Battling cancer (or other advanced-stage illnesses) can take a major toll on patients and their families—physically, emotionally, and financially.
Until the medical community uncovers new breakthrough treatments for cancer, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses, patients will have to cope with these physical and emotional tolls. What they shouldn’t have to deal with, however, are the major financial burdens that interfere with their treatments and further undermine their quality of life.
A Different Healthcare System
That was my thought process several years ago, when my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. We had recently relocated to the United States from Canada and, while still adjusting to a very different healthcare system, were confronted with this life-changing news.
My family and I quickly learned that there were plenty of medical and emotional supports built into the US healthcare system—talented doctors, cutting-edge treatment plans, advanced care facilities, counseling, and more.
What was missing, however, was financial support.
This lack of structured assistance came as a surprise. The concept of “financial toxicity”—or, the financial stress to patients brought on by expensive medical treatment—is sadly a well-known experience, especially to patients with cancer. Even with comprehensive health insurance, the cost of copays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses to patients can be overwhelming.
According to the National Cancer Institute, “Historically, cancer has been one of the most costly medical conditions to treat in the United States. Compared to a decade ago, cancer patients are receiving increasingly expensive chemotherapy and biologics.”1
Moreover, the National Cancer Institute suggests, “The cost of newly introduced chemotherapy and supportive drug-based treatments is growing, and prices higher than $10,000 a month for individual drugs and biologic agents are common.”1
Personal Experience Inspires Action
My family’s experience inspired me to be proactive about changing the system for the better. When the opportunity arose, I acquired and revamped Fifth Season Financial, an organization that provides much-needed financial assistance to families facing cancer and other advanced-stage illnesses.
The focus of Fifth Season Financial is our Funds for Living and Giving (FLAG) program, which, in addition to providing help with medical and treatment costs, was designed to address the much broader financial needs of patients. It provides a solution to the financial toxicity that so many Americans face, by leveraging an asset that many people have, but often don’t capitalize on it—their existing life insurance policy.
How the FLAG Program Works
Here’s how the FLAG program works. If a patient facing a late-stage illness, such as cancer, has a qualifying life insurance policy, Fifth Season Financial will take over paying the premium on the policy, and will give the patient a substantial portion of the face value of that policy as an advance payment.
If the patient dies, that advance is repaid using the proceeds of the policy, and any remaining funds are given to the policy’s designated beneficiaries. In more than 90% of cases, there are remaining funds that are passed on to beneficiaries.
Perhaps the most empowering part of FLAG, and the element that best helps patients to overcome financial toxicity, is that this program has no restrictions on how the money can be used. It does not have to be used directly for medical treatment.
In fact, many patients choose to pay their rent or mortgage, their utility bills, and/or their medication and other treatment costs. Other people decide to take a trip, pay for in-home care, or bring their family members together.
Furthermore, in addition to providing relief from financial toxicity, FLAG also offers relief from the overwhelming paperwork that comes with a serious medical diagnosis. Fifth Season Financial handles all the client’s remaining premium payments and out-of-pocket expenses as soon as it assumes the role of the administrator of the policy.
Since we began in 2007, Fifth Season Financial has provided much-needed help to families when they need it most. So far, we have provided more than $190 million in financial assistance to more than 500 patients. To me, this has been the most rewarding part of leading this organization—hearing from individuals who found relief through the program.
One example is Huey Brown, from Texas, who was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Despite his advanced cancer, Huey had to continue working to pay his mounting medical bills. When he and his wife learned about Fifth Season Financial through an online search, they were relieved. The FLAG funds allowed Huey to stop working, pay his debts, and focus solely on his health and treatments.
“Fifth Season Financial has truly been a blessing, and I would recommend it to anyone who is critically ill, especially when faced with various healthcare and financial weights that come into play right after a diagnosis,” Huey said recently.
Another example is Rob Boseke, who was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic kidney cancer. Rob’s bills were overwhelming. The experimental treatment he was receiving cost tens of thousands of dollars every month. Through Fifth Season Financial, however, he was able to get a handle on his bills and bring some stability to his life.
Rob recalled the dire financial situation his disease put him in. “I was at the point where my credit score had dropped so low because of all the financial burdens caused by the cancer treatments. I couldn’t even borrow a stick of gum. I lost my home and my car,” Rob said. “My wife and I both cleaned out all our 401(k) retirement savings,” he added.
Help with Financial Needs
It is stories like those of Huey and Rob, in addition to my own family’s experience, that served as the catalyst for me to develop our FLAG program. As we know, finding a cure for cancer is a difficult task. Finding a way to afford treatment, or maintain a good quality of life? That shouldn’t be difficult.
- National Cancer Institute. Financial Toxicity and Cancer Treatment. Updated January 25, 2019. www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/managing-care/track-care-costs/financial-toxicity-hp-pdq.
- Even with comprehensive health insurance, the cost of copays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses to patients can be overwhelming
- If you have a late-stage illness, such as cancer, and a life insurance policy, you could get a portion of the face value of that policy from Fifth Season Financial’s FLAG program
- This program has no restrictions on how the money is used; it does not have to be used directly for medical treatment
- Since 2007, Fifth Season Financial has provided more than $190 million in financial assistance to more than 500 patients
For more information about Fifth Season Financial and our FLAG program, call 866-459-1271 or visit www.fifthseasonfinancial.com.