Compassion is Priceless

High-quality cancer care for all is a mainstay at Mary Bird Perkins, regardless of patients’ ability to pay or financial resources. Each year, the Cancer Center incurs approximately $4 million for healthcare services to ensure every patient is provided with the best outcome possible. Also, relieving patients of financial worry ensures those we serve continue prescribed treatments and receive the necessary support and resources required to triumph over cancer.

In order to ensure every patient requiring assistance receives financial navigation in a comprehensive and timely manner, the Patient Compassion Program, was created, providing patients with resources to reduce financial distress over the course of treatment. This is a unique approach in that there are few cancer programs who have committed the sufficient financial resources to ensure there are no gaps in services. Included in the Patient Compassion Program is a team of navigators who assist patients with any financial needs.

“Every patient’s cancer experience is different,” said Tanya Suter, director, revenue cycle management, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center. “That’s why we want to give them as many options as possible to address the financial stressors that can come with a diagnosis. At the Cancer Center, we want patients and their families to be focused on undergoing their treatment, not if they can afford it.”

Given the socioeconomic challenges faced by many patients, there is great need for support within our community. According to a report by the Journal of Clinical Oncology, cancer patients 65 and older face an average cancer cost of $16,441 annually – 49% of the U.S. median household income for this age group. For instance, the Greater Baton Rouge region has an 18% poverty rate and a considerably lower median income than the U.S. average, so a cancer diagnosis can have a negative financial impact on patients and their families.

Currently, more than 540 Cancer Center patients throughout the Mary Bird Perkins network are enrolled in some form of assistance.

The team of financial navigators, which work with patients in need of the Cancer Center’s Patient Compassion Program, walk these patients through options to cover treatment, medication costs and other financial barriers. In addition, this group of dedicated team members works with patients to help them understand and work with the details of their insurance.

The goal of this program, which launched in 2022, includes:

  • Reducing financial distress for cancer patients undergoing treatment
  • Increasing patient understanding of health insurance benefits and out-of-pocket costs
  • Providing financial assistance to patients in need

Beyond treatment costs, the cost of cancer drugs can be another barrier to care. The financial navigation staff can help patients apply for financial assistance that partially or completely covers the cost of medications and copays. If a patient has a medication with a copay they cannot afford, or their insurer is unwilling to cover it, financial navigators can connect them with drug replacement programs, which offer a free supply of the pharmaceutical drug.

When all tools are exhausted, patients can be connected with the Cancer Center’s Patient Compassion Fund to cover costs associated with care.

“Difficult financial situations are unfortunately all too common,” Tanya said. “If we can ease the burdens faced by our patients, their quality of life, and potentially outcomes, can improve.

Generous gifts from donors along with national funds from grants contribute to the patient assistance the Cancer Center is able to provide.

To learn how you can help support vital patient services, visit