If you think you can’t buy life insurance because you’ve had cancer, you’re not completely out of luck. While more than 1.5 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in 2014, the number of people who actually die from cancer has been decreasing in the past few decades, according to the National Cancer Institute (http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/all.html).
In fact, cancer death rates are down 20% since 1991, says the American Cancer Society (http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/cancer-statistics-report-deaths-down-20-percent-in-2-decades). And those decreasing numbers mean that while you most likely won’t be able to buy life insurance in the midst of treatment, some insurance companies may be willing to issue policies after your protocol is finished. “Every carrier that offers coverage which includes an exam will consider someone with a cancer history, subject to several variables,” says Gerry Scholz, National Marketing Director at True Blue Life Insurance.
Types of Life Insurance Coverage
Life insurance comes in two basic types: Term and Permanent or Whole Life Insurance. Term life insurance covers you for a specific period of time, anywhere from, say, 5 years to 20 or 30. It costs less than whole life insurance because you receive nothing at the end of the term. The company pays the face value of the policy only if you die during the term period. Whole life or permanent insurance provides coverage for your entire lifetime and has a savings element that builds cash value over the life of the policy. Because of this element it’s more expensive. (See http://www.dfs.ny.gov/consumer/cli_basic.htm for more information.) It may be easier for cancer survivors to get whole life insurance, but term may be available for many.
How to look
It may be an option to take out a life insurance policy with your employer if you are still working, and you should take advantage of this if it’s offered; however, if you leave your job, you lose the policy, so it’s always best to purchase an individual policy on your own. True Blue can help with that.
The insurer will want a lot of information, though, and full disclosure is key, says Scholz. “Disclosing the cancer but glossing over other ailments wastes everyone’s time. Large amounts of coverage are going to be expensive. However a well informed agent with the right experience can provide the cancer survivor with his or her lowest cost options because he knows which company to take the case to.” Here’s what you’ll likely be asked:
- What type of cancer did you have? Your ability to get coverage will likely depend on the type of cancer you had, its location and stage, and the curability of the type. (See the X chart below for typical waiting periods.)
- Are you in remission? Insurers will want to know that you have been told you’re currently cancer-free.
- How long has it been since your last treatment? Depending upon the type of cancer, the insurer could require a waiting period of anywhere from a few months to ten years.
- Are you in good health? Other than the cancer diagnosis, do you have any other preexisting medical conditions that could affect your approval? (Think high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, etc…)
- Can you provide medical records? Because of your diagnosis and treatment, the insurer will ask for copies of your medical records for verification. Make sure to have contact information for any doctor you’ve visited.
- Have you kept current on all follow-up doctor visits, and have you seen all recommended specialists? An insurance underwriter will follow up on all notes made in a medical file, so if your physician has recommended your see, say, a cardiologist – or any other specialist – make the appointment and follow through.
There are four general ratings for life insurance: preferred plus, preferred, standard, and substandard or table rating. If you’ve had a low-risk cancer like skin, prostate, or early stage breast cancer or testicular cancer, you may be able to get a standard-rate term policy as soon as the typical waiting period for your cancer type is over. For other cancers, insurers will initially charge a higher rate or add on a surcharge for several years, but over time you should be able to lower your premiums.
Your stage in treatment will also decide the types of policies for which you’ll be eligible. (See chart below for your insurance options depending up whether you’re in-treatment or in-remission and beyond).
Currently In Treatment
If you’re currently in treatment, you’ll only be eligible for a guaranteed issue policy, the most expensive type of life insurance, and it may be graded. That means it will only pay a full benefit if you outlive a specific time period set by the insurer. These policies are small – typically between $5,000 and $50,000 – and they’re meant to cover final expenses after you pass on. The policy is guaranteed to be renewed and a medical exam is not required.
If you’ve finished treatment and are in remission – but you’re still within the waiting period an insurer requires for your cancer type – you’ll still likely only be able to purchase a guaranteed issue policy. It will still be guaranteed, and it won’t require a medical exam.
Finished Treatment and Past the Waiting Period
Once you’re past the waiting period deemed appropriate by an insurer, you’ll probably be able to purchase a permanent or term life insurance policy. That’s because an underwriter will call you a better risk since you’ve been cancer-free for a specific period of time.
Which Insurance Is Available to You?
|Stage||Your Insurance Options|
|Currently Have Cancer||Guaranteed Issue|
|In Remission – Within Waiting Period||Guaranteed Issue|
|In Remission – Out of Waiting Period||Permanent or Term Policy (dependent upon type of cancer in some cases)|
Policies by Cost – Here’s where the above policies fall in terms of most to least expensive.
Permanent Issue – Whole Life
Standard Term Life Insurance
How long you’ll have to wait to purchase a policy varies greatly. “Every cancer incident is different,” says Scholz. “Tumor size, furman grade, spreading issues, date since last treatment (including any meds), and concurrent risk factors are as important as the actual type of cancer.” (Below are some typical wait periods for different types of cancer.)
Typical Waiting Periods for Purchase of a Life Insurance Policy
|Type of Cancer||Likely Waiting Period||Other Factors|
|Breast||1 to 5 years||Dependent upon stage|
|Lung||3 to 5 years||With Stage 1 consideration can be three years from end of treatment; Stage 2 is typically 5 years|
|Colorectal||1 to 6 years||Stage 1, 2, and 3 have different waits|
|Uterine||2 to 5 years||Stage 0 or 1 may qualify after 2 years, but rates will be high. After 4 to 5 years rates may be better. Beyond Stage 2, applicants will likely be denied|
|Hodgkins and Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma||3 to 10 years||Time period is for Stages 1 & 2 only; others will likely be denied|
|Prostate||6 months to 2 years||Stages 1&2, A,B can be as short as 6 months; Stage 3, C is likely 2 years|
|Bladder||1 to 3 years or greater||1 to 2 for Stage A; 3 or greater for Stage B|
|Melanoma||1 to 5 years||1 year for early detection; 2 to 5 years for deeper lesions; not at all for metastatic cancer|
|Testicular||6 months to 2 years||6 months for cancer that has not spread; 2 years for most others|
|Leukemia||5 to 10 years||Dependent upon type; some are not insurable|
|Kidney||1 to 5 years||T0 & T1 wait is 1 to 2 years; T2 & T3 can be up to 5 years|
|Pancreatic||2 years||Waiting period only applies when cancer is detected in early stages; others will be declined|
|Cervical||0 to 1 year||For Stage 1 or in-situ cancer|
|Esophageal||3 years||Dependent upon stage|
|Larynx||1 year||Dependent upon stage|
|Ovarian||1 to 5 years or more||Dependent upon stage and whether or not cancer has metastasized|
|Bone||5 years or more||Dependent upon type; some are not insurable|
|Basal Cell Carcinoma||0 to 3 months||This type may have no waiting period if cancer has not spread|
Currently In Treatment
Finally, there are some policies that offer a solution to the life insurance dilemma no matter what type of cancer you’ve had – and even if you’re still undergoing treatment.
Almost anyone can purchase a final expense policy regardless of health, because the approval process relies less on the health of the insured. These policies are designed for people in need of life insurance who may have been denied a policy in the past. At True Blue Life Insurance we offer several options for Final Expense life insurance through guaranteed issue policies that often require buying directly from the insurance company – and you can receive approval the same day – and there is absolutely no medical exam at all. It is a perfect solution for people who have had cancer in the past. Often, these policies are graded, meaning there is a two year exclusion period for them to pay out in full. They are also generally limited to anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 maximum.
Cancer is something that more and more people are surviving every day. But life insurance is about preparing for the unexpected in life and when a positive test for cancer hits your family, it is a big wakeup call that you must plan for life before the unexpected happens.
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