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Protect Yourself against the High Costs of Cancer Treatment

Cancer and other serious illnesses can be a severe financial hardship. Even with insurance and Medicaid, cancer treatment and recovery can involve significant out-of-pocket costs.

One study found that nearly half of cancer patients skipped or delayed treatments because of the costs.

And a recent Duke University study found that a third of cancer patients with insurance found they were paying higher out-of-pocket costs than anticipated, consuming up to a third of their income and resulting in "high" or "overwhelming" financial stress.

A study presented at the 2018 "Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium" found 37% of cancer survivors reported modifying work plans or delaying retirement because of treatment costs. Also, 27% reported serious financial problems like debt or bankruptcy following a cancer diagnosis.

An up-front, lump-sum cash benefit

Cancer insurance pays an up-front, lump-sum benefit directly to you if you are diagnosed with a covered form of cancer. Unlike most health insurance benefits, the benefit doesn't go to care providers or anyone else, unless you choose to assign a portion of the benefit to them.

Many of the real costs of a cancer diagnosis aren't covered by medical insurance or Medicare.

For example, you may want to use a doctor or hospital that is not part of your medical plan's network. A cancer insurance policy can help you seek the best care providers in the country, and not be limited to what your insurance company is willing to cover.

Hidden costs

Cancer patients routinely face thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses, even with health insurance. These include:

  • Time off work while you focus on treatment and recovery

  • Time off work for caregivers and loved ones

  • Deductibles, co-insurance and copays

  • Assisted living and long-term care facility costs

  • Chemotherapy and radiation

  • Prescription drugs

  • In-home health services

  • Housekeeping assistance

  • Child care assistance

  • Transportation, meals and lodging while away from home seeking treatment

  • Cost of paying a family member to assist with care and recovery

  • Experimental treatment.

Disability insurance and cancer

A short-term or long-term disability insurance policy can help offset a portion of lost income if you have to take time off work, but generally disability insurance policies only replace about half of the income lost, and that's only after an exclusion period. Furthermore, disability insurance is normally only designed to replace lost income. A cancer insurance policy pays an up-front, lump-sum benefit on diagnosis. This puts the money in your pocket when you need it most.

Long-term care insurance

Long-term care insurance may pay a benefit, but only after an exclusionary period that could be as long as three to six months, and then only in extremely limited circumstances: The loss of your ability to perform at least two of six basic activities of daily living for six months or longer.

Cancer insurance, or a broader type of policy called critical illness insurance, is an affordable way to fill a significant gap in many people's insurance protection.


Privately purchased cancer insurance policies are portable. That is, you can still keep the policy even if you leave your job. This is not necessarily true of workplace group insurance plans.


Cancer insurance may be a good fit if you can afford the premiums, you have a family history of cancer, you are underinsured, or your medical insurance plan has a narrow care provider network or requires significant copays and co-insurance, or does not cover prescription drugs.

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