Cancer cover varies widely:How to pick the right policy & insurer

A diagnosis of cancer is everyone’s worst nightmare, but with ever improving treatments and medical knowledge, survival rates are higher than ever. Upon receiving this distressing diagnosis many patients turn to their private medical insurer with hopes of speedy access to treatment. However, the quality and scope of cancer cover varies widely between different insurance providers. So what do you need to know in advance about cancer cover to allow you to make the right choice of policy and insurer?

Choosing the right insurer for cancer cover

Insurers often have different levels of cancer cover and unless you’ve got medical experience you have no idea what you should be looking out for. I’ve compiled the following list of benefits you may want on your policy to give you the highest possible level of cancer care.

  • Radiotherapy and chemotherapy – These are the most common treatments cancer patients receive. Any insurer worth their salt will cover them in full.

  • Targeted drug therapies – These drugs are designed to stop the spread of cancer, they can be extremely expensive and some insurers only cover them for a limited time. Try and opt for an insurer offering unlimited cover.

  • Anti-sickness drugs – These are often an essential requirement for patients undergoing treatment to help them to continue living their lives as much as possible. Look for an insurer who covers these in full.

  • Bisphosphonates and Bone Scans – Bisphosphonates keep patients bones strong during treatment, coupled with regular bone scans they can help ensure patients maintain bone density reducing the risk of breaks and fractures. Not all insurers cover these elements so don’t be afraid to ask regarding the level of cover.

  • Bone Marrow Transplants and Stem cells – Try to find an insurer who doesn’t restrict the number of transplants they will cover.

  • Experimental Treatment – When all else fails sometimes an experimental solution is your only option. Look for an insurer who will contribute to the costs of this rather than leaving you out in the cold.

  • Wigs – As many patients lose their hair during chemotherapy treatment, some insurers offer contributions towards the cost of a suitable wig.

  • Prosthesis – If a part of the body needs to be removed to fight cancer then you could need to be fitted with a prosthesis. Some insurers don’t cover this in full so make sure you find one who does.

  • End of Life care – Reputable insurers will offer a contribution for hospices and care homes that could mount up to a considerable donation.

  • Specialist Nursing care – Patients may require round the clock nursing in certain circumstances or specialist support and rehabilitation. The amount of financial support you will receive for this depends to a large extent on your insurer, so make sure you make sufficient enquiries so you’re making the right choice.

Making a claim

  • Oncology claims are often case managed meaning your claim will be handled by a designated team that specialises in your condition. You’ll often be given the name of a contact who will help you through the whole claims process.

  • Cancer claims assessors are trained in all aspects of cancer care and often receive counselling training too. They aim to deal with your claim in a supportive and compassionate manner, taking into account your personal needs and wishes.

  • You may be covered for a course of treatment where your insurer puts a package of cover in place, or for an individual treatment where you’ll need to call back later for further approval.

  • Your insurer may be able to put you in touch with local groups such as Macmillan nurses and arrange counselling for yourself and family members.

Other things to consider:

  • Six week rule – If you’ve got a six week rule on your policy then you’re only entitled to private treatment if you can’t receive it on the NHS within a six week period. The NHS offers world leading cancer care and as such can often fit you in within this period. While this can be a worry to some policyholders, it’s important to remember the quality of care you receive on the NHS is exactly the same as if you go private. If at any stage of your treatment you need to have a procedure that takes longer than six weeks to obtain, you’ll be able have this privately.

    While the NHS offers a fantastic service if you’re wanting the comfort of private accommodation throughout cancer treatment, it could be best leaving the six week option off your policy.

  • NHS Cash Benefit – Choosing to use the NHS in full for your treatments could build up a sizeable cash benefit for you to enjoy later once your treatment is over.

Insurers take cancer claims very seriously and will do all they can to help you, but unless a benefit is available on the policy you will not be able to claim for it. Don’t get any nasty surprises later, check your insurer offers the comprehensive cover you’d expect in the event of a cancer claim.

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