(BPT) - When Katy Carroll Moncus learned she had breast cancer, like many Americans, she was devastated. A young professional dreaming about her future family, Moncus was filled with uncertainty — how would she fight this, what would her future look like and how would she afford the treatment needed? She is not alone.

Every year, millions of people are hit with unexpected medical bills that their health insurance isn’t designed to cover. Whether it is an unexpected illness, a long-term diagnosis or an accident, many hardworking Americans are negatively impacted by medical debt. In fact, more than half of Americans1 are living paycheck to paycheck — and most don’t have the financial means to support themselves or their families should the unforeseen occur.

Initial Diagnosis

Moncus was 29 and a newlywed of just three months when she noticed a lump in her breast. To this day, the diagnosis of it being a malignant tumor was the shock of her life. To complicate matters, she was told her treatment to combat the cancer would compromise her fertility. A family was something Moncus had always dreamed of.

Fighting

“Fighting cancer is a full-time job,” said Moncus, a real-life Aflac policyholder and employee. Not only was she now fighting breast cancer, but she was also fighting for her future family. After speaking with her doctor, Moncus learned about injections she could take to protect her ability to have children.

The next hurdle was financial. For patients like Moncus who are struggling with illnesses that not only affect their physical health, but their mental health as they struggle with losing their self-identity, the last thing they want to think about is navigating the health care system and bills.

With American medical debt ballooning to nearly $140 billion in 20202, low-income families and people of color are disproportionately impacted. In fact, 55% of Black and 44% of Latinx adults reported medical bills and debt compared to 32% of white adults, according to a recent Commonwealth Fund survey.

Relief

Moncus was able to help pay for the injections to protect her fertility with the cash received from her Aflac supplemental cancer insurance. The policy gave her a sense of relief that she could help protect her ability to have children and start the life she always dreamed of. Moncus has conquered breast cancer and has two beautiful daughters with the help of the additional financial coverage her policy provided to help cover her care.

Helping Others

To help patients like Moncus with unexpected expenses due to a medical event, Aflac is giving away $1 million in CareGrants* — funds for families and communities to help close the health and wealth gap — through the end of 2022.

In October, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, $100,000 will be given away to individuals experiencing medical debt. To show support for those battling this disease and all forms of cancer, illnesses, and injury, individuals will receive $5,000 to help them focus on recovery, not finances. To submit for a CareGrant or to nominate someone who may need support, visit Aflac.com/Care Oct. 1-31 to share your story.

“Medical bills can be suffocating for millions of Americans,” says Shannon Watkins, Aflac Chief Brand and Marketing Officer. “No one should have to make the impossible choice between food and shelter or paying medical debt. We want to help close the gap for Americans facing this challenge — by showing them what it’s like to have Aflac when the unexpected occurs — to help them focus on their recovery, instead of worrying about their expenses.”

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Katy was paid for her time in telling her story. This article contains the opinions of an Aflac policyholder and is not intended to portray any specific benefits or details of Aflac cancer insurance policies, which may vary based on state and plan options. For more information about Aflac insurance policies, contact your Aflac agent or visit aflac.com. Coverage is underwritten by Aflac. In New York, coverage is underwritten by Aflac New York.

THE AFLAC CAREGRANTS CONTEST: NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE WILL NOT INCREASE CHANCES OF WINNING. Open to legal residents of the 50 U.S./D.C., age 18+ (19+ in AL and NE, 21+ in MS), who (as of 9/30/21) are not insured under any policy issued or administered by Aflac, Inc. or its subsidiaries or affiliates (collectively “Aflac”), and who incurred a medical debt before 9/30/21. Void where prohibited. Contest starts at 12:00:01 AM ET on 10/01/21; ends at 11:59:59 PM ET on 10/31/21. Total ARV of all prizes: $100,000. Subject to full Official Rules available here. Sponsor: American Family Life Assurance Company (Aflac), 1932 Wynnton Rd., Columbus, GA 31999.

1CNBC.com. “63% of Americans have been living paycheck to paycheck since Covid hit.” Dec. 11, 2020. 1https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/11/majority-of-americans-are-living-paycheck-to-paycheck-since-covid-hit.html, accessed on 9/28/21.

2NYTimes.com. “Americans’ Medical Debts Are Bigger Than Was Known, Totaling $140 Billion.” July 20, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/20/upshot/medical-debt-americans-medicaid.html, accessed on 9/28/21.