you owe, what's the time in which you need to pay it. Also, it's really crucial to take a look at these bills and make sure they're right. Because often there are mistakes in bills, and if you're questioning what this bill is for, you should call whoever has sent this bill and understand exactly what you're being billed for and why you're being billed now.

Dr. Schapira: You may want to look at Cancer.Net and see what resources there are. There are links to community services. There may be specific individuals in your doctor's team who have experience with this—sometimes a financial counselor or social worker, or somebody who's designated to help you, to navigate the system, which can be very complicated.

Diane Blum: There are healthcare professionals in the setting that you're being treated or in the community who can give you some resources. There are actually some people who, as their job now, work with people to actually figure this all out. That costs money, and that might be another cost, above and beyond what you have. But there are also healthcare professionals in community-based organizations that can steer you to resources that will help you get some understanding in all of this.

What You Can Do

  • Talk with your health care team and your family about your health insurance and financial support options
  • Learn about the details of your health insurance coverage
  • Track and review your medical bills and insurance statements using a system that works for you

 [Closing and Credits]

Cancer.Net™: For more information, visit

This video series was made possible by a grant from LIVESTRONG to the Conquer Cancer Foundation.


Conquer Cancer Foundation® of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

The opinions expressed in the video do not necessarily reflect the views of ASCO or the Conquer Cancer Foundation.

Requests for commercial use of this video should be submitted to

© 2012 American Society of Clinical Oncology®. All rights reserved

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Video 2

LIVESTRONG® Foundation

A video series for young adults with cancer

Health Insurance

Brooke Leggin, cancer survivor: My name is Brooke Leggin, and I was diagnosed with melanoma 3 times. I felt lucky to have health insurance, but I was concerned about being under-insured since I was on a student health plan. And I was worried that I may not get the best care because I had to use the student health center as my primary care provider. It turns out that my concerns were valid. The volunteer staff at the health center was different every time I went in. And so I constantly had to relate my cancer story to a new person. That was really emotionally draining. And there was a financial burden. But luckily, I was able to rely on my parents to help make ends meet. I guess that's what I learned. You can't get through this alone. So please, ask for help.

Speaker 2: I was being diagnosed with cancer and I didn't know if my bills were going to get paid. And I'm not under my parents' insurance.

Speaker 3: The first couple of years, I just ignored all of these insurance things because I had too much on my mind with regard to what I was dealing with.

Speaker 4: Some people have complete freedom to take a chance and do whatever they want to do, regardless of what the health insurance situation might be. That'll never be an option for me.

Speaker 3: So it's kind of a—it's a pain. It's a definite pain. And at 25 years old, you don't really know how to deal with it.

Speaker 5: So all of these difficulties of making life decisions and really doing what you want to do have been hampered by the fact that I have to have health insurance.

Speaker 6: We wanted to change jobs and move to a new organization. It was a really exciting opportunity. And I was very fortunate that I worked with the person who was in charge of health benefits at the organization before I was hired to come up with a strategy to ensure that I wouldn't be covered by the insurance but end up with a pre-existing condition.

Speaker 5: You have to learn how to ask the questions and how to navigate the system. And what you need to find out is it's a real difficult bureaucracy to find your way around.

Speaker 6: And in order to do that, I actually had to come on initially as a freelance employee. Because if I got the insurance too quickly, they would pick up some of my prior visits to the doctor and then count that against me.

Speaker 7: There are financial avenues out there and seek them out if you need them. And don't be afraid to ask for help. I mean, people out there will do anything if you just ask for it.

Speaker 8: I was taken care of through Medicare Disability for many years.

Speaker 9: I've just chosen to carry my own insurance which is quite a bit more expensive, but to me, the peace of mind that I can get out of accessing who I want, when I want, is worth it.

Speaker 2: If you don't have insurance, there are a lot of government grants, and foundations, and organizations that would help pay for this treatment that you take. It may take a lot of papers to fill out. It may take a lot of time. But it's so worth it.

Brooke Leggin: When it comes to understanding health insurance, knowledge is power. Health insurance laws are different everywhere, so find out what the law is in your state. It's pretty common that if you have a lapse in coverage, it's hard to get insurance again. So all young-adult cancer survivors should make it a priority to maintain constant health insurance coverage, even if it means taking a job you might not otherwise. If you don't have insurance, look for other benefits you might be eligible for. Government and non-profit agencies are there to help you get the treatment you need. And try to make a connection with at least one person at your doctor's office who can advocate for you with the insurance company in case any questions arise. If you have questions about health insurance, it is important that you talk to your doctor or contact these cancer-related organizations for more information.

What you can do:

  • The system is complicated, so ask any questions to understand it and stay informed
  • Be your own advocate
  • Contact organizations for help

Brooke Leggin: If you have questions about health insurance, it is important that you talk to your doctor or contact these cancer-related organizations for more information.

Health Insurance

LIVESTRONG® Foundation

A video series for young adults with cancer

Thank you to all of the cancer survivors who participated in this video. Footage was pulled from more than 200 cancer survivor interviews conducted by the LIVESTRONG Foundation since 2003.

This video was supported by the Cooperative Agreement Number U58/CCU6230066-04 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.