Refocusing After the Diagnosis: Tips to Combat the High Cost of Cancer

By on January 23, 2020

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is a harrowing experience. In just a matter of minutes, a patient learns that his or her life is about to change significantly — from their physical and emotional health to routines and relationships.

After processing the news, however, another important issue will need to be addressed: the financial aspect of treatment. Even with quality health insurance, the high cost of many cancers can be a major burden for patients and their families. “The costs associated with direct cancer care are staggering,” reports the American Cancer Society, noting that in one given year, Americans pay close to $4 billion in out-of-pocket medical costs for cancer treatment. In a recent AARP blog post, author Peter Moore poses a telling question: “If you are diagnosed with cancer, which expert should you see first: a medical specialist or a money manager?” Moore continues: “Cancer patients are two-and-a-half times as likely to declare bankruptcy as healthy people.”

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Financial toxicity

The side effect of cancer’s burdensome price tag even has its own name – financial toxicity. “Financial toxicity describes problems a cancer patient has related to the cost of treatment,” explains the National Cancer Institute (NCI), pointing out that it is often brought on by mounting copayment, deductible, and coinsurance bills. So what can a patient do to avoid financial toxicity and keep their finances intact throughout the course of treatment? 

One tip is to work closely with what the NCI calls a financial navigator. “Financial navigators help patients understand their out-of-pocket expenses and what their health insurance plans may cover,” notes the NCI. “Financial navigators may also help patients set up payment plans, find cost-saving methods for treatments, and improve access to healthcare services that the patient needs.”

Financial assistance

In addition, it may be helpful to tap into the vast network of cancer support tools and organizations. Groups like these might be best known for providing emotional support, but they can help financially, too — from providing free rides to and from the hospital, to providing affordable goods like hairpieces and mastectomy bras. The American Cancer Society has a database devoted to “helping patients find free or low-cost resources available in your area.”

A third suggestion: consider reviewing your assets. You may have some that you can use to secure extra funds. For instance, many don’t realize that their life insurance policies are flexible tools that can be used in the here and now to help manage costs.

Fifth Season Financial’s Funds for Living and Giving (FLAG) program allows those with an advanced-stage illness such as cancer to access a portion of the face value of their life insurance policy at a time when financial assistance is most critical.

With no restrictions on how the money can be spent, clients are empowered to use their funds in any way they see fit to meet their individualized needs. Many choose to pay the copayments, deductibles, and coinsurance bills mentioned above. Others, however, may opt to cover living expenses, transportation costs, or even take a memory-making vacation. In almost all instances, funds remain in the life insurance policy to be passed on to beneficiaries.

Cheryl Ioakimidis, an Illinois-based nurse who was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer in 2018, is one of many patients who leveraged their life insurance policies with Fifth Season Financial. She took advantage of the FLAG program in June 2019, about a year-and-a-half after her initial diagnosis.  “Fifth Season has made a world of difference for me and my family,” Ioakimidis says. “They shine a light in a very dark place. The staff has been a blessing — so compassionate, hardworking, knowledgeable, and always advocating on my behalf throughout the process. I now have the cushion I need to explore new treatment options; find financial solvency, and change my emotional state to a less stressed being.”

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Paying bills with dignity

When initially faced with a diagnosis and concerned about financial toxicity, some patients might opt to stop covering their life insurance premiums in order to pay other bills. However, their life insurance may in fact be the best solution for financial relief.  With the FLAG program, Fifth Season Financial takes overall premium payments – helping to reduce the bills that led to financial toxicity in the first place.

Facing a cancer diagnosis is never easy, but having one less factor to worry about — finances — can provide patients with tremendous peace of mind. Take advantage of all your options, from professional guidance, to support networks, to your life insurance policy.

Adam Balinsky is president of Fifth Season Financial, a specialty lender providing solutions to alleviate the financial strain associated with advanced-stage illness. Fifth Season’s Funds for Living and Giving (FLAG) program allows clients to receive an advance on their life insurance policy (funds for living) while preserving funds for beneficiaries to receive in the future (funds forgiving). For more information, call (866) 459-1271 or visit

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Refocusing After the Diagnosis: Tips to Combat the High Cost of Cancer