The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been a challenging time for us all. It is especially so for cancer patients and survivors, who are at greater risk of getting sicker if they become infected with the virus because they might be immunocompromised.
On top of that, many patients and caregivers are struggling with financial hardship due to the coronavirus crisis. We’re hearing from patients and caregivers who have lost their jobs, or who are furloughed while their companies temporarily close, resulting in lost income and lost insurance coverage. Grocery costs are higher, as more people are relying on more expensive delivery services to avoid going to stores. Some patients are also facing extra expenses as a result of ordering more of their medications to be delivered at once, to reduce pharmacy visits.
If you’re experiencing financial hardship or emotional distress during these uncertain times, remember that you are not alone. It’s understandable to feel concerned, anxious or upset. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is here to help. Our Information Specialists, master’s level oncology professionals, are available to answer your questions and provide one-on-one support at 800-955-4572.
LLS is amplifying the free education and support we provide virtually, so you can find the help you need while staying at home. At the same time, we continue to advocate for policies to protect cancer patients during this crisis and beyond. Learn more about our latest advocacy efforts here.
LLS Financial Assistance Programs
On April 1, LLS launched the LLS COVID-19 Patient Financial Aid Program, providing an individual, one-time $250 stipend per patient, to help eligible blood cancer patients with non-medical expenses such as food, utilities, transportation and other household needs. Patients do not need to have a COVID-19 diagnosis and there are no income criteria to qualify.
The response has been overwhelming as we’ve provided more than $2 million to more than 8,500 patients to date, and the applications continue to come in. If you or someone you know with a blood cancer needs help, learn more here.
For Kay and David, a couple who have both been diagnosed with lymphoma, the aid came just in time.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the help I’ve gotten from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society,” says Kay. “Because my husband cannot do his semi-retirement job of tour bus driving, the funds will be very helpful with our groceries.”
In addition to this program, we offer other financial assistance programs to help offset expenses or provide financial support toward the cost of insurance co-payments and/or insurance premium costs for prescription drugs. Learn more here.
While we all are navigating uncertainty and challenges in these unprecedented times, there is promising news: science is racing forward. Dedicated researchers around the world are collaborating in new ways, sharing data openly and advancing our understanding of the novel virus that causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19). In fact, more than 70 countries have joined the World Health Organization in accelerating research on effective treatments for COVID-19 and about 20 institutions and companies are pushing to develop a vaccine. What’s more, numerous drugs initially approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat blood cancers are now being explored to control the hyperimmune response to COVID-19. LLS-funded researchers are bringing these COVID-19 trials to the forefront. You can read some of the latest scientific papers on COVID-19 here.
LLS remains as committed as ever to our mission – including staying the course with our investment in cutting edge blood cancer research around the globe. We’re proud to support our global community of pioneering researchers who are adapting and innovating in this new normal. To inspire blood cancer patients, families, researchers, healthcare professionals, volunteers and supporters everywhere, I’d like to reflect on how far we’ve come in treating blood cancers in the past three years alone, thanks to the tireless work of LLS-funded researchers who are relentless for cures.
As the coronavirus continues its spread, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) has a vital role to play in ensuring our government takes every step necessary to protect cancer patients. With that in mind, we’re sharing with our community what LLS has been doing to make sure the unique needs of blood cancer patients are being heard by the government at this unprecedented time.
First, some background: LLS’s Office of Public Policy is focused on influencing the laws, regulations and rules – at all levels of government – that affect cancer patients. The team, operating in Washington, D.C. and across the country, includes experts in lobbying, grassroots advocacy, communications and policy research. Their goal is to advance public policies that promise the safe and speedy development and approval of new cancer treatments, as well as policies that break down the barriers to care that patients often encounter. COVID-19 hasn’t changed this focus at all. In fact, it makes our public policy work even more critical, since cancer patients and survivors are vulnerable to serious illness if infected with this new disease.
LLS is hearing from patients who are concerned about being able to pay household bills, like their mortgage payments, because they’ve been furloughed without pay and are facing potential job loss as a result of the pandemic. In addition, patients are facing Medicaid barriers – and this is impacting access to the care they need. “I need those benefits now. I’ve got leukemia and polycythemia vera. I won’t survive another 15 months unless I can find a way to pay for the medication that could save my life. This is critical. We need help now,” writes a patient.
LLS is committed to putting patients and their families first during this time. You might have seen the news that Congress passed recently three pieces of coronavirus legislation, totaling more than $2 trillion. As federal lawmakers began formulating the coronavirus relief packages last month, LLS played a lead role organizing 29 national patient advocacy organizations to deliver a letter to Congressional leadership urging swift adoption of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Now law, this measure takes steps to facilitate social distancing and provide no-cost COVID-19 testing, among other things. Currently, Congress is in recess – most lawmakers have left Washington and returned to their districts – but their work and ours isn’t close to being done.
We continue to push for even more from Congress as well as the White House. Just this week, LLS organized 33 patient organizations to send a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to adopt key reforms in their fourth round of COVID-19 legislation. Additionally, we launched an effort to reach governors in all 50 states, asking them to take action where they have authority. More than 22 national patient organizations are partnering with us in this coordinated campaign, along with additional state and local organizations.
Together with our partners, we are advocating for policies that we believe are critical to protecting both public health and the interests of patients, including:
Expanding Medicaid eligibility and funding so more low-income people can access healthcare during this critical time
Removing Medicaid barriers that prevent people from getting the care they need
Providing more opportunities for telemedicine to increase social distancing and reduce the risk of transmission of the novel coronavirus
Relaxing restrictions on drug refills so patients can ensure adequate supplies and reduce their travel to pharmacies
Opening a special enrollment period on Healthcare.gov so anyone who needs to can buy health insurance right now, ensuring affordable access to healthcare
Ensuring access to COVID-19 treatment, testing and vaccines (when available) for all patients who need it
Protecting patients from surprise medical bills that might come from treatment and testing for COVID-19
Providing additional funding for community health centers to address this crisis
Thankfully, LLS works with a vibrant grassroots advocacy community, comprised of many passionate volunteer advocates who are helping to elevate the voices of cancer patients during the pandemic. So far, they’ve sent more than 6,800 letters to Congress urging lawmakers to adopt policies like those described above – and the number of letters grows every day.
We invite you to join us as we continue to take action to protect cancer patients during the coronavirus crisis and beyond. We promise to keep standing up for our community and keep you up-to-date on how our shared efforts help to move the needle.