Healthy eating is crucial for cancer patients, but financial pressures force too many of those people to make difficult choices between life-saving therapies and the nutritious food that can help them maintain their weight and energy as they deal with the effects of the cancer itself and of chemotherapy, radiation and other treatments. In fact, a study of 254 cancer patients found that 46% reduced spending on food and other basics to help cope with the cost of their treatments.1 “Meanwhile, other studies show that patients facing financial burdens are less likely than other people with cancer to adhere to their treatment regimens,2 meaning that they are not receiving the full benefit of potentially life-saving therapies.
The physicians of Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) believe that no one facing cancer should have to decide between putting food on the table and obtaining needed treatments. That’s why they have partnered with concerned individuals and organizations from the communities RCCA serves to form Regional Cancer Care Charities (RCC Charities), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Individuals with cancer who meet the organization’s criteria for assistance can receive grants of up to $500 to meet living and non-medical expenses, such as buying groceries or prepared meals, making a rent or mortgage payment or paying a utility bill. The grants are provided on a first-come, first-served basis, and are distributed until all funds annually allocated are depleted for each calendar year. A patient can apply for multiple grants, with a maximum annual amount per applicant of $2,500. The charity does not pay patient medical bills, deductibles, or co-payments of any kind, and does not provide direct patient cash grants. Rather, all grants are paid by check and are mailed directly to third party vendors, except gift or other vendor cards.
Terrill Jordan serves as President and Chief Executive Officer of RCCA, which is one of the nation’s largest networks of oncology specialists, and also sits on the board of RCC Charities. He says, “The idea for RCC Charities arose from input from our clinicians and from people and groups in the communities we serve. Our doctors and nurses are very attuned to the non-medical financial burdens many patients face, and want to help ease those burdens. Meanwhile, those clinicians are regularly approached by individuals, businesses, and civic organizations who ask, ‘How can we help people in our community who are dealing with cancer?
“Our RCCA financial counselors help patients get the most from their insurance coverage and apply for pharmaceutical company co-pay programs and assistance from patient advocacy groups, but the costs of fresh fruits and vegetables, nutritional supplements, and other staples of a diet tailored to the needs of a person undergoing cancer treatment aren’t covered by those sources. By addressing the non-medical financial burdens of people with cancer – whether that be paying for groceries or a ride to treatment — RCC Charities enables people with cancer to focus on what’s most important — their health,” Jordan said. “Unfortunately, eating healthy foods costs more than eating foods that don’t provide much in the way of nutrition, as anyone who has shopped in the produce aisle of their supermarket knows. Knowing that you have helped people with cancer feed themselves and their families or pay the rent that month is a wonderful feeling. It also can be a very meaningful way to celebrate the fact that a loved one is a cancer survivor or to honor someone you have lost.”
Mr. Jordan continues, “While lawmakers, the pharmaceutical industry, and others debate how best to increase the affordability of cancer therapies, RCCA has been at the forefront of efforts to control costs for patients and the overall health care system through our provision of value-based care. We have played a pioneering role in outcomes-based reimbursement programs and have adopted evidence-based protocols to ensure that patients receive all the care they need while avoiding unnecessary tests or interventions. While we’ll continue with those efforts to shape the delivery of effective, cost-efficient health care at the regional and national levels, we’re also working to help individual patients meet specific needs they are facing here and now through our support for RCC Charities. RCC Charities brings RCCA together with caring people and organizations to assist those experiencing significant need. I invite everyone to join us in this effort.”
To learn more about Regional Cancer Care Charities, to make a donation to the organization, or to apply for a grant, visit rcccharities.org or call 855-822-7305.
- Zafar SY, Peppercorn JM, Schrag D, et al. The financial toxicity of cancer treatment: a pilot study assessing out-of-pocket expenses and the insured cancer patient’s experience. The Oncologist. 2013;18:381-390.
- Smith GL, Lopez-Olivo MA, Advani PG, et al. Financial burdens of cancer treatment: a systematic review of risk factors and outcomes. J Natl Compr Canc Netw. 2019;17(10):1184-1192.