Is Cancer Insurance Worth Having?

Years ago, after listening to Dave Ramsey say that cancer insurance is a gimmick and isn’t needed if you have good health insurance, I agreed. But then my sister-in-law developed cancer and had previously purchased cancer insurance after her mother and sisters were diagnosed with cancer. It really helped them with extra expenses not covered by regular health insurance. I was finally able to talk my husband into allowing us to purchase cancer insurance in 2006 after his father died of cancer and his sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer. It was one of the wisest decisions we made.

You don’t truly understand the financial impact of cancer until it strikes your own home.

When Chris was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in 2010, it had already spread to his brain by the time he was diagnosed. By the grace of God and his wonderful medical team at MD Anderson, after radiation, standard chemo, and then a clinical trial, he was considered “in treatment with no evidence of disease” less than a year later. Unfortunately, advanced lung cancer usually comes back and requires continuous life-long treatment.

Yes, we had excellent health insurance, and he had a good-paying job. However, health insurance only covered a portion of medical expenses. Unless you have been personally involved with cancer treatments, you have no idea the extra expenses involved. Cancer patients incur a lot of expenses that medical insurance does not cover. My husband had extensive treatments in Houston, which is almost five hours from home. We incurred gasoline, restaurant, and hotel expenses. It seemed that we spent almost as much time in Houston as we did at home the first five months. When he began the first clinical trial, we drove to Houston every three weeks for two years and were there for two to three days at a time. Then he was in a clinical trial in Arkansas, where we had a five-hour drive every four weeks, requiring a hotel stay, dining out, gas, wear and tear on the vehicle, and more time off from work.

I am self-employed. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid. I went to every appointment with my husband and stayed with him during every hospitalization. The cancer insurance helped make up for my lost income during his six-year battle.

My husband had numerous hospitalizations due to complications. The cancer insurance paid us a set fee for these hospitalizations to help with out-of-pocket expenses.

We had friends who did not have cancer insurance. Treatment required air travel every few weeks for a clinical trial. I can’t even imagine the costs they incurred for travel expenses (which regular medical insurance does not pay for). Cancer insurance would have been so helpful for them.

Another problem for cancer patients is that they can lose their jobs and company-subsidized health insurance when their health fails. Their caregiver may lose their job and insurance, as well. They may lose their ability to pay for life insurance. If you lose your life insurance and have cancer, you’re unlikely to be eligible for a new policy. Cancer can financially devastate a family and can lead to bankruptcy.

Cancer insurance will at least supply some level of income.

It is now said that 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will get cancer during their lifetime. For anyone with a history of cancer in their family, I strongly recommend cancer insurance if you can afford it. (But regular health insurance should be your first priority.)

I still have cancer insurance—a personal cancer indemnity plan. There are various types of cancer insurance policies. My policy pays the cancer patient an up-front fee just for having a cancer diagnosis, plus it has set rates they pay for additional things, such as:

  • Hospital Confinement

  • Medical Imaging

  • Radiation and Chemotherapy

  • Experimental Treatment

  • Immunotherapy

  • Nursing Services

  • Anti-nausea Medication

  • Surgery/Anesthesia

  • Prosthesis

  • Reconstructive Surgery

  • Blood and Plasma

  • Second Surgical Opinion

  • National Cancer Institute (NCI) Evaluation/Consultation

  • Ambulance

  • Transportation

  • Lodging

  • Bone Marrow Transplantation

  • Stem Cell Transplantation

  • Extended-Care Facility

  • Hospice

  • Home Health Care

  • Cancer Screening Wellness

  • No Lifetime Maximum on many benefits

  • Waiver of Premium

  • Continuation of Coverage

The money can be used for anything you wish, such as paying bills, replacing lost income, buying food, college, vacations, home remodeling, a new car, etc.

The cost of cancer medication is outrageous. The original clinical trial oral medication Chris was on was eventually FDA approved. Today’s cost is $15,000 per month—a treatment a lung cancer patient could be on for the rest of his/her life (or as long as it works). Patients with advanced lung cancer usually need to remain in active treatment the rest of their lives.

Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

— American Cancer Society

Cancer treatments, hospitalizations, tests, and doctor appointments are all expensive. Even if your health insurance covers these expenses, you usually have a high deductible and a co-pay until the out-of-pocket expenses are met for the year.

Cancer insurance may also help pay for experimental treatments that standard health insurance may not cover.

There may be a waiting period for someone with a cancer diagnosis within the past 5 to 10 years. But your other family members could still be eligible. The policy may also require that you not receive a cancer diagnosis within “x” months or years after enrolling in the policy. (In other words, you probably won’t get to collect on the insurance policy if you are diagnosed within the designated time frame.)

All insurance (home/life/automobile/flood) is a risk. If you don’t need to file a claim, the money spent on premiums is wasted. But if you need to file a claim, it is worth the cost of the insurance. Some employers will subsidize the premium for a cancer insurance plan. If so, be sure to consider that benefit.


Whether or not cancer insurance is right for you depends on your family’s medical history, other cancer risk factors (such as exposure to smoke, radon, or asbestos), and your financial situation. The question is, do you want to take the risk of money going out of your piggy bank, or do you want the peace of mind knowing money will be going into your piggy bank if you get cancer?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the products or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”