Supplemental insurance lets you focus on cancer treatment, not cost

Supplemental insurance lets you focus on cancer treatment, not cost


Supplemental insurance lets you focus on cancer treatment, not cost

When it comes to cancer, there’s good news and bad news.

The bad news is the American Cancer Society estimates nearly 1.7 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed this year.

The good news is the cancer death rate has dropped significantly. It was down 23% from 1991 to 2012. And death rates are declining for all four of the most common cancer types: lung, colorectal, breast and prostate.

OK, you probably hear a “but” coming here. Yes, more people are surviving cancer — but the treatment costs can be staggering. The cost varies widely depending on the type of cancer, how early it’s found, the treatment used and where you receive it. Surgery can range from $14,000 to $57,000. Six months of chemotherapy can cost $50,000-$60,000. Two months of radiation therapy costs about $25,000. Drugs are taking a lot of the blame for the high cost of cancer treatment, many costing well over $100,000 a year.

“If a family experiences a sudden, life-threatening diagnosis, like cancer, the financial impact can be devastating,” says Annise Henson, product expert at Unum. “The last thing a patient or family should have to think about when facing this kind of diagnosis is how to pay for treatment.”

You may assume your health insurance will cover your costs. It’ll help, but there are many expenses it won’t cover, including copayments, deductibles, out-of-network treatments, home health care needs and experimental treatments. Then there are what some call the “hidden costs” of cancer treatment:

  • Lodging and meals when traveling for treatments
  • Gas and parking during visits to appointments
  • Loss of income while unable to work
  • Child care
  • Special equipment or clothing
  • Help with chores such as housecleaning, yard work, cooking or errands

This is where cancer and critical illness insurance can help. Plans typically pay benefits that help pay for a variety of treatments and services: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, private nursing, home health care, prostheses, appliances, medical equipment and more. Some plans also pay a lump sum benefit upon first diagnosis that allows the insured flexibility on how they use the benefits. While traditional cancer plans may not cover loss of income, child care, etc., a lump sum benefit allows the flexibility to cover items like these.

A wellness benefit is another valuable option to look for when comparing plans.

“The wellness benefit that accompanies some cancer and critical illness coverage is an excellent way to encourage people to take proactive steps toward prevention and early detection,” says Henson. “The benefit pays a set payout per calendar year, per covered individual, if a covered health screening is performed, such as a colonoscopy or mammogram.”

Cancer and critical illness plans — and how much they cost — vary widely, so it’s important to compare them carefully. If you or your spouse or partner have access to this type of insurance at work, that’s a good place to start. Insurance offered at work often is more affordable and convenient to pay for.


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