Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Insurance concerns

People who have life and health insurance before their cancer diagnosis and treatment usually should be able to keep their insurance, although costs and benefits may change. Cancer survivors who change jobs or apply for new policies may face problems with their insurance.

When considering your insurance status, keep the following in mind:

  • You may not want to leave your present job until you know what your insurance options are. After you leave your job, you may have to get an individual policy, which costs more than a group policy.
  • If you leave your job, you will want to know the deadline for applying for a new individual policy. Most insurance companies allow you to apply within 30 days after leaving your previous job.
  • You will want to evaluate the insurance benefits offered by the companies you want to work for. You may be better off taking a new job with the same salary or even a lower salary if the insurance provides good coverage for you and/or your family.
  • If you buy an individual policy, examine it carefully. Ask for answers to the following questions:
    • How is the new policy different?
    • Do you have a choice of doctors?
    • What are the deductible amounts?
    • Does the new policy include catastrophic or long-term care coverage?
    • Are you protected from cancellation and premium increases?
  • You may want to take advantage of all the benefits your policy provides. Consider the following:
    • Get a copy of your insurance policy and find out exactly what your coverage includes.
    • Keep careful records of all of your covered expenses and claims.
    • File claims for all covered costs.
    • Get help in filing a claim if you need it. Ask a friend, a family member or a social worker to help you. Some private companies and community groups also offer help with filing insurance claims.
    • If a claim is turned down, make sure you understand your coverage. If you feel that you have filed correctly, file again but first ask your doctor to explain to the company how your medical services meet the coverage requirements. If you are turned down again, you will want to find out if the company has an appeals process.
  • Make sure that you are getting maximum coverage for the cost of clinical trials. Some clinical trials offer portions of treatment free of charge. But, because clinical trials involve a new treatment, some insurance companies will not cover the costs. If you are considering taking part in a clinical trial, you will want to ask your doctor about the experiences of other patients in the trial. Have insurance companies paid for care? Have there been any problems? Many insurance companies decide whether to cover the costs of treatment in a clinical trial on a case-by-case basis.