A Visit with Sylvia Corbin, MHA

Sylvia Corbin, Director of Patient Financial Assistance at MSK, began her career in the Financial Assistance Program (FAP) as a counselor 26 years ago. Over the course of her career she has helped thousands of patients obtain economic relief through a philanthropically funded initiative.


What is the Financial Assistance Program (FAP)?

FAP reduces cancer’s financial burden on MSK patients who have household income up to five times the federal poverty level, and who cannot afford to pay for all or some of their medical care.


Who is the typical FAP applicant?

An adult. Some are seniors living on Social Security—but many come from one-or two-income households with solid jobs and health insurance. People who pay all their bills, but who do not have a lot of disposable income.

And then they get cancer. It’s scary—because how do you save for an illness? Insurance does not cover everything. FAP primarily helps people with high-out-of-pocket expenses: patients who might otherwise halt treatment or ration their medications.


How does FAP provide relief?

The FAP counselors can help qualifi ed individuals enroll in Medicaid, but the program’s heart addresses cancer’s financial burden. We determine what a patient can afford to pay MSK through a detailed application that considers the net income remaining after monthly living costs, including mortgage/rent, electric, transportation, food, clothing, phone, cable…even college tuition payments.


How do patients learn about FAP?

From our website, FAP brochures, and MSK Financial Literacy programs, but frequently during conversations with Patient Billing Services and our Patient Access Coordinators. When people learn that FAP is based on a means-tested application, they typically respond, “I won’t qualify, I have too much money.” They are often surprised.

At MSK, patients can apply for financial assistance annually. We look at pay stubs, tax returns, and other documents to determine if or what amount they can afford to pay towards their outstanding bills. If we determine a patient can afford to pay a specific amount, it is spread out over 12-18 months as a reduced monthly payment and the remaining balances are written off to charity care. We always tell people with pending applications to move forward with their care because it may take them time to complete the FAP paperwork.


What are the reactions from patients when they qualify?

Shock. Relief, enormous relief. Gratitude. Some people break down and cry.


Is philanthropic funding important to your work?

In 2019, we hope to provide $20 million in bill reduction and forgiveness assistance to patients—and we can do this thanks to donor support. With additional funding, we can help more patients survive cancer with their health and finances intact.