Finance expert helps oncology patients pay for their care
Vicky Amerson wants UCHealth patients to know that more than just their physical health is being looked after as they undergo cancer treatment.
As the financial case coordinator for oncology services, she understands the financial burden that a cancer diagnosis can bring to a patient and their family, as well as the additional stress and trauma they carry while they battle the disease.
“We tell them we are here for you, and we are going to support you just like your physicians and nurses,” she said. “We want to take that fear away so they don’t lie awake at night worried about losing their life savings or their home. We can’t make the treatment free … but we can make it affordable.”
She and the team of 25 she supervises at 11 UCHealth oncology units throughout the state work diligently to find money to help patients pay for cutting-edge cancer treatment.
“We come up with plan for the patient to make sure they have the funding to pay for their cancer treatment. It’s all more than financial assistance – it’s all about patient financial well-being,” said Amerson, who works out of the UCHealth Cancer Center – Harmony Campus in Fort Collins.
Amerson and her colleagues work personally with patients and their families, fielding calls, answering questions and walking them through complicated insurance claims to help them make sense of hospital bills.
With 23 years of field experience, 12 in her current position, Amerson brings a wealth of experience in working with foundations and pharmacy companies around the country to help secure funding for patients.
And the need is real: She points to statistics showing cancer is one of the most expensive disease treatments in America, with recent studies showing 63% of patients struggle financially following a diagnosis.
“The costs of some of the drugs and treatment can be phenomenal. We realize that and want to make sure that’s never an obstacle to them getting the best care available.”
Through the work of the oncology financial case coordinators, UCHealth oncology patients last year had several available funding buckets:
- $38 million in free oral chemotherapy assistance for patients
- $28.5 million in grant programs to use as needed from various health and medical foundations toward both chemotherapy and non-chemotherapy infusion treatments, as well as for insurance premium assistance
- $10 million in free medication for patients without health insurance
- $3.1 million in foundation funding to help offset patient deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses
Because only about a quarter of the nation’s hospitals have financial assistance programs similar to the one at UCHealth, Amerson has been an ambassador in spreading the word about how they operate, as she shares her expertise with her peers throughout the country.
“It’s just been amazing to be at the forefront of getting UCHealth up to this point, and helping other hospitals as well,” she said.
She is heartened daily by the strength and tenacity of oncology patients and their families. A Colorado resident who moved to the state when she was 10, Amerson enjoys traveling and spending time with her three children and five grandchildren, with the sixth on the way in May.
“It just changes your life and the way you look at life after working with these patients,” she said. “They are incredible people and we get so much satisfaction helping them. While we may deal with figures all day, our patients are different. They’re not a number.”
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You Make Extraordinary Possible
Together, we recognize and honor the qualities within ourselves by shining a spotlight on how each and every one of us improve lives in big ways and small.