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Terminal Cancer: Covering the Cost of Care When Your Time Is Limited

Terminal Cancer_care and finances

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Facing a terminal cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming.  The last thing you and your loved ones need is a financial crisis.  By developing a firm plan to cover the costs associated with treatment, you can find structure and comfort in your circumstances.

Understanding insurances.  If you are still working and have health insurance coverage from your employer, you will continue to be covered under that plan until after you stop working, whether for receiving treatment yourself or for assisting an ill loved one.  If you are using health insurance, Investopedia recommends researching lifetime maximums as well as what coverage you have toward experimental treatment options.  For those with terminal illness, it’s best to continue to work as long as possible.  Social Security benefits are based on income levels, regardless of health conditions.

Once you stop working, you can apply for a disability benefit through Social Security.  When you begin receiving Social Security benefits, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare.  If you have questions regarding what treatments are covered by Medicare in your state, you can refer to an online guide that offers access to websites and contact information for in-state organizations, which can provide you with the necessary information.

Costs for treatment.  Treatment options vary widely, as well as the costs involved.  There are no simple answers regarding treatment, and you should discuss care, expenses and what is desirable with your doctors and family members.  You have options for your cancer treatment costs, depending on how assertively you and your loved ones want to engage treatment.  Some people opt to fight cancer up until the end with aggressive and expensive treatment in a hospital setting.

Less expensive options include palliative and hospice care.  Palliative and hospice treatment options are holistic, treating symptoms and alleviating pain.  Hospice is end-of-life care in your home, while palliative care is given in a skilled facility and may be administered to people with terminal or nonterminal conditions.

Managing debts.  Even with thorough planning and insurance in place, many people with terminal cancer leave family members with substantial debts related to treatment.  Even if you don’t feel like dealing with them, it’s important not to let bills pile up.  With so much already happening, accumulated debt can add financial devastation to already difficult circumstances.

Options for financing.  You have several options when it comes to covering costs associated with terminal cancer.  Here are some suggestions:

Life insurance policy.  Many life insurance policies offer “living benefits.”  Basically, this is a rider allowing you to tap into the death benefit after receiving a terminal illness diagnosis.  NerdWallet explains these policies vary, and you would need to check the specific wording for how much the policy allows as well as how soon you can receive funds.  Any funds withdrawn while the policyholder is alive would be reduced from what is paid to beneficiaries.  You also could potentially sell a life insurance policy for its cash value.

Annuity.  You can purchase an annuity for medical expenses even if you are in poor health.  Normally annuities require a substantial upfront payment along the lines of $75,000.

Liquidate assets.  If you have easily sold assets, you can liquidate them to pay for expenses.  This will vary in accordance with circumstances; business owners might have a high net worth, but their assets could be tied up in their businesses.  However, vacation homes, boats, or other property might be sold quickly to pay for cancer care.

Veterans benefits.  Veterans and their surviving spouses are eligible for hospice and palliative care through the Veterans Administration.  If you or your loved one is a veteran, Medical Daily suggests inquiring about timing and access to care.

When you or a loved one receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, you do have choices regarding care and financing.  Make decisions regarding treatment and care.  By charting a course, you can feel more assured facing what the future holds.


A special thank you to Scott Sanders for contributing this guest post! 

Scott Sanders is the creator of, 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.

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