Background: The high costs of oncology care can lead to financial stress and have deleterious effects on the well-being of patients and their families. However, only a handful of financial assistance programs for cancer patients have been implemented and evaluated to date.
Recent findings: Key features of reported programs include instrumental support through financial navigation or education for patients, and financial or charitable support for healthcare costs. Only one of the programs successfully reduced actual out-of-pocket costs for patients, though others were associated with psychosocial benefits or increased knowledge of financial resources. Four of the 5 programs evaluated to date were pilot studies with small sample sizes, and most lack control groups for comparison.
Conclusions: Additional studies are needed that include larger sample sizes and with comparison groups of cancer patients in order to determine whether the counseling and navigator programs are effective in addressing financial distress in this patient population. Of particular interest are programs designed for low-income patients and those who lack health care insurance. Financial assistance programs that implement solutions at different levels of the healthcare system (individual patients, providers, healthcare institutions) are more likely to be effective. Multi-level interventions are needed that address the systems in which patients access care, the actual costs of services and drugs, and the individual needs of patients in order to reduce financial hardship for cancer patients.