Advice for Managing the Expenses Associated with Terminal Cancer Care

February 2, 2020

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Facing a terminal cancer diagnosis is emotionally devastating enough.  When families are ill-prepared to handle their expenses, a financial crisis can also develop.  Here is important information for covering the costs associated with terminal cancer care. 

The importance of a plan

When you or a loved one receives a diagnosis of terminal cancer, everything changes.  Time can seem to stand still and just taking things a day at a time can be draining.  While everything seems to be in upheaval, finding the means to pay medical expenses can seem like the least of your worries.  However, developing a concrete plan can bring structure during a seemingly chaotic time. For instance, while Medicare does cover some costs, the Fiscal Times explains that out-of-pocket expenses can be financially disastrous. 

Medicaid brings its own set of worries, as some experts note the mountains of paperwork alone can be overwhelming.  In order to avoid adding to troubles for you and your loved ones, it’s vital to establish a plan.  Some patients cover care with insurance policies, while other older adults may look to reverse mortgages as an option.  Reverse mortgages allow homeowners to borrow against the equity they’ve established over the years into their property.  If you’re considering a reverse mortgage, speak with your financial advisor to find the best route for you.

During this time, it’s also important to make plans to have someone act on your behalf. This includes putting together a living will, assigning a power of attorney, and getting all of the necessary documents together that will allow you to execute these plans without any legal hiccups. Not only will this provide you with peace of mind, but it will also ensure that the necessary steps are taken to protect your well-being when you’re unable to do so on your own.

Talk with medical staff

Discussing the course of treatments is key to navigating the remaining time and costs.  Undergoing undesirable procedures not only can be a drain on time and energy, but it can also add up to more financial burdens. Palliative care can potentially save thousands of dollars as well as ease the intensity of treatments for people with terminal cancer.  Even when applied in a hospital setting, palliative care is shown to be less expensive than other treatment options.  More aggressive care options might prolong life but sometimes come with substantial side effects as well as expenses.  It’s important to talk through your situation with physicians and caregivers to decide on the right options for you and your loved ones. 

Tap into insurance

Oftentimes those facing terminal illness can tap into life insurance to help pay for their medical expenses.  If you have a life insurance policy, you should check into taking an “accelerated death benefit.”  Basically, you dip into the death benefit while still alive.  You can use the funds to cover medical expenses.  The death benefit is lowered by whatever you use, and the remainder is what your beneficiaries receive.  Experts at Kiplinger explain the specifics vary by insurance company and policy, such as how much you can withdraw and what life expectancy is allowed. 

Burial insurance

Many people facing a terminal illness opt for burial insurance.  Burial insurance is reasonably self-explanatory — it covers the bills and expenses associated with funerals, which tend to cost around $9,000 on average — although details vary by policy and provider.  It’s an option that can alleviate some of the stress and emotional burden left to survivors during a difficult time.  By pre-planning and pre-paying the funeral and burial expenses, you remove any misunderstandings or feelings of obligation loved ones might be under, and allow an opportunity to focus on grieving and supporting each other. 

Alternative methods

If you or someone you love is facing medical expenses associated with terminal cancer, there are some alternative options for covering costs.  Several national organizations help families with financial assistance for cancer treatment, such as Beyond the Cure and the American Cancer Society.  Organizations relating to the specific cancer are another important resource.  Some people sell assets no longer of use to cover costs, such as extra vehicles and vacation homes.  Other assets can be liquidated as well, like retirement funds.  Remember many options impact taxes, both for the beneficiaries and into the next tax year, so it’s important to discuss decisions with an estate attorney or financial advisor.

Setting a course for the remaining time can help give grounding to those facing a terminal cancer diagnosis.  If you or a loved one is making this difficult journey, be sure to lay a financial path.  With a plan in place, you can have more peace of mind.  

Scott Sanders is the creator of Cancer Well, which provides resources and support for anyone who has been affected by any form of cancer. He is also the author of the book Put Yourself First: A Guide to Self-care and Spiritual Wellness During and After Cancer Treatment. 

The views, information, or opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of The Colon Club.