Cancer creates hardship, in more ways than one. Of course, there are the physical effects of the disease on the body and its functions, and it can also take a toll on the mental and emotional health of the person affected. But perhaps less obvious, yet no less important, is the huge impact cancer can have on one’s financial health. Even those with health insurance are often challenged to meet their deductibles, make frequent copays, and pay coinsurance (that is, the portion of the cost for a health service or procedure paid by the patient themselves). Even the well-insured, who might not have large out-of-pocket expenses for their healthcare, find that they don’t have the resources to fill their gas tanks or pay road tolls for frequent trips for cancer care. And for those who are of working age, the sudden inability to work due to illness can have devastating effects on the household income.
With these challenges in mind, the Healthcare Consortium created the Community Cancer Fund more than 15 years ago. Today, there are, in fact, two funds — the Columbia County Community Cancer Fund and the Greene County Community Cancer Fund — and they are used to provide assistance to Twin County residents facing financial hardships related to a cancer diagnosis. As you might imagine, monies in the Columbia County Fund are used to assist Columbia County residents, while monies in the Greene County Fund are used to assist Greene County residents. Importantly, every dollar contributed to the Funds passes, in full, to Columbia and Greene County residents struggling with the financial impacts of cancer; no donated monies are used for administrative purposes, which are instead covered by a grant from the Dyson Foundation.
Following a simple application and review process, monies from the Funds are used to pay health-related expenses like health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket medical expenses like deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance. They can also be used to pay for living expenses like rent, utilities, and fuel oil that become hardships when the costs of fighting the disease absorb all a person’s resources. Our practice is to pay vendors directly, whether those are healthcare providers, landlords, or utility companies; we also supply Stewart’s gas cards to individuals struggling with the costs of transportation. While the amount of money provided to each household is modest — that is $1,000 per household in Columbia County and $750 per household in Greene County — the aid can nevertheless be significant to the family who receives it. As we often say, sometimes a little bit of help goes a long way, and prevents a temporary shortfall from becoming a lasting crisis. And it adds up: In the past 10 years alone — from June 2009 through June 2019 — we have distributed $151,600 in Columbia County and $75,600 in Greene County!
You may very well wonder how the Healthcare Consortium is able to provide this financial assistance. It is only possible because kind and generous agencies, businesses, and individuals in Columbia and Greene Counties make donations to the Funds. For example, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and the Greene County Sheriff’s Office are two important contributors to the Funds. The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office annually sponsors “No Shave November,” during which law enforcement officers pay a monthly fee for the privilege of not shaving. Similarly, the Greene County Sheriff’s Office sponsors “Forget to Shave February,” with a similar premise. Both have been critically important sources of support to the Cancer Funds, for which we’re endlessly grateful.
Other, equally important support comes from Kinderhook Toyota, the Toyota Foundation, the East Coast Riders, and the Bank of Greene County Charitable Foundation, as well as numerous individual donors, including past recipients of financial assistance and their loved ones. It is not unusual for an obituary to request donations to the Funds in honor of a family member who has passed away or for a past recipient to make a bequest in their will. These simple practices can generate a significant boost to the Funds, and are much appreciated.
Any Columbia or Greene County resident struggling with the financial hardship of a cancer diagnosis is encouraged to apply for financial assistance from the Funds using our simple application form, which can be found on our website at http://www.columbiahealthnet.org/programs/financial, and any questions or requests for a paper application can be directed to Lynda Scheer at 518-822-8820 ext 328.
The Healthcare Consortium is a non-profit organization with a mission of improving access to healthcare and supporting the health and well-being of the residents in our rural community. The agency is located at 325 Columbia St., Hudson. For more information visit www.columbiahealthnet.org or call 518-822-8820.