Understanding Key Terms in Your Life Insurance Policy

The benefits of life insurance are innumerable — from the peace of mind you get knowing you can protect your loved ones in the future to the immediate financial assistance that a policy can generate in an emergency, such as through a Life Credit Living Benefit Loan. With so many advantages, however, comes complexity, as there are myriad policies and ways in which they can be maximized. To navigate that confusion, there are some life insurance terms to know that, once you’re familiar with, can build a foundation to help you determine the best way to buy and use life insurance. Life Insurance Terms to Know Dividends: If you have what is known as a “participating policy,” you may be eligible for a portion of the life insurance company’s profits, which are known as dividends. You can apply them to your premiums, take the dividends as cash, buy additional insurance or many other options. Cash value: This refers to the value that has accumulated in a permanent, or whole life, policy. As you pay premiums, a portion of each is set aside to generate cash value that you can later borrow against or, depending on your policy, withdraw. Beneficiaries: This is the person or persons who will receive the death benefit associated with your policy after your passing. You can name one or more individuals, and should periodically revisit the beneficiary list. Surrender value: The surrender value refers to the amount you would get if you opted to cash out your policy, as the insurance company may levy hefty surrender fees, significantly lowering the cash value. That’s why many...

Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month: 5 Things You Need to Know

September is Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month, a time when those affected by the disease, researchers and others assess all that we know about thyroid cancer, and all that there is still to learn. From signs of thyroid cancer to treatment options, it’s important to keep yourself apprised of the latest research so that, should your life be touched by thyroid cancer, you can be more prepared to face the diagnosis head-on. Here are five things you should know about thyroid cancer to protect yourself and your loved ones: 1. Rates are on the rise: According to the American Cancer Society, thyroid cancer is the fastest-growing cancer in the country, with rates more than tripling in the last decade. While there are a number of factors that could contribute to that growth, among them better screening and testing techniques, more aggressive forms of the cancer are also becoming more prominent. 2. It is most common among young women: Because the cancer is less complex than some other forms, which may involve a number of genetic mutations, it’s often diagnosed earlier. Women are disproportionately affected, with only about a quarter of diagnoses in America in men. 3. The signs of thyroid cancer: While thyroid cancer is most commonly diagnosed after the presence of a lump, the vast majority of thyroid-related lumps are benign. Other signs of thyroid cancer include pain in the thyroid area, trouble swallowing and persistent hoarseness. 4. Survival rates are decreasing: Mortality rates vary depending on a number of circumstances, but survival is usually quite common, especially if the cancer is caught early; however, survival rates are lowering,...

How are Viatical Settlements Taxed?

If you’re considering the regulations regarding taxes on life insurance settlements, you’re not alone: The issue is a complex one, with a number of nuances depending on your individual circumstances. Tax on Life Insurance Settlement First, it’s important to understand the basics of a life insurance settlement, typically known as a viatical settlement. Policyholders who have a permanent life insurance policy and are facing a terminal illness may be eligible to sell their policy in order to access cash for end-of-life preparations. The settlements are typically less than the policy’s cash value, but give the policyholders immediate access to the funds, which can be a vital benefit for those grappling with the serious financial obstacles associated with a critical illness. In general, the proceeds from these types of settlements are not taxed like regular income. However, there are some exceptions. What Do the Laws Say? In 1995, the federal government undertook a major overhaul of the laws regarding taxes on life insurance settlements in a broad legislative package known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). This law mandated that proceeds from a viatical settlement, as well as accelerated death benefits — another way some individuals may try to take advantage of the value of their policy before their death — are tax-free. However, in order to qualify for that exemption, the policyholder must have a terminal illness and have a life expectancy of less than two years. Additionally, the company purchasing the policy from the individual must be licensed and have experience with prior viatical settlements. If all of those conditions are met, the policyholder can...

CALM Therapy: Treating Depression in Cancer Patients

Depression is a common mental health condition affecting millions of Americans — and those who are facing serious health challenges, such as cancer, are at an increased risk of developing depression and related mental-health struggles. Thankfully, there is cancer mental health support available, including popular group therapy sessions, where patients can find vital support from others who are facing similar physical and mental obstacles. A new type of psychotherapy for cancer patients is also proving highly successful. Known as CALM therapy, the technique was recently studied by a team of researchers, who published their findings in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. In their clinical trial, the team found that three to six sessions of CALM therapy — which stands for Managing Cancer and Living Meaningfully — were able to lessen symptoms of depression in those with an advanced form of the disease. The results also suggest that the therapy approach can also stem the development of depression in those with advanced cancer. What is CALM therapy? This approach to psychotherapy for cancer patients involves three to six sessions, lasting between 45 and 60 minutes, over a three- to six-month period. The trial participants who attended the CALM therapy sessions reported less severe symptoms of depression than those who did not participate, and the symptoms continued to decline the longer the patients were attending the sessions. The sessions focus on issues including symptom management, communication with care providers, life changes, spiritual wellbeing and fears about the future. Patients are allowed to bring a caregiver to one or more of the sessions if they would like, and sessions can be led...

Cancer Research: Killing Dormant Tumor Cells

It’s an unfortunate reality that, many times, even when oncology teams are able to target and kill active cancer cells, the patient may not be out of the woods — as cancer cells frequently spread, or metastasize. These cells may lie dormant for years, hiding within the bones, lymph nodes or other areas of the body — making effective treatment an ongoing challenge. However, a new research study has highlighted one approach that showed promising results for rooting out and killing cancer cells that are hiding in the body. How Does Cancer Spread? First, it’s important to understand, how does cancer spread or metastasize? Infected cancer cells can break away from the primary tumor and become insulated within healthy cells. These normal cells surrounding the tumor, known as the tumor microenvironment, can provide unfortunate protection for the surviving cancer cells. In their experiments with mice, the researchers found that these escaped cells were often clustered around blood vessels in an area called the perivascular niche. In particular, the vessels’ endothelial cells were guarding the cancer cells, making them resistant to treatments like chemotherapy. The researchers also found molecules called integrins that were interacting with the endothelial cells. Integrins are a natural part of healing and are designed to protect cells — but that tendency may be helping infected cells continue to thrive and spread. What’s Next for Cancer Researchers? Using this data, researchers developed two antibodies designed to target the integrins. In mice that were administered only chemo, 75% experienced metastasis; however, those who were also treated with the anti-integrin antibodies had much more success, with only 22% of...