Managing money and financial support
Coping with medical expenses
If you are diagnosed with cancer you are entitled to free tests and treatment in hospital, but you may have to pay something towards your stay in hospital if you don’t have a medical card or health insurance.
Medical cards are usually given to people on lower levels of income, but sometimes a discretionary medical card can be given – even if your income is above the limit. For example, if you have a large amount of medical expenses.
If you have health insurance, most of the costs will be covered, depending on your plan and the services you use. It’s best to call your insurer to check what you’re covered for, before starting treatment.
Waiver of medical expenses
There is help available if you’re finding it difficult to pay your medical expenses, especially hospital charges. The HSE can reduce or waive (cancel) a charge if it is causing you severe financial hardship. You will need to show the HSE officer how difficult it would be for you to pay the charge. To find out more about this, talk to your medical social worker or contact your local health office.
Social welfare payments
There are a number of social welfare payments to help if you are ill. For example, Illness Benefit, Disability Allowance and Invalidity Pension. But remember that it’s up to you to apply for them – you won’t get them automatically. If there is a Medical Social Worker at your hospital, they can advise you about benefits. See our Benefits Hub page for an overview of the main payments. Your local Citizens Information Centre can also give you information.
There is help for people who need care at home, as well as support to help with the extra costs you might have, such heating your home, travelling to the hospital or medical equipment. To speak to someone about any of these supports, see our helpful numbers below.
Drugs Payment Scheme
You can get help with the cost of medicines under the Drugs Payment Scheme (DPS). This means that each household will pay no more than €124 each calendar month for prescribed drugs, medicines and medical aids (appliances).
If your medical needs cost more than €124 you won’t pay any more − the cost will be covered by the scheme. A household can be a single person, a married couple or a family with dependent children.
The scheme is for people who do not have a medical card, including people who have a GP visit card. The scheme is not means tested − it is for everyone, no matter what your income.
How to apply: You can register for the scheme by filling in a registration form at your local pharmacy or your local health office. You can apply online at www.mydps.ie.
It can take up to 4 weeks to process your application for a DPS card. If you have to pay for prescription medicines or medical aids while you’re waiting for your card, keep the receipts and you can apply for a refund.
Tax relief for medical expenses
If you pay medical expenses that are not covered by the State or by private health insurance, you can claim tax relief on some of those expenses.
How to apply: You can apply online by registering on the Revenue website www.revenue.ie and claim your health expenses through your tax return form.
Remember: Any claim must be made within 4 years of the end of the tax year that you had the medical expenses you’re claiming for. Do ask your medical social worker or local Citizens Information Centre for more advice.
Help with travel expenses
The Irish Cancer Society has two services to help patients travelling to and from their cancer appointments:
Travel2Care is a limited fund, made available by the National Cancer Control Programme, for patients who are travelling for cancer tests or treatment to one of the national designated cancer centres or their approved satellite centres Patients must be travelling over 50km one way to access the fund.
Our Volunteer Driver Service is for patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments who are having difficulty getting to and from their local appointments in our partner hospitals.
To access either of these services please contact your hospital healthcare professional.
More information: To find out more about services, benefits and entitlements, call a member of our financial support team on 01 231 0522 or contact our Cancer Nurseline on 1800 200 700.
You can also contact Citizens Information on 0761 074 000 or the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection on 1890 662 244.
Irish Cancer Society financial information service
The Irish Cancer Society operates a free information service for patients who need to know what supports are available. You can call a member of our financial support team on 01 231 0522 or download our booklet Managing the Financial Impact of Cancer below.
Coping with financial pressures
There is no doubt that being diagnosed with cancer and getting treatment is very stressful. This stress can be made worse for you and your family if you have money worries because of your cancer. You may be worried about extra expenses like medical bills or travel and accommodation costs, if your treatment is a long distance from your home. You might also have to pay for convalescent stays, therapies or counselling. If you can’t work or your income is reduced, you may struggle to find money to pay your mortgage or rent, household bills, childcare costs and your children’s education costs.
While some people may focus totally on making themselves better and not worry about financial matters, others can become totally preoccupied and stressed out by their finances. You might even feel you are making your cancer worse and delaying your recovery.
To get help, or just to talk about your concerns, call a member of our financial support team on 01 231 0522 or contact our Cancer Nurseline on 1800 200 700. They can advise you on practical supports and benefits, and tell you about services to help you cope with stress such as free counselling.
If you have money problems
If you are getting into debt or you are in debt, the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) can help you. MABS can look at your situation, work out your budget, help you to deal with your debts and manage your payments. The service is free and confidential. Call the MABS Helpline 0761 07 2000 for information.
If you are finding it hard to cope financially, contact your medical social worker in the hospital or your local health centre for advice.
The Irish Cancer Society can also give some help towards travel costs in certain cases. Learn more about our Volunteer Driver Service and Travel2Care fund.
You can also call our Cancer Nurseline 1800 200 700 or visit a Daffodil Centre and the nurse will suggest ways to help you manage.
Managing the financial impact of cancer
Our online booklet, Managing the Financial Impact of Cancer explains:
- Medical costs and help available.
- Benefits and allowances that you or your family may qualify for.
- Travel services.
- Ways to cope with the cost of cancer.
The booklet also has lots of other information to help you manage the cost of cancer. For example, disability and mobility supports, help for people in financial difficulty, help for carers and living at home and nursing home supports.
For more information on life insurance, including the best way to go about making an application, read our guide to Life Insurance and Cancer.
For more information on travel insurance, including hints and tips on looking for travel insurance, read our guide to Travel Insurance and Cancer.
External resources about financial support
If you want to find out more about financial aid, here are some valuable external resources:
(Please note we are not responsible for the content of external websites.)
- Department of Social Protection
- Health Service Executive
- Citizens' Information
- Cliona’s Foundation
Practical financial advice for parents coping with a child with a life limiting illness
- Money Advice and Budgeting Services
- HSE Medical Card
- Keeping Well and Warm
- Keeping Well and Warm brochure
- Self Employed Supports
- Keeping your Home
- Society of St. Vincent De Paul
- Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed
For more information
1800 200 700