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How to fund your cancer treatment without a loan

If insurance does not cover your cancer treatment costs, there are ways to pay for the therapies of your choice. Depending on your type of cancer, the cost for treatment at natural or integrative cancer clinics can range from $50,000 to more than $100,000. On top of that, there will be out-of-pocket costs – travel, meals, lodging, etc. – that have to be accounted for by the patient.

Big picture, there are different types of costs related to your care. It's important to carefully budget for the assistance you may need. Also, don't be short-sighted; your daily life is changing and this will be a long-term battle physically, emotionally, and financially.

Funding strategies

Home Mortgage

For those owning a home, taking a home mortgage seems to be a significant way to obtain funds to pay for treatments. As one person put it, “It’s my home, I’m paying for it and if it can help me now to remain living in it, why not? If I pass away it won’t matter anymore anyway.”

Financing

Some patients opt to use 0% or low-interest credit cards to get treatments started. Others use companies that specialize in providing loans for healthcare, like Care Credit. It’s like a credit card for healthcare. They have 12-month interest-free options available.

Networking

GoFundMe is an option. Also, patient advocates have held yard sales, bake sales, and other fund-raising events. There should be no shame on the part of a cancer patient asking for financial help.

No donation is too large or small. All donations are a gift of love. It’s amazing to find that $20 multiplied by so many hands can cover treatment costs.

Many patients are happily surprised to find there are many charitable people just waiting for an opportunity to help. Others seek out foundations or grants for treatments. We encourage you to research what may be available in your local area.

Health Share Networks

Health Share Networks continue to be an exciting ongoing development. Good, decent people committing to pay monthly for the healthcare of others and vice versa. Organizations like Samaritan Ministries or Medi-Share have been doing this for more than 20 years with tens of thousands of members paying tens of millions of dollars monthly for healthcare costs, including the cost of natural or integrative treatments.

These are not medical insurance companies. You pay a portion of a member’s medical bill and they are doing the same for you. The members are interdependent on each other. Pre-existing conditions, like cancer, are provided as additional sharing options to members who want to help those with needs outside of member guidelines.

In the United States, health share networks are excluded from the Affordable Care Act.

Learn more about Medi-Share

Learn more about Samaritan Ministries

All limit or exclude pre-existing conditions to some extent. Prospective members may be denied entrance, based on each organization's applicable membership requirements or guidelines.

None include long-term maintenance drugs. See individual program details for various limitations. Most associate the sharing of prescription drugs with a medical incident.

The different levels of program options offered by each vary significantly. However, the top-tier programs provided by these ministries are quite similar. All groups have an enrollment fee ranging from $125 to $200 except for Christian Healthcare Ministries.

Comparing Samaritan Ministries, Medi-Share, and Christian Healthcare Ministries

Life Insurance

A “viatical settlement” is not a loan. The purpose of this financial product is so that terminally ill people can enjoy the last days of their life. However, this product also can be used by those who are trying to survive cancer.

Viatical settlements involve the sale of your life insurance policy. Depending on the type of life insurance coverage and insurance carrier, you may have certain policy provisions within the policy that allow for an advance of your death benefit. This life insurance settlement option should be explored, especially if you need cash to pay for the high cost of care.

Abacus

Abacus a strong financial solution

Be aware: Do not turn in your policy to your life insurance company. They will only give you a small fraction of what the policy is worth. Also, some brokers of this product take exorbitant commissions without telling you. In other words, they do not tell you the actual numbers quoted by the companies that buy these products. Ask questions and research before making a financial decision.

There are patients who take out a Reverse Life Insurance policy, also known as life settlements. Life settlements refer to the sale of one's life insurance policy to a third party for an immediate, set sum of money.

One organization offering this is Abacus. If you have a $75,000 life insurance policy, you may qualify to receive up to 50 percent of your policy’s death benefit today. You will never be required to make loan payments or incur out-of-pocket expenses.

Organizations providing Reverse Life Insurance make their money by keeping the balance of your insurance policy upon your passing. Seek professional counsel to determine if this choice is right for you.

LifeGuide Partners

LifeGuide Partners on avoiding financial toxicity

Financial toxicity is a growing concern for people who have been diagnosed with cancer and the fiscal reality of paying for treatment. With the addition of targeted therapies and immunotherapy, the cost of cancer regimens has skyrocketed, often exceeding more than $100,000 each year for some patients.

Beyond direct care costs, there are other significant drivers of financial toxicity. Cancer patients may also endure a loss of work productivity – reduction in work hours, missed days at work, or job loss.

However, you can sell the insurance policy and use that money for financial needs. The third-party buyer will assume payment of the policy premiums and will receive the benefit.

Meanwhile, you take the money to pay for cancer treatments, pay off debts, travel, or check off bucket list items.

Canadian Life Insurance Policies

This is a note from a reader in Canada about using a life insurance policy in that country to fund a cancer treatment:

We have what is called “Living Benefit” where you can ‘cash in’ up to half of your life insurance (to a max of $100,000). If you have been given 12 months or less to live (according to your oncologist), you apply to your life insurance company and they send you a cheque (less 1 yrs worth of premiums) to be used for anything you wish. Not ALL insurance companies do this but MOST do.

We did this a year ago and I had to call the life insurance company and explain my husband is still with us and we need to start paying his premiums again so we don’t lose the other half of his life insurance when he eventually does pass.

As soon as you are diagnosed, apply for CPPD (Canada Pension Plan Disability). Cancer is an automatic acceptance. My husband receives over $800/month AND because we didn’t find out about this until 6 months after diagnosis, they went retroactive to when he was diagnosed. We applied at the end of August and his first cheque was in the bank at the end of October along with the retroactive amount.

In Ontario, if your household is low income, once you have been accepted to CPPD, look into ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program). This program also pays for prescriptions for your dependants and some other health care items such as dental and vision care.

As soon as you are diagnosed, quit your job and go on EI (Employment Insurance). It is called sick benefit and they don’t refute it because they know the standard treatments kick the heck out of you and you will have good and bad days and cannot rely on being well enough to go to work. I believe this is a ‘bridge’ until you start receiving CPPD or ODSP.

If you opt for CPPD and require a home care nurse (full time, part-time or weekly), or are under the care of a dietician (even monthly visits), you can apply for an ODB (Ontario Drug Benefit) card. This card pays my husband’s prescriptions and his liquid food source for tube feeding (he can’t swallow because of the tumor on the back of his tongue). Contact the CCAC (Community Care Access Centre) for information.

Tax Deduction

Talk with your income tax professional to determine what portion or if your entire treatment amount is tax deductible.

Treatment

Local faith-based churches, synagogues, and mosques may help, sometimes even if the cancer patient is not a member of that organization or religion. Catholic Charities USA, Jewish Social Services Agency, Lutheran Social Services, and others may offer financial assistance. Ask about grants to help cover the cost of treatment and other expenses.

There also are national organizations that may help offset costs of treatments:

  • Dempsey Center — free support, education, and integrative medicine to anyone affected by cancer.
  • Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition — organizations helping cancer patients manage financial challenges.
  • CancerCare — limited financial assistance for people affected by cancer.
  • HealthWell Foundation — independent, non-profit that helps insured patients with a chronic, life-altering disease afford their medications.

Housing

If you have to travel to see a doctor for cancer treatment, depending on the protocol, most likely you will need to stay for a few days. If you need help with lodging costs:

  • Healthcare Hospitality Network — an association of more than 200 nonprofit organizations that provide lodging and support services to families and their loved ones who are receiving medical treatment away from home.
  • Joe's House — non-profit that helps cancer patients and their families find a place to stay when traveling away from home for medical treatment.

Travel

OK, so you have found a clinic — now, how do you get there for the cancer treatment? There are several transportation services that can assist you:

  • Air Care Alliance — a central listing of free transportation services provided by volunteer pilots and charitable aviation groups.
  • LifeLine Pilots — volunteer pilots who donate their time and all flight expenses to people in need of free transportation for on-going treatment, diagnosis, and follow-up care.
  • National Patient Travel Center — information about long-distance travel for cancer patients and their families in need of travel.

Advocacy

Paying for cancer treatment can weigh on your mind. While focusing on your health, there isn't a lot of time to dedicate to making sure the bills are paid. But you must do it! If you need help charting a course:

  • Patient Access Network Foundation — focused on ensuring underinsured patients living with life-threatening, chronic and rare diseases get the financial assistance they need.
  • Patient Advocate Foundation — provides patients with arbitration, mediation and negotiation to settle issues with access to care, medical debt, and job retention related to their illness.

Do your homework

Before talking with a doctor, a financial rep, or anyone associated with your health care, prepare for the meeting:

  • Write down your questions before the appointment.
  • Write notes during the conversation or even tape the conversation; most smartphones can record audio.
  • If you do not understand something, ask a follow-up question or for a clearer explanation.
  • It is your right to seek a second opinion. In fact, you should seek a second opinion!
  • Research what a doctor, a financial rep, or anyone associated with your health care tells you.