Q: Should I buy cancer insurance?
A: Buying insurance is a choice that is based on mathematics — and
emotion. For instance, we buy homeowners insurance despite relatively long odds against a fire. But the odds of dying are 100 percent — and yet one-third of adult Americans carry no life insurance at all!
What about cancer insurance? These policies are meant to be used in addition to or as a supplement to your regular medical insurance, helping insulate you from the devastating, uncovered costs of this dread disease and its treatment.
Seeing a lot of cancer around you? It's not your imagination. According to the latest findings from the American Cancer Society, cancer will occur in one of every three Americans, and three of every four families. One in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
The math experts will tell you cancer insurance is relatively expensive. But a policy can cost less than $1 a day — far less than playing the lottery, which is a much longer shot than getting cancer! Bryan Fisher, a top agent with Family Heritage, says: "Having cancer insurance gives peace of mind that money can easily buy."
A cancer insurance policy can give you money for the uncovered expenses of dealing with cancer. There are so many variations on cancer insurance that it's difficult to compare policies. They are offered by major diversified insurers like Aflac, Mutual of Omaha and Allstate — and companies such as Family Heritage, which specializes in this kind of insurance.
So that's where you start looking — with companies that are rated at least B-plus by at least one major rating company. And here's what you want to compare:
Specific coverage: Make a list of what each policy covers and the amount of benefit it offers for each item. Create your own comparison list, including: preventive screening, daily benefit for hospital or intensive care, drug and medical benefits in-hospital, chemo or radiation benefits per treatment, surgery benefit, anesthetic, hospice care, transportation to out-of-state treatment, blood and plasma benefit per occurrence, ambulance service, post-surgical physician benefit, X-ray and lab benefits, bone marrow transplant, prosthetic devices — and even coverage for experimental treatments.
Check carefully for lifetime benefit limits, as well as daily and monthly benefit limits.
Individual coverage: If your company offers this benefit, make sure it is portable if you leave your job.
Guaranteed renewable: The policy should be guaranteed renewable every year for life, with no age limit, and should have a level premium.
Refund of premium: Offered by some companies every 20 years, or at age 75, minus any claims paid.
Claims paying reputation: Make sure the insurance company is known for prompt payment of claims and has a U.S.-based claims office (as opposed to an overseas phone center).
One more thought: If you're buying cancer insurance because you're superstitious, make a second "bet." For every dollar you spend on cancer insurance, donate another dollar to cancer research. That's truly a good investment. And that's The Savage Truth.
Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and is on the board of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. She appears weekly on WMAQ-Channel 5's 4:30 p.m. newscast, and can be reached at www.terrysavage.com. She is the author of the new book, "The New Savage Number: How Much Money Do You Really Need to Retire?" To find out more about Terry Savage and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.