Financial Assistance for Chronic Illness: Five Resources

| 6 min read Financial Assistance

No one should have to feel ill day after day. Living with a chronic illness is a constant struggle, and managing your disease can mean missing out on important events with friends and family. Added to this is the stress of high out-of-pocket medical expenses, which can mean foregoing the treatment you need. Yet no matter your situation, know that you are not alone. There are many sources of relief, from financial assistance for chronic illnesses to a range of support groups in-person and online. Here, we explore a variety of resources for chronic illnesses that provide the help you need so you can get back to living your best life.  

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The high costs of chronic illness

Managing a chronic illness can be expensive, and many times insurance plans will not cover the full cost of treatment. Take a look at a few statistics you should know about the cost of chronic illnesses and the financial impact it has on lives: 

  • 60% of adults in the United States have at least one chronic disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
  • Of those with a chronic health condition, approximately 20% of cases are due to an autoimmune disease.
  • Diabetes is the most expensive chronic illness in the country, with treatment costing a total of $327 billion in 2017. 
  • Even with health insurance, high deductibles mean that people with a chronic illness can expect to spend at least 10% of their annual income on treatment according to a study by the University of Michigan.
  • Among American households with at least one chronic illness, the average annual out-of-pocket medical costs amounted to $1,363 in 2018. The average existing medical debt was $1,267 as reported by a PLOS study.

Five resources for chronic illnesses

Whether you or your loved one is living with Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis, or another chronic illness, know that there are ways to find the help you need. The following five resources help those with a chronic disease find relief. 

1. Charities that offer chronic illness assistance

There are many charities that offer help, including financial assistance for autoimmune diseases, genetic disorders, and other chronic illnesses. Some are disease-specific, while other programs will help with any qualifying medical expense. Each program has their own application process and set of eligibility criteria. Below are just a few charities that offer help: 

  • Hope Charities provides counseling to connect patients with the treatment they need. It also offers a chronic disease fund assistance program up to $1,000 to help pay medical bills
  • If you need help with prescription costs or insurance copays, the National Organization for Rare Disorders may partially or fully cover the cost. They currently provide financial assistance to patients with one of 52 chronic diseases. 
  • Good Days is a chronic illness charity dedicated to helping those in poverty access medical treatment for their illness. Their financial assistance covers medical expenses where insurance falls short. 
  • Another charity that supplements health insurance, the HealthWell Foundation provides financial assistance for premiums and deductibles, copays, pediatric treatment costs, and treatment-related travel costs. 
  • By working directly with pharmaceutical companies, RxHope helps low-income patients access necessary medications.. A physician is required to complete an application on a patient’s behalf. 
  • The Coalition Against Pediatric Pain offers financial assistance to families and children dealing with chronic illnesses. The organization helps patients secure medical equipment and therapy not covered by insurance. 

2. Government grants and programs for chronic illness assistance

Some government resources do exist to help those living with a chronic illness, though eligibility requirements are typically strict. Below is a list of resources and programs that may be able to help you:  

  • Run by the National Council on Aging, BenefitsCheckUp quickly connects older adults with medical assistance programs in their area. 
  • The Administration for Community Living supports chronic disease self-management programs nationwide, through their yearly grants. 
  • If you lose your job for any reason, you can still keep your health insurance with benefits under COBRA. This act gives employees the option to continue their employer’s health insurance plan for 18 to 36 months, though premiums must be paid entirely out-of-pocket.
  • You may also qualify for Social Security disability benefits if your chronic disease has prevented you from working for at least the past year. 

3. Online fundraising

Crowdfunding is a great option for those who need support right away and can act as your own chronic illness relief fund. With online fundraising, there are no waiting periods to receive your funds—you can access donations immediately to use toward your medical needs. Use these medical fundraising tips to make sure your fundraiser is a success: 

  • Tell your story through your fundraiser. Only share details you’re comfortable with, and make a connection with your donors by sharing how their donation will make an impact.
  • Consider ways of fundraising without social media, such as reaching out to donors in person. 
  • Host a fundraising event as another way to connect personally with donors as well as your local community. 
  • Send thank-you messages to your donors, along with an update. A simple message can go a long way in expressing gratitude, and donors will be happy to know how their funds have helped. 

4. Chronic illness support groups

There are many support groups that exist to help those living with a chronic illness. Participating in a support group can connect you with a community of people empathetic to your illness and help you find the local resources you need to manage your disease. Check out a few support group options below:  

  • The Center for Chronic Illness offers in-person support groups for those living in the Seattle area, as well as online groups for people around the world. 
  • Psychology Today manages a chronic illness support group database that helps connect you with a support group no matter where you live. 
  • The Reachout app provides community support for those dealing with a chronic illness and other medical issues, including caregivers. 
  • Find a local community through Meetup, which hosts nearly 350 chronic illness support groups around the world. 

5. Research trials

Participating in a clinical research trial may be a great option, depending on the nature of your trial and your specific illness. Before participating in any trial, make sure to talk with your doctor. Below is a list of resources for finding chronic illness research trials: 

  • CenterWatch manages a database for volunteer clinical trials, with opportunities around the world. 
  • Supported by the US National Library of Medicine, is another database of publicly and privately funded trials. 
  • The National Institute of Health Clinical Center offers a variety of trials at their research hospital in Maryland. 
  • ResearchMatch helps to connect interested volunteers with research studies and clinical trials across the country. 

Find help for your chronic illness when you need it most

Medical crowdfunding can help relieve the financial burden of chronic illness and provide emotional support from your community in your time of need. Countless medical fundraisers are started on GoFundMe every day. Stop worrying about medical costs and focus on getting the help you need. Sign up today to start your online fundraiser.

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Written by GoFundMe Team