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  • Cancer Insurance

    What is Cancer Insurance?

    Cancer insurance is a form of health risk management that is uniquely tailored to protect cancer patients. Like all forms of insurance (auto, home, comprehensive health, etc.), cancer insurance involves the transfer of a potential loss or risk from one party to another in exchange for monetary compensation (an insurance premium).

    Cancer insurance will not provide benefits to a patient whose cancer was diagnosed before he or she applied for a policy.

    *For a list of companies that provide Cancer Insurance, check out the Resource Directory!

    What About Comprehensive Health Coverage?

    Cancer insurance is NOT an alternative to comprehensive coverage. If you or your family is not protected by a comprehensive healthcare policy, consider the following:

    Most comprehensive policies have high “maximums.” Typically, comprehensive health insurance covers between $100,000 and $1,000,000 of your medical expenses, depending on your policy and premium. Comprehensive health insurance will protect you against nearly ALL forms of injury or illness. Comprehensive medical coverage also provides benefits to cancer patients.

    Cancer insurance is designed to provide benefits ONLY if the insured party is diagnosed with cancer. Cancer treatment accounts for nearly 10% of U.S. health-related expenditures, but automobile accidents, the flu, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, childhood learning disabilities, and other ailments, which are not covered by cancer insurance, are responsible for the remaining 90% of health-related expenditures.

    Why Should I Purchase Cancer Insurance?

    Cancer insurance is supplemental insurance. It is designed to provide additional financial protection in the event of cancer development. A cancer insurance policy will rarely cover the entire cost of cancer treatment, lost work, and/or hospital costs. However, many comprehensive health insurance policies will also not cover the entirety of cancer treatment.

    In recent years, the annual costs associated with cancer treatment have been steadily climbing, inspiring many people to purchase supplemental protection. If you’ve been thinking about additional cancer coverage, ask yourself the following questions:

    Will my current insurance policy cover the ever-rising cost of cancer treatment? It isn’t uncommon for annual cancer treatment costs to exceed $300,000. Am I likely to develop cancer at some point in my life? Do I have a parent or sibling with cancer? If so, I am statistically more likely to develop the disease myself. Am I a Medicaid recipient? If you are a low-income recipient of Medicaid, you do not need additional coverage. Am I a Medicare recipient? If you receive Medicare benefits, but your coverage is not adequate, then you may need to purchase supplemental insurance.

    Understanding Cancer Insurance Policies

    Cancer insurance policies are designed to complement a wide array of people and circumstances. Because cancer insurance is supplemental, and not comprehensive, it usually contains a variety of limitations. These limitations may include:

    Exclusive Hospital Care: Some cancer insurance policies only cover treatment that is performed at a hospital. Today, the average hospital stay for a cancer patient is 13 days. Most cancer treatment, and even some surgery, is performed as an outpatient procedure. As a result, cancer insurance policies that exclusively cover hospital care provide limited insurance.
    Time Constraints: Some policies limit or cease the flow of benefits after a patient has been hospitalized for more than 90 consecutive days.
    Fixed Maximums: Most insurance policies are attached to fixed dollar limitations. For example, the policy might pay up to $100 for each day in the hospital, or up to $1500 for surgery.
    Previous Cancer Diagnoses: No cancer insurance policy will cover people diagnosed with cancer before the supplemental coverage is applied for. Furthermore, some policies will deny coverage if you are later found to have had cancer before the time of purchase.
    Cancer-Related Illnesses: Many cancers are associated with a wide variety of related illnesses, such as anemia, diabetes, heart failure, and more. In some cases, these related illnesses are the most severe side effects of the cancer. Cancer insurance policies do not always cover medical expenses incurred because of these related illnesses.

    More to Consider

    If you do not have comprehensive healthcare insurance, do not purchase cancer insurance by itself. It is much more important for you and your family to be protected against a variety of injuries and illnesses (including cancer), than it is for you to be exclusively protected against cancer. However, if your disposable income affords you the protection, or if you have extremely high cancer risk, supplemental cancer insurance might provide you with some much-needed peace of mind.

    Gail Shearer, a representative of the Washington D.C. Consumers Union, brilliantly summarized cancer insurance in an article on She advises everyone to “look upon [cancer insurance] less as an insurance policy and more as a risky investment.”

    Weigh the costs and benefits of purchasing additional cancer insurance. You might discover that your comprehensive policy will adequately cover the cost of cancer treatment. Or, you might uncover a void in your current policy that needs to be filled with supplemental care. Discuss cancer insurance with your friends and family, talk to a variety of insurance providers, and flip through the pages of a few periodicals and websites. With the right information, you can make the right decision.


    Inverness Medical Group Family of Sites. 2009. Retrieved on April 17, 2009 from <>.

    American Cancer Society, Inc. 2009. Retrieved on April 17, 2009 from <>.

    State of Wisconsin, Office of the Commissioner of Insurance. 2009. Retrieved from <>.
    Hay & Associates Family of Sites. 2008. Retrieved on April 17, 2009 from <>.

    Hay & Associates Family of Sites. 2008. Retrieved on April 17, 2009 from <>.