As if the reality of receiving a cancer diagnosis wasn’t bad enough, new research suggests hundreds of thousands of UK cancer patients are also suffering financially.
According to a new report from Macmillan Cancer Support, entitled ‘Cancer – a costly diagnosis’, four million people will be living with cancer by 2030. Furthermore, four out of five cancer sufferers are £570 a month worse off, on average, because of their diagnoses. This is due to numerous new expenses, including prescriptions (many cancer patients pay for medication even though most can have the fees waived), special equipment, home modifications, new clothing and travel to hospital appointments.
Add to this the fact that many cancer patients also have to take unpaid time off work to attend appointments and the financial strain is compounded significantly.
As a result, the report says 400,000 people living with cancer struggle to pay their household bills.
The Macmillan report itself focuses on three main areas: Universal Credit, Banking Sector and Travel Insurance.
Universal Credit is supposed to provide a vital financial safety net for people when they need support the most. However, the Macmillan report states that it is failing to meet the needs of many cancer patients.
Expected to impact more than 26,000 people with cancer, Universal Credit is “confusing and difficult for people to navigate”, according to Anne, a Macmillan benefits adviser cited in the report.
Macmillan says that more than half of people with a long term health condition were not able to complete their Universal Credit application in one attempt – which goes some way to explain why the Universal Credit welfare rights team received more than 2,600 phone calls from people needing support with their claim.
Universal Credit should be fundamentally changed to ensure it provides the right support for people living with cancer and help them manage the financial side of their diagnosis, Macmillan says.
Cancer patients do not often know what services are offered by their financial services provider and play a “banking lottery”, according to Macmillan. To fix this, Macmillan wants financial services providers to give cancer patients the support they need to cope with the financial impact of a cancer diagnosis.
Financial services providers should always act with their clients’ best interests in mind and take a pre-emptive approach to ensure they do not experience harm, Macmillan says.
At present, cancer patients – even if they are in remission – face disproportionately higher travel insurance premiums. In fact, travel insurance premiums for cancer patients have been as high as £10,000, Macmillan says, which has caused would-be travellers to cancel trips to see friends and family.
“My travel insurance has gone sky high just because people think I’m going to get ill while I’m away,” said Alejandra, 28, Cheshire, diagnosed with breast cancer. “It’s so annoying because I feel absolutely fine.”
Macmillan says that individuals with pre-existing conditions should, of course, expect to pay higher travel insurance premiums, but ones that are still affordable and do not impact their finances and wellbeing.
The Macmillan report also said that 39% of cancer patients have used savings, sold assets or borrowed money to cover the costs or the loss of income caused by their diagnosis. It’s a sad reality, and one that highlights just how important products like Critical Illness Cover can be.
Claire Ginnelly is the Managing Director of Premier Choice Health and has been in the private medical insurance industry since 1991. All her experience has been gained working for large insurance companies managing the distribution of health insurance products through intermediaries. She has held senior positions within Standard Life Healthcare, as Head of Intermediary Sales, and Groupama Healthcare, as Head of Distribution.