Are Cancer Policies a Wise Investment?


Most Americans have insurance. We find comfort in knowing our future is secure in the event of a health crisis. But how do we know how much insurance is enough? Is it wise to take our specialized policies?

I received a call from my youngest daughter the other day. She was at work and was meeting with the director of human resources to go over benefits for the new year. Her company had made some changes to their insurance policies and each employee was required to update their health benefit choices. There were so many choices. She needed help understanding them, especially with regard to the cancer policy. She didn’t know whether to accept the offer or decline it. With my recent history of breast cancer, she felt it might be wise to add that coverage to her existing plan. She wanted to know my thoughts.

It was difficult to know what to tell her. Many years ago, I’d taken out a small cancer policy never dreaming I’d one day be diagnosed with breast cancer. I’d been given the opportunity to take out coverage and I’d accepted. It was only going to be an additional premium of $11. But just before I left the company, I'd cancelled the insurance thinking I’d no longer need it. Boy, was that a big mistake! Just a couple of years later, I received news that I had cancer. I still beat myself up to this day wondering if that cancer policy if it would have helped to offset some of our skyrocketing medical bills.

My daughter had a scare last year. She’d noticed some changes in her breast.

Immediately, I encouraged her to get to the doctor. My worst fears consumed me. Thankfully, after several diagnostic tests, she was given the all clear and told to return in three months for a follow-up. We all breathed a sigh of relief and I prayed fervently that neither she nor my other two daughters would ever experience breast cancer.

But are policies for cancer insurance really a worthwhile benefit? Is it necessary to add a specialized policy for proper health care coverage in the event of a cancer diagnosis?

I’ve read many articles on this subject and the information I’ve gleaned is inconclusive. Some articles say yes, a specific cancer policy is a wise investment. Other articles advise steering clear of policies that tout claims of better coverage. How does the consumer know what to do? The best advice I can give, according to the information I’ve found, is to do your own homework. If there is a family history of cancer, you may want to take out a special cancer policy, but be sure to read the fine print. Not all cancer policies cover all types of cancer, and they certainly don’t cover all cancer-related expenses. In most cases, cancer policies are supplemental and offer coverage to help fill in the gaps missed by major health insurance companies.

Most cancer policies do not accept those who’ve been previously diagnosed with a pre-existing condition such as cancer. Also, those who’ve been diagnosed and treated for cancer are usually ineligible for coverage. Those who are eligible for coverage are those who, at the time of insurability, have good health and no evidence of existing disease. In easier to understand terms: if you’re perfectly healthy, you’d probably qualify for a cancer policy and that would be the best time to take one out if you so choose. If you’ve already been diagnosed, forget it. Chances are you will be turned down for coverage because you’re too high a risk. Insurance companies don’t like to have to pay out any more money than necessary. They’re a business and they’re in the business of making money. They make their money through your monthly premiums.

Cancer coverage varies from policy to policy. Some policies cover both medical and non-medical expenses. Medical expenses may include copays, testing, procedures, treatments and long-term hospital stays. Non-medical expenses may include loss of income, home health aide, in-home nursing assistance, child care assistance and transportation expenses.

Here are some points to consider in making your decision of whether or not to purchase a cancer policy:

• Know your family’s medical history and your cancer risk. If you have a history of cancer, it may be wise to review your current insurance policy.

• A separate cancer policy could complement your coverage. If you find your policy lacking, perhaps upgrading your current policy would give you more peace of mind. Often, it’s wiser to purchase an upgrade while you are in a “pre-need” state rather than in an “at-need” state of health.

• Health insurance policies differ from company to company. Check the coverage. If you don’t understand the policy, ask for clarification. Just because you have two policies, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll reap more in benefits. Some treatments may be excluded by one policy or may be included in the other. According to this article, “It’s important to read the Coordination of Benefits clause. Most major insurance policies have a Coordination of Benefits (COB) clause which states that the insurer will not cover expenses that another plan does. By purchasing cancer insurance, you may, in fact, be degrading the benefits provided in your primary plan. It is not unusual for two providers to contest the other's liability without either assuming coverage. While these issues can usually be sorted out, they can cause a lot of unnecessary headache and waste of time.”

There are many factors to consider in making your decision to purchase an insurance policy against cancer. Caveat emptor, “Let the buyer beware.” As in all major decisions, especially those related to health, take your time and make a well informed and wise choice.

For those of us blessed with good medical insurance that has covered the majority of our cancer related expenses, let us never take for granted our coverage. There are many without the luxury of insurance. But also, let us not fall into the trap of becoming insurance poor. It’s not necessary to have many policies with premiums so steep we can barely afford anything else.


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