Get free help preparing your taxes from AARP Foundation Tax-Aide. Find a location


AARP Staying Sharp: Keep Your Brain Healthy
Bob Dylan Talks!


Military and Veterans Discount


You Could Choose Your Dream Vacation


Introducing RealPad by AARP


AARP Auto Buying Program


Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

Download the ipad App



AARP Games - Play Now!

AARP Books

Medicare for Dummies book cover

Get the answers you need, from Patricia Barry, AARP's Ask Ms. Medicare

Most Popular


share your Thoughts

Reader stories help us fine-tune our education efforts and strengthen our calls for action on issues that matter most to you. We read and learn from every story and may use yours (with permission) to brief legislators, inspire other readers and more. Please share your story with us. Do

Ask Sid

The Cancer Survivor's New Battle

After "beating" their disease, millions skip follow-up care because of cost—even with insurance

Health medicare-insurance

— Todd Heisler/The New York Times/Redux

  • Insurance for you—or everyone else? In small businesses especially, some cancer survivors face a tough choice: "My employer said my treatment was raising rates for everyone else, so I was asked to find private insurance to not impact my coworkers," says Anne Creech, 64, who battled colon and breast cancer. She complied, but could only afford a policy with riders to exclude coverage for screenings or other cancer-related care—only to recently learn her cancer had returned. Weeks before the diagnosis, her big concern was coming up with $3,700 for a recommended colonoscopy. Now, she learns that her insurer won't pay for any treatment.

Help from the new health care law

But help is on the way for many like Creech. In July, the first major benefit of the new health care law took effect, a federal "high-risk pool" intended to provide coverage for people who can't buy affordable insurance because of preexisting medical conditions. The $5 billion program is a stop-gap measure until 2014, when the law fully kicks in and nobody can be denied coverage on the basis of health. At, uninsured people interested in "preexisting condition insurance plans" can determine whether they qualify for coverage. Even cancer survivors with employer insurance often face a devastating issue: getting cut off by insurers after reaching their annual or lifetime coverage limits. Roughly 100 million Americans have these coverage limits built into their policies.

But that will change starting next month, with provisions of the new health care law that prohibit insurance companies from setting lifetime limits. And over the next few years, annual limits will be phased out as well.

Starting with health insurance plans that begin or renew after Sept. 23, insurance companies are banned from placing lifetime limits on their coverage.

Also beginning Sept. 23, insurers must cover annual medical expenses up to at least $750,000. The minimum annual threshold rises to $1.25 million in September 2011 and increases to $2 million beginning in September 2012.

Limits will be completely prohibited starting Jan. 1, 2014.

For insured patients who are financially struggling, are uninsured or have inadequate insurance, help is also available from other organizations. See "Cancer Resources."

Sid Kirchheimer writes about health and consumer issues.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Walgreens 1 discount membership aarp

Members get exclusive points offers from Walgreens, Duane Reade and

member benefit aarp hear usa

Members can save 20% on hearing aids with the AARP® Hearing Care Program provided by HearUSA.

AARP membership discount Man trying on eyeglasses at optometrists smiling

Members save up to 60% on eye exams and 30% on glasses at LensCrafters.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.