The hidden cost of cancer

Unfortunately for the majority of us, cancer will hit very close to home, but what about the hidden costs of the disease? And what are insurance companies doing about them? Brogan Howe has the rundown

By Brogan Howe.

17 March 2020 (22 days ago)

Cancer: “a disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body”. However, despite this definition there are very few people who don’t know what cancer is. Cancer has killed over 2.5 million people in the UK alone since 2000, and with more than 200 different types of cancer it is estimated that, 50% of people will get some form of cancer during their lifetime. This has led to the development of cancer insurance in recent times.

Clearly, there is an opportunity for insurers to sell cancer insurance because a lot of people will get cancer at some point in the future. Cancer insurance aims to protect the policyholder from financial hardship during and after the diagnosis of cancer. Cancer insurance can help the policyholder by providing them with a lump sum, monthly monetary benefits or cover of treatment costs such as payment for drugs that are not subsidised by the NHS. The monetary benefits help to cover the policyholder against loss of income from being unable to work, pay for child care if it is necessary, transport to and from the hospital or even perhaps a holiday trip with close friends and family. Companies which offer Cancer Insurance include, but are not limited to, Vitality, Aviva and Coverwell Financial Solutions. Interestingly, on Vitality’s website a frequently asked question is “My family has a history of cancer – will it affect my premiums?”, and the answer given is “No, we don’t take family history into account when offering cover.” This is a major surprise given that certain people have a higher risk of developing cancer due to inheriting the ‘faulty’ gene from a parent. Therefore, surely a family history of cancer should be considered when deciding whether or not to provide cover to a person.

In addition to the direct financial implications of a cancer diagnosis, another cost of cancer is the trouble finding travel insurance. As described above, after a diagnosis a person may want to travel and see the world, this may not be as easy as you may think. For example, research by Macmillan Cancer Support has found that people who suffer from cancer pay on average four times as much for travel insurance. In addition to this, even if you recover from cancer, this will still negatively affect your chances of not only getting affordable travel insurance but actually getting travel insurance at all. In 2017 over 8,500 people were denied travel insurance despite being cancer free for over 10 years. These facts and concerns resulted in the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to investigate people’s concerns with “pre-existing medical conditions obtaining affordable travel insurance.” The feedback focused on key points including lack of information available to customers after receiving high prices, lack of understanding of risk factors considered when insuring people and how premiums are calculated and why this information is not easily accessible to customers.

In conclusion, cancer has a number of financial issues that are associated with the disease, and cancer insurance could save people thousands of pounds in the long run. It is clear that more needs to be done to allow cancer sufferers to travel without the fear of needing expensive emergency medical procedures abroad, which could again cost thousands of pounds.