Cancer Indemnity Insurance: To hedge or not to hedge? (Part II)

Continued from the last part …

On calling Aflac, I was transferred to what I would consider to be a customer service agent, although it shortly became clear that she was as much an insurance agent working on commission as anything.

When I told her that there was almost no history of cancer in my extended family (which, I added, was enormous—on the maternal side alone, my grandmother was one of 9 children, and my mother grew up with almost 60 first cousins), she was quick to tell me how little that mattered. I was incredulous:

"Family history has no influence on the risk of developing cancer?"
"Barely."
"Genetics don't count for anything?"
"These days you can get cancer from so many different ways."

Her responses were both false and misleading, but I let the matter drop and finally got to the issue of how much it would cost to cover me, a 39 year old male.

The answer: A monthly premium of $51.

INDEMNITY, PREVENTION, CURE

Not bad, but in my case, the US Preventive Services Task Force doesn't recommend screening for prostate cancer or colorectal cancer for another decade; it doesn't recommend it for testicular cancer at all. Sure, I could develop almost any cancer imaginable at any time. But my wife and I are already getting our asses kicked financially to include me on her employer's health insurance, and my risk factors for the most common cancers are low.

The problem is, while cancer treatment is probably among the most expensive for any disease, cancer isn't the only disease out there.

And what about this, could this insurance have a sort of Peltzman Effect? Having hedged myself against a financially devastating cancer diagnosis, would it encourage me into more risky cancer-related behavior—take up smoking again, go to tanning salons, have unsafe sex, go on a diet eating only growth-hormone juiced steaks, get a job at a factory making asbestos or plastics or explosives or silicon processors, finally give in and get a cell phone and never let it leave my ear?

OK that's doubtful. But while buying indemnity insurance against a future diagnosis may prove to be a financial life-saver, it won't save my life. It will do nothing for my prognosis.

If 1 oz prevention = 1 lb cure, better I invest in prevention. That to me seems like a solid investment in myself. Cancer indemnity insurance seems like I'm making payments towards the incomes of health professionals of the future.

But that's just me. Folks that have this insurance and need it are rewarded many times over for their prescience.

AFLAC VS THE REST

Aflac pioneered this type of insurance and they act like it, offering what is most likely the best all-around cancer indemnity insurance policy in the biz. Their premiums may be higher here and there, but pound for pound they can't be beat.

Their policy pays for chemotherapy (IV and oral), radiation, immunotherapy, anti-nausea drugs, hospital stays, reconstructive surgery, prostheses, hospice, experimental treatments, transportation, lodging, and transplantations—both peripheral stem cells and bone marrow—where I found the most interesting benefit: $1,000 payable to your bone marrow donor for expenses related to the procedure. What if your HSCT is autologous—do YOU get this $1,000? I didn't ask.

To their credit, Aflac's web site contains downloadable PDFs explaining the specific cancer benefits for each state in the union, and the document you download is both comprehensive and relatively easy to understand. Granted, if you want an actual quote, you will have to submit some information. Still, the 'pamphlets' they provide for download are solid.

On the other end is just about every other provider of similar insurance that I came across on the web—in order to get any information on their policies, you have to provide name, address, phone, email, that kind of thing, so that, presumably, they can hound you indefinitely to buy their products and sell your info to bulk mailers in the process. Those include Liberty National (whose cancer insurance I've been told good things about), Transamerica, a strange site operated by MedSuppInfo.com whose cancer indemnity insurance is underwritten by Monumental Life Insurance Company (strange because they have a section that promises "How to Detect 12 Types of Cancer" that does nothing of the sort) and American Fidelity Assurance Company, whose site was pretty unimpressive. Then I found court papers detailing a successful class action lawsuit against them from 2008 (another named defendant is American Public Life Insurance Company) that had to do with a poorly defined term in the policy which the company tried to use as a loophole of sorts.

A reminder of the potential sleaziness of this industry. And you might wonder about that 'assurance', and how that's different from 'insurance.' Curiously, insurance refers to coverage for something that might or might not occur, while assurance refers to coverage of an event that is certain to occur

That explains why you can buy cancer insurance, but why you might have trouble finding cancer assurance.

By Ross Bonander
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