In 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States.
There is an enormous personal cost to cancer that no description can capture.
People who are affected by cancer make heroic efforts to continue their lives as normal. Often, entire families are involved in finding and delivering care. But medical treatment is expensive, and non-medical costs like comfort and caregiving can be just as hard to manage.
If you plan ahead for cancer, you can find significant financial help for both doctor expenses and non-medical support. Although you may be able to get charity care for cancer, it’s much easier to get insurance before you’re diagnosed.
Make Sure You Have Major Medical Insurance
Your healthcare is usually centered around a good major medical plan. Nothing can replace having major medical insurance – also known as an ACA plan, individual health insurance, or Obamacare – when it comes to paying for cancer expenses. By law, ACA plans must offer you certain essential coverage, and must accept you despite any pre-existing health conditions. These plans come with annual out-of-pocket spending maximums and have NO lifetime limits on payment.Affordable Care Act health insurance cannot reject you, or increase your monthly premiums, even if you have cancer. Click To Tweet
You generally have to join your major medical plan during the annual Open Enrollment Period. The Open Enrollment Period comes at the end of the calendar year, so don’t miss it! If your employer offers a plan, that plan may have different enrollment times.
Cancer Insurance and Other Fixed Indemnity Coverage
You can sign up for cancer insurance, which is a type of fixed indemnity plan that specifically helps pay for cancer treatment. You may also be able to find a broader critical illness policy that helps pay for multiple types of chronic illnesses.
These types of specialized insurance generally cost less than regular insurance, but would only address your cancer. They will pay for medical bills that you submit once you are diagnosed, or may simply send you large cash payments to deal with medical costs.
Cancer insurance policies are offered from insurance companies such as Aflac and Swiss Re. Keep in mind that these policies are medically underwritten, meaning that you must be cancer-free and in decent health to apply. You can’t sign up after you develop cancer.
Disability Income Insurance and Other Benefit Plans
Some insurance agents sell disability income insurance. These plans generally send you checks (or “pay out”) when an issue such as cancer causes you to miss work for a long period of time.
The additional financial support from these policies can help you pay for secondary expenses, and ease financial pressure during a difficult time (for example, covering lost paychecks if you’re unable to continue working).
Life Insurance with Living Benefits
Another compelling way to protect yourself in the event of a cancer diagnosis is to sign up for a life insurance policy with a living benefit rider. This type of life insurance policy allows you to tap into your life insurance benefits if you develop one of many critical, chronic, or terminal conditions.
“When the medical wheel of misfortune lands on you,” says Mark Deschenes, an insurance agent in San Antonio, “recovering from the event is far less stressful knowing you have an emergency fund of cash you can tap into.”
According to Deschenes, “it’s very realistic for a 45-year-old to get a $1,000,000 life insurance policy for under $40 per month … and the ridiculously low costs for a living benefit rider are not any higher than old-style policies [without the rider].”
Normally, life insurance policies only pay out after death. A living benefits payout will be discounted because it is paid before the actual time of death.
“You may only get 30% to 50% of your face amount, but isn’t it better to get $500,000 in cash than going broke?” Deschenes asks.
Short-Term Insurance Does Not Treat Cancer Over Time
Short-term health plans are not a useful way to insure yourself against cancer. You can use short-term insurance to pay for medical costs while you are enrolled in your plan. However, once you are diagnosed with cancer, your short-term coverage will not be renewable. Unlike major medical insurance, these plans can reject you based on your medical history.
Some temporary health plans will continue to cover you if you are already in the hospital, until you are discharged. However, you’ll want to begin planning for new coverage if you rely on short-term insurance when you learn about your diagnosis.
Cancer Screening Will Always Be Important
One last piece of advice is to check for cancer through regular screenings. The most effective treatments for cancer take place because of early detection.
Some of the most common cancer screenings are for breast, cervical, colorectal (colon), and lung cancers. Cervical cancer screenings for women start at age 21, while most other cancer screenings begin around age 45.
If you have a history of cancer in your family, it is particularly important to focus on cancer insurance. You may also want to begin screening for cancer earlier than the general public. Always discuss your concerns with your doctor if you feel that you are at high risk for developing cancer.