Written by Lacey Ellison
Cancer is expensive. You have to pay for medical appointments, lab tests, imaging, radiation therapy, surgery, medications, and countless other big and small costs. Tragically, a third of cancer survivors go into debt, and 3% file for bankruptcy after the ordeal is over. If you’re in the midst of paying for cancer treatments and you want to protect your retirement account, there are options. From viatical settlements to government programs, check out these tips on reducing and covering your bills.
Get a Little Help From Your Friends
In tough times, people need to band together. Although it can be hard to ask for help, you may want to reach out to your friends. Consider creating a fundraiser on a site such as GoFundMe. Then, share it on your social media pages and ask your friends to share as well. Alternatively, try some in-person fundraising ideas. If you live in a small town, shops in the community may be willing to put out a collection jar, or your church or social group, may host a fundraiser on your behalf.
Leverage Your Home
If you have equity in your home, there are several ways to tap into that equity to cover cancer treatments. Depending on your financial situation, you may want to try the following:
* Refinance your mortgage — this can lower your payments so you have more money for medical bills
* Apply for a reverse mortgage — you need to be at least 62 years old. Essentially, the bank buys your home from you. You get to stay in the home, but the bank sends you monthly payments.
* Take out a home equity line of credit (HELOC) — like a credit card, you can spend a line of credit as needed, and typically, you just need to make small monthly payments.
* Downsize — you may even want to sell your home, move into a smaller place, and use the proceeds to cover your care.
* Rent out space — In lieu of downsizing, you may want to rent out some space in your home to get extra money. If you don’t want someone in your home, consider renting out a garage stall to someone with a boat or RV.
Put Your Life Insurance to Work
You don’t have to put your home or your retirement accounts in jeopardy. If you have a life insurance policy, a viatical settlement can turn your policy into cash. Viatical settlements work for term and whole life insurance policies. You sign over your policy to a viatical settlement company, and they give you a one-time, tax-free payment in exchange for the policy.
Upon your death, your heirs receive your home, retirement accounts, and any other assets, but they don’t receive your life insurance benefit. The trade-off is that you get to use the funds from your viatical settlement to cover your cancer bills or any other expenses you have.
Use a Flexible Spending Account
A flexible savings account (FSA) or a Health Savings Account (HSA) won’t necessarily cover your medical bills, but these accounts can help you save money. If you put funds in an FSA or an HSA, your contributions are non-taxable. In other words, you don’t pay any income tax on the money you put into these accounts. Then, you can take out the money plus any interest that has accrued and use the funds to cover treatment costs. Note that anyone can use an FSA, but only people with high-deductible health insurance plans can use an HSA.
Apply for Government Assistance
Consider applying for government assistance. In many states, Medicaid income thresholds were increased when the Affordable Care Act became law. Alternatively, you may want to look into government programs to help with other expenses. For instance, if you qualify, food stamps can cover your grocery bill to help free up extra money. So, you may qualify even if you didn’t in the past. In some cases, you can get financial assistance from cancer organizations.
Cancer is physically and emotionally difficult, but there are ways you can reduce the stress of the cost. Consider the above ideas, and reach out to viatical settlement companies, lenders, and government programs for help.
Lacey Ellison is the Marketing Director for American Life Fund a viatical settlement company located in Atlanta, Ga. She is passionate about making connections with audiences seeking help funding for their cancer financial assistance.