Just how much does cancer cost? It’s difficult to pinpoint, but what is easy to determine is that cancer can be extremely expensive, even financially toxic for some people.
The Cancer Action Network estimates that the 2014 cost of cancer care in the United States was a staggering $87.8 billion, a number shared by patients, employers, insurance companies and public programs. CAN notes it’s difficult to put a price tag on the individual costs of cancer because there is so much variation in treatment methods and insurance options, but out-of-pocket expenses may easily exceed $200,000, according to the organization’s cancer treatment cost statistics. Forbes estimates that the average cost of cancer treatment was equal to about 11 percent of patients’ income in the United States.
Where does all the money go? There are a number of things that drive expenses, such as high prescription costs, copays for doctor visits, exorbitant costs of treatments like chemotherapy and hospital fees for surgery. Then there is the indirect, and often unexpected, cost of cancer care. Expenses like childcare, mental-health treatments, transportation to appointments, lost income from reduced working hours and potentially a job loss all add onto the cancer treatment cost, and can significantly overwhelm patients.
Financial Help For Cancer Patients
Some may be so eager for quick cash that they decide to sell their life insurance policy in what is called a viatical settlement. Such an agreement involves the transfer of a policy to a third party for less than what it is worth, with the policyholder able to use the lump sum proceeds to address his or her immediate financial needs.
While such an approach may seem attractive, the long-term consequences should be considered—mainly, that the policyholder loses out on the full value of a policy into which he or she may have paid for decades. When their end of life does come, that means their beneficiaries will no longer be protected.
A different way to approach using the value of life insurance is through a loan, such as those offered by the Life Credit Living Benefit Loan program. Individuals with up to $75,000 of life insurance coverage can borrow up to half of the policy’s death benefit to help pay for cancer treatment or another serious medical condition. This way, he or she can access the policy’s value, but still be able to retain ownership of it—and ultimately be able to leave it to loved ones. A life insurance policy is often a lifelong investment, and policyholders shouldn’t have to settle for getting less from it than they deserve.