A diagnosis of terminal cancer — either for you or your loved one — is a jolt. It’s a trying time that can force us to rush into decisions. It’s understandable — life and death are literally on the line. But as hard as it may be, you have to get your bearings and start thinking about how you will cover the costs associated with this type of diagnosis. Here is where to begin.
Decide What You Want to Do
After receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis, you and your family will be faced with a series of tough decisions. How do you want to proceed? The answer to this will be determined by various factors: How much are you willing to spend on treatment? How much will you even get out of treatment? What are your chances of extending your life? Do you even want to take treatment at all? You should discuss your options with your doctor so that you can make an informed decision during this emotional time. Do not proceed until you have a definite plan.
Get Specific with Your Insurance Provider
If step one is forming a specific plan, step two must be figuring out what that specific plan will cost. If you have health insurance — whether it be private employer-based, ACA marketplace, Medicare, etc. — you shouldn’t just assume that it will cover any potential treatments. As Forbes notes, “more than one-third of cancer patients who carry insurance spend more out-of-pocket for their treatments than they anticipated having to pay.” The average amount is $703 a month. Know exactly what your insurance will and will not cover. Whether a treatment is covered can be used as a factor in determining whether you want the treatment.
Don’t Get Tripped Up by Medicare Discrepancies
Many of those who receive a terminal cancer diagnosis have health insurance through Medicare. While much of what is involved in basic cancer treatment — chemotherapy, outpatient radiation therapy, many surgeries — are covered under Medicare plans, there can be specifics that you want to know beforehand.
For example, Medicare Part A or B does not cover some things that may be needed as part of a comprehensive cancer plan. This includes assisted living facilities, adult day care, long-term nursing home care, medical food or nutritional supplements, and “many services that help you with activities of daily living (like bathing and eating) that don’t require skilled care.” Please read Medicare’s booklet on cancer services — and read it thoroughly.
Do note that if you think you’ll require more than what’s covered by base plans, Medicare Advantage offers some supplemental benefits, including some prescriptions, dental work needed because of treatment side effects, and overall wellness programs.
Know Where You Can Get Some Help
Whether you have solid insurance that can cover whatever costs come your way or not, there are organizations out there dedicated to helping you after your cancer diagnosis. Some to check out include the Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition, CancerCare, and the HealthWell Foundation. Some organizations can help you cover the cost of treatments, some can help with medications, and others can lessen the financial blow of end of life care like Hospice. Check out this great resource for more options.
A terminal cancer diagnosis is different than all other cancer diagnosis, and it triggers a series of tough choices regarding the type and extent of treatment a person truly wishes to undergo. While insurance can help with these costs, it’s important that you talk with your doctors, healthcare providers, insurance provider, and family to determine the smartest course of action. Above all, don’t head into your final weeks, months, or years in the dark about the true costs.