Cancer insurance is supplemental coverage that is intended to help defray the cost of a cancer diagnosis. It does not replace health insurance. Instead, it helps you pay for things that your health plan may not cover. Understanding what cancer insurance covers and finding out how to obtain it can help you decide if it's right for you.
Benefits of Cancer Coverage
The benefits you receive from a cancer policy can vary significantly, as pointed out on Insure.com. A lot will depend on the policy you choose and the company that offers it.
Examples of benefits a cancer policy may provide include:
- Lump sum cash payment shortly after diagnosis
- Coverage for the costs of diagnostic tests
- Coverage for chemotherapy and other treatment costs, with or without a copayment or other cost-sharing
- Help with the cost of non-medical expenses, like child care or home health aides
- Reimbursement for early detection screening tests
- Access to information about how to prevent cancer and live a healthy life
Not all policies have all these benefits. It's important to carefully research cancer insurance options before you choose a plan.
Reasons to Get Coverage
People may choose to purchase cancer insurance for a variety of reasons. Common reasons include:
- Family history of cancer
- Seeing the financial impact of cancer treatments on friends and relatives
- Concerns about being able to afford high deductibles, copayments, cost-sharing or expensive prescriptions
- Protection against the cost of non-medical expenses related to cancer treatment, such as child care, home health care, travel, and lodging
- Desire to have access to experimental treatments, out-of-network doctors, or specific testing and exams
Getting a Cancer Policy
The application process is fairly simple. If your employer offers cancer insurance, you will simply need to sign up during your benefits enrollment. As an individual, you can purchase a cancer policy through an insurance company.
Because cancer insurance is a supplemental policy, individual plans are available all year are is not subject to Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements. This means the insurance company can decline you due to pre-existing conditions or other risk factors. For example, will not be able to get cancer insurance if you currently have cancer, or have had the illness in the last five to ten years. Depending on the company, you may also get declined if:
- You have been diagnosed with AIDS, HIV, or AIDS-related complex (ARC)
- You've been advised by a doctor to be tested to see if you have cancer
- You have been diagnosed or treated for a pre-malignant condition, pre-leukemic condition, or condition with malignant potential in the past ten years
Be sure to read any policy you are considering carefully, to be sure you understand the terms and conditions. There will probably be a benefit waiting period, which typically ranges from 30 days to 12 months, depending on the specific coverage. You may also have to file your claim promptly, within a specific time limit, if you are diagnosed.
Note that most policies don't offer help with cancer-related illnesses, such as pneumonia or infections that result from cancer or its treatment. Also keep in mind that most cancer treatment is done on an outpatient basis. This means that a cancer policy that pays primarily for hospitalization is less helpful than a policy that pays for specific treatment options.
Who Offers Cancer Plans
Cancer insurance is available from several companies and can be purchased on an individual level or provided via an employer as a group policy. According to Insure.com, cancer insurance premiums tend to cost $20 - $40 per month for basic coverage for one person. The premiums will be higher if you're older, or if you are insuring a family. You'll want to contact the insurer directly for specific pricing.
Aflac is perhaps one of the most well-known cancer insurance providers. They offer individual insurance and group coverage. Both types of coverage let you choose between a lump sum payment when you are diagnosed or treatment-based payment options. Plans are not available in all states.
There are two kinds of Aflac cancer treatment policies, the classic care and premier care, with a lump sum cancer benefit rider available for either one. A lump sum payment can be used for any expenses you see fit unless otherwise assigned.
Classic care coverage includes a cash benefit upon initial diagnosis of a covered cancer and a variety of other benefits paid during cancer treatment, including:
- A variety of chemotherapy payments
- An experimental treatment benefit
- Payments toward immunotherapy
- Stem cell and bone marrow transplant benefits
- Hospitalization coverage
- Continuing care benefits
- Transportation and lodging benefits
The premier plan provides the same benefits, with higher payment amounts in most categories. For details, be sure to review the plan information in depth.
Reviews for the Aflac cancer policy are generally positive, but it is important to read the fine print and understand any exclusions in your specific policy. For pricing and other details, contact Aflac.
Allstate/American Heritage Life Insurance Company
American Heritage is a subsidiary of Allstate and issues the cancer policy for the insurer. You may also hear the company referred to as Allstate Benefits. Allstate's cancer and critical illness riders are available as a group employee policy and as an individual policy.
Key benefits include:
- A yearly benefit for use toward one cancer screening
- A yearly benefit for one of many health-related preventive procedures
- A waiver of premium after 90 days of disability due to cancer
- Annual payments toward radiation, chemotherapy, blood and plasma treatments
- Surgery, hospitalization, lodging, and transportation benefits
- An annual payment toward new or experimental treatments
There could be additional benefits, as well as limitations or exclusions that apply. Be sure to read the policy documentation carefully. For specific pricing and details on available policies, contact Allstate Benefits.
The benefits available from a Colonial Life cancer policy include:
- Family care benefit (for when a child is ill with cancer)
- Health and wellness screenings
- Hospitalization coverage
- Cancer treatment payments
- Transportation and lodging
- Home health services and hospice care
- Fertility services
- Experimental treatment assistance
- Prosthesis support
- Initial diagnosis of skin cancer
For specifics, including price, coverage limits, exclusions, and more, contact Colonial Life.
The big difference with Humana is that the individual coverage is only a cash-benefit payment. You can choose from amounts ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. You can also choose to pay your premium in 20 years, with no future payments, or to continue monthly payments for the lifetime of the policy.
The Humana group cancer insurance policies, available to employers for their staff, are similar to the other plans mentioned above. As an example, benefits available in one Texas group plan include:
- One-time payout upon diagnosis
- Coverage for chemotherapy, radiation, hospital, and laboratory services
- Travel coverage if treatment is 60 miles or more each way
- An annual cancer screening benefit up to $150
For specific details about what's available in your state, along with exclusions, limits, and other information, contact Humana directly.
American Fidelity offers cancer insurance policies for individuals and for employers as group benefit plans. There are individual, single parent, and family plans available. There are also tiers of coverage, which are basic, enhanced, and enhanced plus.
- Diagnostic and screening benefits
- Treatment benefits, including chemotherapy, radiation, bone marrow, stem cell, and more
- Hospitalization coverage
- Ambulance, transportation, and lodging
- Continuing care benefits, including prosthesis, home health care, and hospice
- Waiver of premium if disabled due to cancer for 90 continuous days, as long as disability persists
- Available riders for additional critical illnesses and hospital intensive care
Notably, there is not a listed benefit for experimental or new treatments. The American Fidelity policy pays specific dollar amounts for treatments and other benefits. The dollar amount is higher for most categories as you move to higher tiers of coverage.
For specifics about what plans are available in your area, along with exclusions, premiums, and other details, contact American Fidelity.
Considerations Before You Buy a Policy
Now that you understand the specific coverage options available, you may have a better idea whether cancer insurance is right for you. Before you choose a policy, be sure to ask yourself these questions.
What Your Current Health Policy Covers
Do you know what your current health insurance policy pays if you have cancer? The answer to this question will go a long way to helping you decide whether you want to purchase a supplemental policy.
Critics of cancer insurance policies say that people with health concerns would be better off saving money themselves for any extra expenses related to illness. If your current insurance policy offers good coverage, they might be right. If you set your own money aside, you can use it for anything you wish, whether you get cancer or not.
Your Health Risks
How likely are you to get cancer? While it can be widespread, different people have different risk factors. If a lot of your family members have gotten cancer, you might choose a supplemental cancer policy. On the other hand, if you live a healthy lifestyle and don't have a history of cancer in your background, you might be better off saving money for medical expenses another way.
Cancer policies are not intended to be Medicare supplement plans, and many insurers have specific exclusions against those who are eligible for Medicare. If you are on Medicare and have concerns about cancer or other illnesses, look into specific Medicare supplement plans that can help.
Critical Illness Coverage as an Alternative
If you're concerned about being wiped out by the copayment and non-medical costs of cancer, it makes sense to think about how you would handle other major illnesses as well. Many insurance companies sell supplement policies that cover a variety of critical illnesses, instead of cancer alone. The considerations above still apply, but you may find additional peace of mind in a policy that covers cancer, heart attack, strokes, and more.
Take Care of Your Health
No insurance policy can protect you completely from the financial struggles that come with being seriously ill. Instead, take a multifaceted approach: practice healthy habits, maintain good comprehensive health insurance, and consider whether a supplemental policy makes sense for you.