Recover Overcoming Treatment Financial
By Rob Gordon
MBA, CFP®, AIFA®
As you know, breast cancer and impact your life in many ways, including financially. In some cases the disease can have a profound impact on the financial status of patients and their families. Wage losses resulting from breast cancer treatment can substantially and negatively affect the financial situation of working women and their families.
As you plan your recovery from breast cancer, it is important that you also think about your personal financial plan – especially if you don’t have one!
The medical community has made great strides in breast cancer treatment, improving your chances of a relatively rapid and successful recovery. Nevertheless, the journey back to full health likely will be emotionally and physically draining. Following the steps below will help you conserve your energy for the challenge ahead.
Get organized: You will certainly be preoccupied with other things, but organization will help you deal with the endless paperwork involved in enlisting the medical community in your care. It will also make life easier for your caregivers, family and friends. Hopefully, you won’t have to rely on them to handle bill-paying and other tedious responsibilities. But you must be prepared. Remember, they have lots of complexity in their lives as well. You want them to be a breath of fresh air and a ray of sunshine in your life when things are difficult and when you just want treatments to end. Being organized also will help you think clearly about your future.
Review the terms of your health insurance and disability income policies: Your health insurance policy should cover doctor appointments, chemotherapy, mastectomy and breast-reconstructive procedures. Disability insurance is extremely important and, like health insurance, it will be more expensive and a bit more complicated to acquire once you have had an occurrence of breast cancer. Both types of insurance are more expensive, as a percent of covered amount, than is life insurance. That is because there is a higher probability that you will use this type of coverage either short term or long term. There are many terms associated with this type of coverage, and it is important that you, as the covered person, be aware of the definitions in your policy, such as waiting or elimination period; the definition of disability under the terms of the policy; whether your benefits are taxable or nontaxable; and how this coverage integrates with Social Security coverage. These are just a few of the items you should be aware of and that you should make very clear, perhaps in some sort of cover sheet, for others. Call your agent or speak with your human resources department for clarification.
Review your estate plans. It might seem morbid to think about estate planning at this time, but estate planning includes the preparation of documents intended for use while you are alive, such as durable powers of attorney and revocable trusts and healthcare surrogates. A competent estate-planning attorney can help. This is an area where it is foolish to cut corners to save a few dollars. A well-prepared set of estate-planning documents can give your caregivers, family and friends clarity in helping you to manage your situation. The American College of Trusts and Estates Counsel is a great resource. Another important topic related to estate planning is designating beneficiaries. IRAs, 401(k)s and other tax-qualified investment vehicles always require the naming of a beneficiary. In the case of a taxable investment, perhaps the most common is the POD (payable on death) or TOD (transfer on death) designation. In some cases, trusts may be called for to give the loved one some level of control, but this is best discussed with an attorney who specializes in this area. Not to be left out of this discussion are minor children and their care while you are going through treatment.
Keep it simple. Remember those fancy derivative securities that your broker suggested a year ago and that only get valued once a month? Forget them! Trying to make a “quick mint” in the market is always a fool’s game. Illiquidity and complexity are not your friends in times of crisis. The incremental increase in returns that is “promised” by fancy investment and insurance products is not worth the hassle and certainly not worth the expense. Keep it simple! Remember, more than 90 percent of the market’s variability is explained by asset allocation, not market timing or other shenanigans. Concentrate on protecting your assets and long-term sustainable rates of growth and cash flow for your needs, instead of short-term wealth building. Consolidate multiple accounts if possible. Be very clear on the purpose of each account. This advice varies depending on age and level of wealth but, in general, times like these require your mental and emotional resources be spent on issues other than the next hot stock or trying to figure out if your portfolio is up or down minute by minute.
Investigate outside or nontraditional sources of assistance and funding. While your health insurance plan (private or public) should cover the major costs of care and treatment, you and your caregivers may find that there are significant “out-of-pocket” costs as well. Things like tips and gifts to aid workers, lodging for caregivers, childcare costs, travel and more. Lost wages for both the patient and caregivers may also be a factor. Medicaid may provide for low-income individuals and families depending on the state, and Social Security has disability benefits. Keep your military records up-to-date; this will help you qualify for benefits directly related to service in the armed forces. A local hospital or a community foundation can also be a great source of information on private/public foundations set up to provide financial aid for persons dealing with the ancillary costs of breast cancer care. The Cancer Care Co-Payment Assistance Foundation, for instance, is a not-for-profit organization that provides financial assistance for the cost of medications for treating cancer. While assistance from a national organization is great, there are also many local organizations that help with non-medical needs. The Linda Creed Epstein Foundation, in Philadelphia, is one example. Among its many services for women overcoming breast cancer, the foundation maintains an emergency assistance fund that provides non-medical financial aid for qualified women in the Delaware Valley region. Another example is the Sandy Muller B. Breast Cancer Foundation in Miami. The foundation provides patients in Miami-Dade County, who are recently diagnosed with breast cancer and in treatment, with basic living expenses such as mortgage and rent payments, medical insurance premiums, transportation costs to and from doctor appointments, child care payments, food and other life necessities.
Good planning saves time and money. However, many of us often lack the will to get it done. The guidelines above are good for someone dealing with breast cancer as a patient, family member, caregiver or friend. The complexity in our lives is increasing, thanks to addition regulation and other factors. While there is no substitute for your own research, don’t hesitate to employ qualified professionals to help you navigate this complexity and come out ahead.
The following resources are available to provide financial assistance and support for breast cancer survivors and their families, during and after treatment:
Resources for Financial Assistance for Patients and Their Families
How to Find a Financial Professional Sensitive to Cancer Issues
Financial Guidance for Cancer Survivors and Their Families Advanced Illness
Financial Guidance For Cancer Survivors And Their Families: Off Treatment
The Linda Creed Epstein Foundation
The War Rages On: Fighting Cancer. Fighting to Get Life Insurance
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