Financial Assistance for Rare Diseases: A Guide For Caregivers

Explore rare disease assistance programs, offering financial aid and support to ease the burdens of patients and families affected by a rare disease.
Published on
April 18, 2024
Presented by Givers
Givers hires, supports, and pays people who are caring for their loved ones.
See If You're Eligible

Navigating the world of rare diseases can be challenging and demanding, especially for family caregivers who dedicate their lives to supporting their loved ones. The complexities of managing a rare disease often extend beyond medical care, social needs, and monetary strain. Fortunately, assistance programs for rare diseases offer hope, providing much-needed economic assistance and alleviating some of the burdens families face.

Rare disease in the United States

A rare disease is a medical condition that affects less than 200,000 people in the United States. These conditions often share challenges, including limited research, diagnostic difficulties, specialized treatment options, and high healthcare costs. Without a large "customer base," many pharmaceutical companies will not pursue cures and treatment for these illnesses. Fortunately, social media has given many families with rare diseases a voice and much-needed attention. Diseases like Ehler-Danlos are receiving more attention.

In the United States, several rare diseases affect the aging population, requiring heightened awareness, understanding, and support from those who play a crucial role in their care. Below are ten of the most common rare diseases found in the United States today: 

  1. Huntington's Disease: A genetic disorder causing increased degeneration of the brain's nerve cells, leading to motor dysfunction and cognitive decline.
  2. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS): ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
  3. Progeria: Progeria causes premature aging and a shorter lifespan in children. It affects their bones, skin, and cardiovascular system, and unfortunately, there is no cure for it.
  4. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is a set of health conditions related to connective tissue characterized by joints that are more flexible than usual, skin that bruises easily and is highly stretchable, and a tendency to develop scars quickly.
  5. Cystic Fibrosis: A genetic disorder that affects your loved one's lungs and digestive system, producing thick and sticky mucus.
  6. Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD): A rare, degenerative, and fatal brain disorder, CJD leads to rapid cognitive decline and neurological symptoms.
  7. Alkaptonuria: A metabolic disorder causing a buildup of homogentisic acid, leading to the darkening of connective tissues and potential joint and heart issues.
  8. Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP): A condition where soft tissues gradually transform into bone over time, limiting mobility.
  9. Wolman Disease: A rare genetic disorder that impairs the breakdown of lipids, leading to the accumulation of harmful amounts of fats in the body.
  10. Stiff Person Syndrome: A neurological disorder characterized by stiffness and muscle spasms, impacting mobility.

Family caregivers must seek information and support networks specific to each rare disease. Understanding these rare illnesses plays a significant role in providing optimal care and enhancing the overall well-being of their loved ones.


Who are you caring for?

Overview of pay programs for rare diseases

Recognizing the unique needs of families coping with rare diseases, various organizations and programs emerged to offer monetary support. These caregiver pay programs compensate for the vital care services family members often deliver, enabling them to continue their dedication without facing undue financial hardships.

Qualifications for pay programs

Understanding the qualifications for assistance programs helps family caregivers face financial constraints. To qualify for financial aid, the individual receiving care must possess a confirmed diagnosis of a rare disease. Additionally, the caregiver seeking support must be a close family member or legal guardian actively providing ongoing care. 

While most programs prioritize care for children with rare diseases, some support services extend to adults. Specific caregiver relationships may also be specified, with programs targeting parents, spouses, or legal guardians.

  • Diagnosis: The individual receiving care must have a confirmed rare disease diagnosis.
  • Caregiver relationship: The caregiver must be a close family member or legal guardian providing ongoing care.
  • Residency: The patient and caregiver must be residents of the United States, often within specific states for certain programs.
  • Income limits: Some programs have eligibility requirements, ensuring support reaches needy families.

Residency is an important qualifying factor, with both the patient and caregiver needing to be residents of the United States. In certain instances, the programs may stipulate specific states. Income limits are also considered, underscoring the importance of these eligibility requirements, as so much-needed support goes to caregivers facing financial challenges while caring for care recipients with rare diseases. 

Financial hardship

Some programs require documentation of financial hardship, such as high medical expenses or difficulty maintaining employment due to caregiving responsibilities. This requirement guarantees resources reach families with the greatest need.

Health insurance coverage

When determining eligibility and payout amounts, specific programs may consider the family's existing health insurance coverage and factor in remaining out-of-pocket costs, such as premiums and copayments.

By learning these qualifications, family caregivers can navigate the intricacies of financial assistance programs to find the best possible care for their loved ones while managing the economic burdens associated with rare disease caregiving. 


Can you get paid to care for your loved one?

woman smiling

Types of pay programs for rare diseases

The options for assistance programs are diverse, offering several avenues for support. Here are some of the options available:

Medical assistance programs

  1. Accessia Health: Helps patients afford their copays for medical treatments, especially those facing chronic or rare diseases, ensuring they can access critical therapies without financial burden.
  2. Good Days: Provides financial support to patients suffering from chronic medical conditions, helping them afford the medications and treatments crucial to their health.
  3. Healthwell Foundation: Offers financial assistance to cover the cost of prescription medications, health insurance premiums, copays, and deductibles for those with chronic or life-altering diseases.
  4. National Cancer Institute: Provides comprehensive information on cancer research, treatment, and funding opportunities, as well as grants and support for cancer patients.
  5. Needy Meds: Acts as a resource for finding programs that help patients afford medications and other healthcare costs, including a comprehensive database of Patient Assistance Programs.
  6. NORD Patient Assistance Program (RareCare): Assists individuals with rare diseases in finding and financing their medical needs, including medication, insurance, and travel for treatment.
  7. Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA): Helps qualifying patients without prescription drug coverage get the medicines they need through the program or at a reduced cost.
  8. Patient Access Network (PAN) Foundation: Offers help to underinsured patients covering out-of-pocket costs for their prescribed medications.
  9. Patient Advocate Foundation: Helps patients settle legal issues related to their illness, such as access to care, medical debt, and job retention.
  10. The Assistance Fund: An independent charitable foundation that provides financial support to patients with serious and life-threatening diseases to help them access the care they need.
  11. The Little Zebra Fund specializes in supporting families and patients affected by rare diseases, with funding for medical necessities not covered by insurance and focusing on enhancing quality of life.

Grants and scholarships

  1. Chive Charities: Provides grant funding to individuals with rare medical conditions, veterans, and first responders to help them obtain the necessary equipment, therapy, and unmet needs that enhance their quality of life and ease financial burdens.
  2. Global Gene's RARE Patient Impact Grant: Offers support to patient advocacy organizations and other nonprofits working within the rare disease community to fund projects that promise meaningful impact on patients and their families.
  3. RARE Scholars Program: Awards scholarships to exceptionally motivated and community-involved students living with rare diseases, supporting their educational pursuits and acknowledging their resilience.

Travel assistance

  1. Air Care Alliance: A nationwide league of flying organizations offering free air transportation for medical and other needs.
  2. Air Charity Network (Angel Flight): Provides free flights for patients requiring medical treatment far from home and delivers supplies to disaster areas and community clinics.
  3. Angel Flight East: Facilitates free air transportation to children and adults needing medical treatment far from their homes, using a network of volunteer pilots.
  4. Children's Flight of Hope: Offers free air transportation for children with serious medical conditions and their families, ensuring access to specialized medical care unavailable locally.
  5. Corporate Angel Network (CAN): Helps cancer patients access the best possible treatment by arranging free travel on corporate jets utilizing empty seats on corporate aircraft flying on routine business.
  6. Mercy Medical Angels: Provides free or low-cost transportation across the U.S. for medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment, utilizing commercial airlines, volunteer pilots, and gas cards.
  7. Miracle Flights: Provides free commercial airline tickets to patients needing specialized medical care far from home, regardless of their financial status, age, or disease type.
  8. Wings of Hope: Operates a global humanitarian organization that provides medical air transport services to individuals in need, primarily in underdeveloped and remote regions.

Finding the right caregiver pay program for you

Connect with social workers and case managers who understand rare disease care realities. Though it takes persistence and creativity, there are usually ways to piece together a caregiver pay program through private insurance, public assistance, nonprofit grants, and private payments. With dedication, even families struggling financially can find a way to secure the qualified and compassionate care their loved one deserves.

Rare disease families face exceptional challenges paying for intensive in-home care. Still, with research and outreach, adequate caregiver funding assistance is possible through both public and private programs. Persevering to find the right customized caregiver pay solution will make all the difference for a vulnerable, rare disease patient's health and improved quality of life.

Share this post
Givers hires, supports, and pays people caring for their loved ones.
See if you qualify in 60 seconds.
Check Your Eligibility
Apply to Get Paid