Is Cancer Insurance Worth Getting?

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It is likely that you have a friend or family member who has been diagnosed with cancer. And unfortunately, it’s something you hear about all the time: Cancer has devastating effects both emotionally and financially. Coping with these effects can prove challenging for everyone involved, the patient and family alike.

For most people, it may be hard to believe they will ever be diagnosed with cancer. Even when cancer affects someone you love, you may still think that it’s not going to happen to you—until it does. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. And according to statistics from the American Cancer Society, one in three Americans are at risk of developing an invasive type of cancer. The 2019 U.S. cancer statistic estimates predict 1,762,450 new cancer diagnoses and 606,880 deaths as a result of cancer. Learn your options for covering the costs associated with the disease and how cancer insurance might help.

The Cost of Cancer Treatments

Estimates from the National Cancer Institute show the national expenditure for cancer care in the U.S. was $147.3 billion in 2010. As the incidence of cancer continues to increase, we can only expect these numbers to go up.

If you are without insurance, you are financially responsible for the cost of medical care. The cost of medical treatments will vary based upon the type of cancer and the course of treatment prescribed by doctors. 

However, even if you have insurance, you may still have to pay some of these costs. In 2016, one breast cancer patient’s treatment cost a total of $144,193, with her insurance company paying the majority ($140,218). Even with the help, she still paid close to $4,000 out of pocket. If she had a cancer insurance policy, these out-of-pocket costs may have been covered. For instance, Aflac states that one could potentially get up to $35,175 in total benefits under its Aflac Cancer Care-Classic policy, which would have easily covered the additional $4,000 out-of-pocket costs.

Treatment isn’t the only cost that comes with cancer. Patients and family members may have a hard time coping with a cancer diagnosis. For patients and family members dealing with the emotional toll of cancer, it may be beneficial to seek out the help of a cancer support group.

What Is Covered by a Cancer Insurance Policy?

Many people have misconceptions when it comes to cancer insurance. A cancer insurance policy is not your main health insurance coverage. It is not stand-alone coverage but rather a supplemental plan designed to help you pay for cancer-related medical expenses not covered by your health care plan. These may include co-pays, deductibles, lost wages, travel costs, or the excess costs of treatment when your regular health care policy has paid out the maximum benefit allowed. A cancer policy is similar to critical illness insurance. It is provided in a lump sum payment once the policy holder has been diagnosed with cancer. You may also be able to purchase a combined cancer/critical illness insurance policy depending on the options offered by the insurer.

A cancer insurance policy pays benefits for policyholders who have been diagnosed with cancer and provides some type of benefits for these services: hospital room and board, physician treatment, private duty nursing, surgery and anesthesia, x-ray, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and other cancer therapy procedures, ambulance services, blood/blood plasma, and prescription drugs.

There are three types of cancer insurance policies: 

  • Expense incurred policy: A policy that pays a percentage of all covered treatments listed on the policy up to the policy limits.
  • Indemnity policy: The indemnity policy is similar to the expense incurred policy but instead of paying a certain percentage of all covered treatments, it lists a dollar amount of each individual covered treatment.
  • First diagnosis or first occurrence cancer policy: This policy pays the policyholder a lump sum payment upon the first diagnosis of cancer. No benefits can be denied due to a pre-existing condition if the cancer is diagnosed after the effective date of the policy.

Is Cancer Insurance Worth the Cost?

Cancer insurance isn’t the same as life insurance in that you can choose the policy that you want. Adults ages 18 and older can take out policies and can include coverage for dependents. The price you pay for your monthly or annual cancer insurance premium will depend on your age, location, and more.

If you already have health insurance, it will typically cover some costs of cancer care treatment but there are limitations to coverage. A supplemental cancer policy may help cover additional expenses not covered by your regular health insurance plan. Such a policy could cost anywhere from $8 to $100 extra per month in addition to your regular health insurance premium. 

According to Cigna, a $20,000 lump sum cancer insurance policy for a 40-year-old in Alabama would only cost about $19 per month. Across the board, family coverage could cost between $100 and $350 per year or between $8 and $30 per month, while seniors could pay between $120 and $1,200 per year or between $12 and $100 per month. So depending on your specific situation and budget, you may be able to find a cancer insurance policy that works for you. And if cancer runs in your family, the extra premium may be worth the peace of mind in knowing any cancer treatments will be covered by insurance.

Even if you have an insurance policy, there may still be associated costs that are not covered, such as travel. If you are receiving treatment for yourself or a family member at a cancer treatment center, many of these centers have options to help you find short-term housing either with guest houses near the hospital or through an arrangement with local motels and hotels.

Options If You Have Cancer But No Insurance

Cancer treatments have come a long way and new cancer research is being conducted. Breakthroughs are being made and advances in treatments are prolonging and saving lives. However, not everyone can afford these treatments or cancer insurance to cover them. If you have been diagnosed with cancer but don’t have insurance, you have options for care available to you. 

Seek treatment at a public hospital rather than a privately-owned medical facility. The Emergency Medical and Treatment Labor Act (EMTLA) has laws prohibiting public hospitals from refusing emergency medical care based on a patient’s ability to pay.

If you have limited financial and medical resources or are without cancer insurance, visit the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) website for information on where you can find cancer care.

Article Sources

  1. American Cancer Society. "Lifetime Risk of Developing or Dying From Cancer," Accessed Nov. 27, 2019.

  2. Wiley Online Library. "Cancer Statistics, 2019," Accessed Nov. 27, 2019.

  3. National Cancer Institute. "Financial Burden of Cancer Care," Accessed Nov. 27, 2019.

  4. American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. "The Costs of Cancer," Accessed Nov. 27, 2019.

  5. American Cancer Society. "Types of Health Insurance Plans," Accessed Nov. 27, 2019.

  6. Cigna. "Lump Sum Cancer Insurance," Accessed Nov. 27, 2019.

  7. North Carolina Department of Insurance. "A Consumer's Guide to Cancer Insurance," Accessed Nov. 27, 2019.

  8. NCBI. "Cancer Insurance Policies in Japan and the United States," Page 21. Accessed Nov. 27, 2019.

  9. CMS.gov. "Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA)," Accessed Nov. 27, 2019.

  10. American Society of Clinical Oncology. "Financial Resources," Accessed Nov. 27, 2019.