When it comes to cancer, there’s good news and bad news.
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.
“How to pay for treatment is the last thing patients should have to think about when facing a cancer diagnosis,” says Lori Hardy, product director at Colonial Life. “But many families end up with a mountain of medical debt that can have a long-term impact on their financial security.”
You may assume your health insurance will cover your costs. It’ll help, but there 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 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.
A wellness benefit is another valuable option to look for when comparing cancer plans.
“You don’t have to be diagnosed with cancer to take advantage of some cancer plans,” Hardy points out. “A wellness benefit helps pay for tests and screening that encourage early detection of cancer, such as mammograms, Pap tests and x-rays.”
Cancer 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.