Viaticals: What Every Cancer Patient Should Know

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The June Edition of CancerWire focuses on viaticals and why cancer patients should be aware of this financial tool.

“What’s a viatical? Most cancer patients have never heard about this but they should,” explained Michael Horwin, Manager of Cancer Monthly. “It’s a financial tool that allows people with life threatening diseases like cancer to cash in their life insurance and get up to 80% of its face value.”

The word viatical comes from the Latin word viaticum, which were the supplies given to Roman officials as provisions to trade with as they embarked on a long journey. When a person over 65 who is relatively healthy liquidates a life insurance policy it is commonly called a “Life Settlement.” Most types of life insurance policies qualify and both Viatical and Life Settlements are regulated by state insurance departments.

Mr. Kelly White was diagnosed with a life threatening disease in 1996 and subsequently sold his life insurance policies to Life Partners (1-800-693-0062) Mr. White explained to CancerWire that he sold his policies for several reasons. “First, I wanted to protect my family. I did not want them to have to pay for funeral expenses if I passed away. I also did not want any of my heirs to be fighting over the proceeds from my policies. Second, in case I became so sick that I could not work, I wanted to have a nest egg set aside; money that I could use to take care of myself. Third, I wanted to do something fun with the money. I wanted to spend time with my family and go on vacation. Which we did.”

In fact, after a policy holder sells their policy, they can use the money for any purpose such as to pay for medical bills, therapies not covered by insurance, or for a better quality of life. Upon the sale, all rights and obligations of the policy are transferred to the new owner. The new owner will name a new beneficiary of the policy who will collect the proceeds upon the insured’s passing.

Carole Fiedler, a viatical and life settlement professional with years of experience working with cancer patients (1-800-905-0114) explained that the industry has recently undergone changes with the type of policies that find a ready market. “Cancer patients over the age of 65 have a much greater likelihood of selling their policy in today’s market. Although most policies over $250,000 can be sold if the insured has a terminal diagnosis and is under 65 in some states, in these cases the lack of competition may limit the amount of the actual settlement,” Ms. Fiedler explained.

There are companies that specialize in these types of transactions. These are brokers who facilitate the sale, and providers who actually purchase the policy. However, patients are cautioned to be extremely careful in choosing a viatical company as the industry has had problems with some unscrupulous operators. Mr. White emphasized, “It is very important to be careful about which company you work with. For example, it is important that the seller of the policy and the buyer of the policy don’t know each other. A reputable company will protect your privacy and your medical information. Also, a reputable company can provide you with multiple offers.” Tips from Cancer Monthly in selecting a reputable company include:

· Since licensing varies by state, you should check with your state’s Department of Insurance to obtain a list of licensed companies. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) provides a link on its homepage to each state's Department of Insurance (DOI) website.

· Research any company before you give them any personal information.

· Ask questions.

· Get professional advice regarding types of living benefits available and the positives and negatives of each.

· Talk to a lawyer or a financial planner to help you decide what is best in your own case. (Find out if Medicaid or other benefits will be affected.)

Two companies with experience with both viaticals and life settlements and who understand the financial issues faced by cancer patients include: Life Partners (1-800-693-0062) and Fiedler Financial's Innovative Settlement™ Solutions (1-800-905-0114)

To read the full CancerWire edition on Viaticals go to

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Of course, none of this information in CancerWire is a substitute for professional legal, financial, medical advice, examination, diagnosis or treatment and you should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before starting any new treatment or making any changes to an existing treatment. No information contained in Cancer Monthly or CancerWire including the information above, should be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease without the supervision of a medical doctor.

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Michael Horwin