GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The price of treating cancer can really break the bank, as the costs of treatments and medications continue to soar. Experts say it's common for the price of treating cancer to reach $100,000.
As costs continue to rise, Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center is hoping to help.
Eight years ago, the hospital created a 'financial consultant' position, hiring Dan Sherman to work directly with cancer patients in an effort to help them navigate the financial burden of the disease. "The goal is to meet with them and educate on opportunities for them to decrease their out-of-pocket responsibilities," said Mercy Health's Financial Navigator Dan Sherman.
Sherman says it's the greatest job in the world. "I love my job, because I get the opportunity to come in meet with patients in a desperate situation, not being able to afford their care, and we have solutions for them," Sherman said. "There are so many stresses that cancer patients go through when they walk through our doors, and financial shouldn’t be one of them."
Sherman told FOX 17 Wednesday that the number one stressor of cancer patients is no longer dying from the disease, it's fear of financial obligation, an obligation Sherman is easing for patients.
"We need to be meeting with patients proactively...before the damage is done," Sherman said. "Having a $10,000 medication, we can only do this for so long."
Four years ago Sherman was introduced to Fred Erhardt, who at the time was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and given just three months to live. Sherman helped Erhardt tackle the financial toll of cancer right after he was diagnosed.
Erhardt had rounds of radiation and chemo, but was never hit with heavy costs. He never had to pay for treatment, nor his medication costing roughly $7,000.
"Because of Dan, I was able to find an insurance program I could afford," ," Erhardt said. "It took away all financial concerns."
Sherman says the most important part of his job is placing patients on better insurance so they have less financial distress. Sherman placed Erhardt on a medicare plan that covers him at 100%, saving Erhardt roughly $8,000 a year.
"The financial bill was gone," Erhardt. said. "It's just been a godsend."
Now Erhardt is only responsible for paying his premium, thanks to a co-pay assistance foundation that's paying for his medications.
"There are multiple programs out there, national programs that will take care of this issue for patients," Sherman says. It's all a matter of finding the right one.
There's no better feeling than giving patients the chance to be financially free again, he says.
Now, Erhardt says he's feeling great. He's currently in rehab, exercising on a regular basis. He's been cancer-free since the fall of 2012 and is still thanking Sherman for what he's done.
"It's paying off," Erhardt said.
The financial navigation program at Mercy Health Lacks Cancer Center has been around for eight years. Sherman tells FOX 17 in the programs first two months of existence, it saved the hospital $70,000. But Sherman says the purpose of the program is to help patients and always will be.
In an effort to create more programs like Mercy Health's Sherman travels the country training others how to do his job.
You must be a patient at Lacks Cancer Center to be eligible for this program.
To learn more, click here.