6 Smart Ways to Pay for Cancer Treatment and Care

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A cancer diagnosis is among the worse of life-changing health-related diagnoses a person can receive. In addition to wondering about their own mortality, there are so many other questions at play. Everything from treatment options to how to tell family and friends becomes a question in need of an answer. At the top of the list are the financial concerns that come along with treatment.

Even with insurance, fighting cancer is a costly endeavor because insurance doesn’t cover everything, according to the American Cancer Society. In fact, the American Cancer Society states that even insured individuals may have to pay up to 25% of the cost of expensive oral chemotherapy drugs, for instance. According to NerdWallet, the cost of chemotherapy – the most common and effective way to fight cancer – costs $108,000 in the first year for women and $115,000 in the first year for men. Then, there are the costs for supplemental medications, radiation (if necessary), living expenses (since most people cannot work full-time while going through treatment) and any other complementary therapies used to fight the disease.

If the cancer is bad enough and participation in a clinical trial is a last measure, then this is even more money out of pocket because insurance and/or the study organization may or may not pay for things like doctor visits, hospital stays, travel and the study drug itself, according to the National Cancer Institute. The elements covered depend on the insurance plan, the type of study and the parameters of it. For those without insurance, or those with less-than-desirable plans, it becomes a fight against time to shore up the funds to pay for cancer treatment quickly. Consider some ideas that might help:


One of the fastest and most common ways to address a crisis in modern time is crowdfunding. This centers on the ability to ask large groups of people for money with just one link. People use it for everything from health crises to funeral expenses to college tuition. GoFundMe is the most well-known website used for this purpose, but there are numerous others available for those turned off by the fees charged through GoFundMe to receive funds collected.

GoFundMe takes 5%, while competing site YouCaring works with a donation processing company that takes $.30 from each donation and a 2.9% fee per transaction.  This is a great way to tap into the generosity and caring nature of close family and friends that may want to help, but don’t know how. Fighting cancer is an intensely personal battle, so financial help really is among the best help.

This is particularly true for friends and family that are too far away to help physically; they are more likely to contribute to an account that can be used for treatment. Additionally, this link can be distributed to colleagues and other acquaintances that might be willing to donate a few bucks to the cause. A little bit goes a long way in terms of many small donations; it can add up quickly.

There are GoFundMe users that have raised thousands within just a day or two, so don’t underestimate this as a resource to help pay for treatment. For example, a family of a baby diagnosed with brain cancer was able to raise almost a quarter million dollars for his treatment and care in five months.

Sell Your Life Insurance

If you own a life insurance policy, you might qualify for a viatical or life settlement. In a settlement, you can sell your life insurance policy to an institutional third party investor and get paid out an upfront cash amount early. If the insured is terminally ill and requires funds for hospice or other type of care, a viatical settlement can help them get up to 80% of their life insurance policy benefit up front tax-free. If the insured is not terminally ill, they won’t qualify for a viatical settlement but may qualify for a life settlement. A life settlement can pay out up to 25% of the policy benefit value.

Try our life settlement calculator to get a quick estimate of your policy’s value.


Accelerated Benefits or Long Term Care Life Insurance Riders

You should also check your life insurance policy to see if it provides for any accelerated benefits or long term care. If you are terminally ill, some policies will pay out the full death benefit up front if you’ve purchased the accelerated benefits rider. Other policies will pay for your long term care if you’ve purchased a long term care rider or long term care insurance.

Local Cancer Facilities & Treatment Center Payment Plans

Many people don’t realize that there is help right in their own backyard. US News and World Report suggests tapping into local resources first. Check out the local chapter of the American Cancer Society to determine what assistance they might be able to offer, as they have some options for those that are financially strapped with a recent diagnosis. Local treatment facilities sometimes offer payment plans for those that need treatment now, but can’t pay all at one time. These programs are sometimes dependent on financial need, but in some cases, provide financial assistance first and then figure out the semantics later.

Many doctors will work with payment plan options as well. This is generally in the form of a monthly payment that needs to be made, breaking up the cost the treatment over a set number of months to keep payments affordable. Additionally, the American Cancer Society often has information on other local programs set up specifically to help patients through a diagnosis.

Every city has some form of assistance for those that need financial help during cancer treatment; the variation comes in the amounts available and the process to get this help. There is a wealth of resources available to ensure that cancer patients don’t feel alone at any step of the process. The local health department is also a good resource for this purpose. While most government processes don’t move fast because of bureaucratic issues, this is one time that a response will likely be given much quicker than usual.

Leveraging Financial Accounts

Those with financial accounts might have an option if they can access the funds quickly. This is again not the most ideal plan, but it is the quickest option. Patients that have savings, investment or retirement accounts may need to break into them to pay for treatment. There can be a tax liability associated with doing this with a retirement or investment account, but there may be instances where this liability can be counteracted by tax-related credits for medical expenses. Emptying these accounts is a gamble because patients are forced to basically start all over again financially. However, if there is no time to wait for crowdfunding or other options, then accessing what capital already exists may be the best strategy to get on the road to being well once again.

Taking Out a Loan

This might seem like a less-than-desirable option for someone unsure of what their future might hold. However, it is important to have a future in which to consider first. Therefore, for those that need treatment RIGHT NOW and cannot wait for other options to pan out, consider working with your local bank or credit union for a loan. If you have a good relationship with your banking institution – particularly if you are a member of a credit union that has local decision-makers – you might be apt to tell them why you are applying for the loan.

If you’ve had a good relationship with them and your credit is good, they will be more likely to give you the money you need. If you are dealing with a traditional bank, where you don’t have a good history, you may or may not get the money you need since you will be vetted more on the numbers (debt-to-income ratio, credit, etc.) versus your history with an existing institution.


About Ovid

Ovid is a life settlement exchange. We instantly match you with institutional buyers who are interested in your policy, based on you and your policy profile. Getting an offer for your policy from Ovid buyer partners is completely free. If you do want so sell your policy, Ovid has proven to help obtain average payouts above the industry average. We’re based in San Francisco and have been featured in Forbes, US News, Business Insider for the incredible work we do for consumers. You can learn more about Ovid here.