Making the decision of where to go for your chemotherapy is an important one. There are several factors to consider when looking for the treatment facility that will provide you with the best possible care. Finding a facility that accepts your health insurance plan may be the most important factor of your search. You should also consider the facility’s rating and location.
If you’ve already picked the oncologist and treatment team, your choices may already be narrowed. These providers likely have a designated facility. But if you’re just starting your search for a treatment facility, keep these points in mind:
Does it take my insurance?
The costs of your chemotherapy treatment can be costly, so having a large portion of the expenses covered by your plan can ease the burden.
The best way to find out whether the centers are covered is to call your insurance company. You can usually find the phone number for Customer Service or Member Services on the back of your insurance card. The insurance representative should be able to provide the most up-to-date list of facilities that are covered by your plan.
Most insurance plans also have a “provider directory” or “hospital directory” on their website that allows you to search for a facility based on your zip code. Call the facility to ensure they will accept your insurance.
If you belong to a HMO, the facilities in the directory are those that are “in network.” If you’re treated at these facilities, the HMO will cover most expenses after you pay your portion, the co-pays and deductible. Alternatively, if you choose to go to a facility that isn’t in your network, your insurer doesn’t have to pay your bill. Speak with Member Services to learn what benefits are available if your treatment is done “out-of-network.”
If your insurance is through a federal or state health insurance program such as Medicaid or Medicare, call the facility where you’d like to go for care. Ask if any of the oncologists are accepting new patients who use these programs.
You may find that receiving treatment at your chosen facility won’t be paid for by your insurance. If this happens, you have the option of paying for the care yourself, or paying “out-of-pocket.” If you’re thinking about paying for your own treatment, talk with your doctor beforehand. You should also speak with someone in the billing department of the treatment facility to get an estimate of just how much your treatment will cost. A social worker on staff may also be helpful with information about other resources that can help cover some of your expenses.
How does the facility rate for cancer treatment?
Hospitals and chemotherapy facilities are often reviewed by organizations that grade their quality of care. Choosing a facility that’s highly rated by one of the following organizations can help ensure that your chemotherapy is handled by some of the top healthcare providers:
- National Cancer Institute (NCI)—Search for NCI-Designated Cancer Centers by state at www.cancer.gov. You can also call 1-800-4-CANCER.
- American College of Surgeons (ACS)— The ACS Commission on Cancer has accredited more than 1,400 cancer programs in every state across the country. ACS also oversees the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers that selects top centers for breast disease. Search “find a treatment center” at www.facs.org.
Is the facility convenient to your home?
Location is also something you’ll want to think about when picking a facility. As you’re going through chemotherapy, you may sometimes need to depend on family members or friends for transportation.
Being close to home can make it easier even when you don’t need to depend on someone else for transportation. It also cuts down on travel expenses, like gas and hotel fees. If help is needed with transportation costs, you may have access to a social worker or you can contact organizations such as the American Cancer Society or CancerCare.
You’ll be visiting the facility on a frequent basis, so make sure that you feel comfortable with your decision.