Advisor's Portfolio

Cancer Treatment and Survival Come With Heavy Costs

Helping employees prepare for the unexpected with cancer insurance

by Wendy Herndon

Ms. Herndon is second vice president of Product Development and Implementation at Aflac. With more than 20 years of experience in this field, she is responsible for managing and guiding product portfolios through their entire life cycles including strategy, development and implementation. Visit

Many people have been impacted by cancer in some way, either directly or indirectly. Fortunately, research breakthroughs over the past few decades have improved cancer screenings and treatments, resulting in higher survival rates. In fact, the National Cancer Institute estimates the number of people living beyond a cancer diagnosis will reach almost 19 million by 2024.1

As we recognize Childhood Cancer Awareness Month this September, it is worth noting the childhood cancer survival rate has increased by more than two-thirds from 1969, largely due to improvements in treatment.2 These advances are made possible in part by those committed to giving back and doing good – including many of the 75,000 independent agents licensed to sell Aflac products, who give more than $500,000 each month from their commission checks to help fund childhood cancer treatment, research and care. Similarly, innovations like My Special Aflac Duck™, a “smart” robotic companion for children who have cancer, help these young patients cope with their diagnosis.

While we celebrate the strides made in cancer treatment and survival, the reality is that cancer is still hard to face – and for millions of Americans each year, a cancer diagnosis comes at a cost.

The American Cancer Society found U.S. cancer patients paid nearly $4 billion in out-of-pocket costs in 2014. That breaks down to costing the average patient on an employer-sponsored plan a total of $6,000 a year, including premiums, deductibles, copayments and coinsurance.3 However, these costs are compounded if a patient needs to seek out-of-network care or requires a treatment that is not covered by their major medical insurance plan.

While doctors and advancements in medicine can help with getting healthy, benefits advisors can help with rising out-of-pocket costs by making cancer insurance available to their clients’ workforces.

The basics of cancer insurance

Cancer insurance helps people manage cancer-related expenses that may not be covered by major medical insurance. These include deductibles, copayments and out-of-network care as well as everyday living expenses such as utility bills, car payments, child care costs, and even the patient’s mortgage or rent. These benefits help allow policyholders to focus on treatment and recovery rather than stress over finances.

As cancer care evolves, benefits advisors should look for insurers whose insurance policies are continuously growing to keep up with the latest advances...

As cancer care evolves, benefits advisors should look for insurers whose insurance policies are continuously growing to keep up with the latest advances. Some of the latest benefits to look for include:

  • Coverage for screening tests and surgeries performed as a result of positive genetic testing.
  • Wellness payouts for yearly preventative screenings
  • Access to emotional support from oncology social workers and support groups.
  • Nonsurgical treatments, such as immunotherapy.
  • Annual care benefits to help manage costs associated with the effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
  • Benefits for a child diagnosed with cancer, including covering dependent children at no additional costaking the case for cancer insurance

With the cost of medical care on the rise, employees are relying on their workplaces for access to insurance that can help cover cancer care and treatment expenses. As expectations around corporate social responsibility grow, companies are also increasingly scrutinized on the way they treat their workforces. By offering a product like cancer insurance, agents and brokers can help business customers improve their benefits offerings in a way that demonstrates to its employees the company’s commitment to physical and financial well-being.

As agents and brokers work with clients ahead of open enrollment to create the strongest possible benefits package, it is important to consider access to coverage that embraces the latest in cancer care. Doing so not only helps provide added peace of mind to employees, but it helps allows those with cancer to better focus on facing each day with hope, optimism and determination.◊



1 National Cancer Institute. “Cancer statistics.” Accessed Aug. 13, 2018.
2 “Cancer Facts & Figures 2018.”, American Cancer Society, 2018. Accessed Aug. 13, 2018.
3 “How Much Does Cancer Cost? New Report Examines Expected Patient Costs for Common Cancer Diagnoses.” American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, April 11, 2017. Accessed Aug. 13, 2018.


This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a solicitation. Aflac herein means American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus and/or American Family Life Assurance Company of New York and/or Continental American Insurance Company and /or Continental American Life Insurance Company.


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