Mother with cancer reading to daughter

No one wants to think about the possibility of a life-changing cancer diagnosis. But the truth is that this possibility will become reality for almost 40 percent of us. Will your health insurance cover all the costs? We take a look at how to best prepare for the potential of this diagnosis to protect your family financially. Cancer insurance may be the best way to safeguard your family’s financial future.

Rates of diagnosis for all types of cancer have been on the upswing since 1975.  And while more than 90 percent of the American public has health insurance coverage, medical bills are the most common cause of bankruptcy, higher than mortgage or credit card payments. As NerdWallet Health Vice President Christina LaMontagne pointed out to CNBC: “A lot of Americans probably think about bankruptcy as coming from unpaid credit-card debt or mortgages. But the root cause of all those troubles may be medical bills.”

Cancer patients have many concerns outside of finance to consider, such as their health and families. But results of a study from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) found that filing for bankruptcy resulted in a 75 percent higher mortality rate for cancer patients. It is not clear whether the increased risk of death stems from a lack of treatment, stress, or other factors. Insurance for cancer patients specifically may help offset some of these costs, thus relieving the financial burden on your family. But what is the best insurance for cancer patients? You may also be wondering, “Where can I get cancer insurance?” We explain below.

Cost of Cancer Treatments

While bankruptcy is the most extreme example of financial troubles, the cost of cancer has an impact even when things don’t get to that point. Cancer drugs can be extremely expensive. The most current medications can cost up to $10,000 per month, while other therapies can exceed $30,000 per month. These non-physical, monetary impacts have been termed “financial toxicity.” According to Fumiko Chino, a radiation oncologist at Duke University and widow to a cancer patient, “Some cancer patients, even with insurance, spend about a third of their household income on out-of-pocket healthcare costs outside of insurance premiums.” Cancer insurance benefits can mitigate the impact these financial stressors have on you and your family.

While the cost of treating cancer varies by individual and type, in 2010, the overall cost of cancer care nationwide was $157 billion. Averages for the first year of treatment range from $5,047 for women with melanoma to $115,250 for men with brain cancer. Ongoing yearly costs average between $915 and $11,697.

Other Costs to Consider

The true cost of cancer isn’t just determined by these bills. Indirect costs to keep in mind include:

  • Out-of-pocket costs, such as copays or deductibles, that standard health insurance will not cover.
  • Time missed at work due to medical appointments, hospitalization, or ill health.
  • Rent, mortgage, vehicle, and utility payments.
  • Day-to-day expenses.

Myths About Cancer, Health Insurance, and Cancer Insurance

There is clear evidence of the prevalence of this diagnosis and harmful effects it can have on more than just health. Despite this, many people have misconceptions about how their current coverage will help mitigate the costs associated with cancer. A cancer insurance policy works with your regular medical insurance to help you financially during treatment.

But my standard health insurance covers cancer. Why would I need a cancer policy?

Of course it does, but standard health insurance will only kick in to help you with medical bills. So, what is supplemental cancer insurance, and what does cancer insurance pay for? Cancer insurance is paid to you—not to your doctor or medical facility. You can use the funds a cancer policy provides as needed to cover your out-of-pocket costs with your main insurance, rent payments, everyday costs, and more. Basically, while standard insurance will help with medical costs, a cancer policy works to alleviate your other financial burdens.

My short- or long-term disability coverage would kick in if I were diagnosed with cancer.

While disability insurance is meant to help protect you in certain health emergencies, there are aspects of cancer costs it just won’t help with. For one thing, don’t depend on long-term disability coverage in all cases for cancer patient financial assistance. It’s rare for long-term disability to kick in if you’re dealing with stage 1 cancer. Depending on associated symptoms, cancer patients in stage 2 or 3 may qualify for long-term disability, or they may not. And if you use short-term disability, your employer is only required to hold your job if you also file for 12 weeks of FMLA leave. These plans also may not cover all of your missing wages while you’re unable to work, while others have a waiting period before benefits can be accessed.

I can use savings instead of cancer insurance to cover unexpected expenses related to cancer treatment.

While we’d never advise against saving for unexpected expenses of all kinds, supplemental insurance makes more sense than saving when it comes to handling unforeseen medical expenses. We all intend to build up a savings account to help with bills in the event of an emergency. However, almost 60 percent of us don’t even have $500 in savings. Based on the high costs of cancer treatment, it is more worth it financially in the long run to pay the cancer insurance costs than to rely solely on a savings account.


This article isn’t meant to depress you—as we’ve discussed, a little preparation can go a long way in preparing for the potential of unexpected healthcare expenses. Having healthcare coverage is a good start, but it may not be enough to account for all the costs associated with a major illness. Supplemental cancer insurance can help you bridge the gaps between your current coverage and potential expenses. You may be wondering, “How can I get cancer insurance? And where can I get cancer insurance?” As always, our knowledgeable licensed health insurance agents are ready to talk with you about your options and budget to determine the best course of action for you. Give us a call at (800) 642-0607, or contact an agent near you today.


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