Buying Life Insurance After Being Diagnosed With Cancer

The American Cancer Society estimates doctors will diagnose about 1.3 million new cases of cancer in the U.S. in 2003, with more than 550-thousand cancer-related deaths. If you are among the majority of cancer patients and survive for at least five years following your diagnosis, you may face another fight: buying life insurance.Buying life insurance after a cancer diagnosis is challenging, but not necessarily impossible. Insurance companies have differing procedures and philosophies on offering life insurance policies to cancer survivors. Coverage decisions depend greatly on the size, type, and location of your tumor. A woman who had breast cancer might be able to get insurance as soon as one to three years after her treatment, but a person who survived lung cancer might have to wait up to 10 years before getting a policy.

Most insurers will not offer a policy to someone who is still undergoing treatment for cancer. If you have been cancer-free for a few years, there’s a good chance you can buy life insurance, although you might have to pay higher premiums.

“The concept that all people with a history of cancer are uninsurable is ridiculous,” says Dr. Steven Zimmerman, chief medical director for the American General Life Companies. “Insurance companies will charge additional premiums for the period of time when the risk of recurrence is the highest, but the premiums then return to the base rate.”

The good news is that although these extra premiums can be expensive, they will automatically disappear after a given period of time.

Some insurers prefer to account for the risk of cancer recurring by charging higher premiums for only a few years. Other companies will impose smaller premium increases over a longer period of time, or until the applicant has remained in remission for at least 10 years.

So what can you do?

The Northern California Cancer Center points out there are several things cancer survivors can do to improve their chances of getting life insurance at the lowest rates possible:

  • Contact large life insurance companies first. Many larger companies carefully grade insurance risks by type and stage of cancer. Depending on your diagnosis, you may be able to get a policy.
  • Get prices from several companies. Policy costs can vary a great deal among companies.
  • Request group insurance through a professional, fraternal, membership, or political organization to which you belong.
  • Consider a “graded” policy (one with limited benefits) if you cannot get full death benefits. In the first few years of a graded policy, the company pays only the premiums and part of the face value if the insured person dies of a condition, such as cancer, that existed before the policy took effect. If the insured person dies after the specified waiting period, the company usually will pay the full-face amount of the policy.

Keeping premium increases to a minimum

One of the most important things you can do to keep your life insurance premiums manageable is to give the insurer the names of all of the doctors who treated you for the cancer. This will allow the medical underwriters to find the most complete records of both your cancer and your treatment.

When the insurance underwriters can see the extent and stage of your cancer, as well as how it was treated and what follow-up procedures you have undergone, they can make decisions based on your condition specifically, and not simply on what happens to the “average” cancer patient. It’s also important that you see your doctors regularly for follow-ups. In addition to the health benefits, insurance experts say if you are going to follow-up appointments, taking your medication regularly, and there is no sign that your cancer is recurring, many insurers will permit you to buy coverage sooner, or shorten the length of time higher premiums are charged.

If your cancer has been successfully treated, and you are otherwise in good health, you can get a life insurance policy. If you can show that you are healthy and your treatments have gone well, several insurers may compete for your business.

Also remember that various insurers assess the risk of cancer recurring differently. It pays to get quotes from several companies, in order to get the best rate possible.

A history of cancer does not automatically exclude you from buying life insurance; it only adds another factor to the list of things you should consider when buying coverage.

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2 Responses to “Buying Life Insurance After Being Diagnosed With Cancer”
  1. drnaz says:

    Yes it is very very very challenging. My only wish is that scientists find the cure for cancer in the next 5 years. It would be a total blessing worldwide …

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  1. […] Buying Life Insurance After Being Diagnosed With CancerIf you are among the majority of cancer patients and survive for at least five years following your diagnosis, you may face another fight: buying life insurance.Buying life insurance after a cancer diagnosis is challenging, … […]

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