If you’re a cancer survivor, finding an affordable life insurance plan can be challenging. Here are tips to help you through the process.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis is stressful, and it can sometimes be traumatic. You might feel like you’re living in a nightmare you can’t wake up from. The bad news means intensive medical treatments like chemotherapy or radiation and, if you’re fortunate, a lengthy recovery process.
When diagnosed with cancer, it’s hard to imagine a future beyond the fight in front of you. That’s understandable. You need to focus all of your energy on beating the disease and getting better, so one day, hopefully soon, your doctor will sit down with you and utter the words, “complete remission.”
The likelihood that you’re thinking about your current or future life insurance policy—or what having survived cancer is going to do to your premium—is low. You should be celebrating with your friends and family, not fretting about paperwork. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to life insurance for cancer survivors.
Your Health History Influences Your Potential Premium
When you apply for a life insurance policy, the company you’re working with does a thorough investigation of your personal and family health history. They do this because offering you a life insurance policy is an investment for them.
The insurance company wants you to live a long, happy and healthy life because that generally means they will make more money off of your premium payments than they will have to pay to your beneficiary when you pass away.
While there are never any guarantees, your personal and family history can help them predict the likelihood that selling you a policy will be profitable for them.
Some health conditions and circumstances will result in the company refusing to grant you a traditional policy. In most cases, however, current health issues or a history of something like cancer will raise the premium an insurance company will ask you to pay without having much of an effect on the coverage they offer.
What if You’re Still Receiving Treatment?
If you’re still receiving cancer treatment, whether that’s chemotherapy, radiation, or something else, you won’t be approved for a traditional life insurance policy. While certainly discouraging, don’t panic or give up. You still have life insurance options.
Chief among these options is an aptly named guaranteed acceptance policy. Also known as guaranteed issue life insurance or simply guaranteed life insurance, most of these policies won’t require you to answer questions about your health or undergo a medical exam.
Guaranteed acceptance life insurance policies do have several drawbacks. The first is that they generally come with higher premiums.
The second is that the death benefit a guaranteed policy offers will likely be much lower than you would prefer. In many cases, the payment will only be enough to cover funeral expenses.
Guaranteed life insurance should be a last resort if you don’t qualify for traditional coverage. It’s also best used as a stop-gap measure until you’re healthier and can get a different policy.
Exceptions for Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers
Suppose you were diagnosed with a type of non-melanoma skin cancer such as squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinoma. In that case, insurance companies may still be willing to offer you a traditional policy, even if your diagnosis was recent or you’re still receiving treatment.
Life Insurance Classifications
Life insurance companies sort their potential clients into different categories based on various factors to decide what premium to charge. While it will depend on the company you’re working with, most use the same general terminology to refer to these classifications.
A note: remember that these classifications are imperfect predictive tools used by insurance companies, not value judgments or guarantees.
Preferred plus, sometimes called super preferred, is the best rating an insurance company can assign to you, meaning that your premium will likely be low.
People classified as preferred plus are in excellent health and don’t have any serious issues in their family history. They have healthy, low-risk lifestyles and are a healthy weight for their height.
Most of us have one or more minor health conditions, and that’s normal. Insurance companies likely won’t penalize you harshly, and you’ll still receive a preferred rating.
Think of this as a four-star rating. You’re still in excellent health, but you’re not quite a perfect investment in the eyes of an insurance company.
A standard plus rating from a life insurance company is pretty common and nothing to be concerned about.
People who receive standard plus ratings are in good health and have a good family medical history. However, they might not meet the ideal ratio of height to weight that the insurance company would like them to.
Standard ratings are also reasonably common. It might seem odd that the “standard” rating is toward the bottom of the list, but it’s just a name.
People who receive standard ratings probably aren’t at an ideal ratio of height to weight, and their family medical history might be complicated.
A substandard rating isn’t ideal, and it’s usually more complicated than the other classifications. People who receive substandard ratings have usually had a recent serious health problem like a heart attack.
In many instances, people who have received a substandard rating are still eligible for a life insurance policy. Their premiums will be higher, though.
What Underwriters Look at Regarding a Past Cancer Diagnosis
The insurance underwriter assigned to your case is responsible for looking at your personal health, family history, and lifestyle. They determine how risky it will be for the company they work for to insure you.
A cancer diagnosis is a red flag to an underwriter, but it’s not going to cause them to throw your application out. A good underwriter will dig deeper into the diagnosis and consider other factors.
Type of Cancer
The type of cancer diagnosis will significantly influence your life insurance policy options. You may still qualify for a preferred plus rating with a past cervical, non-melanoma skin, stage one seminoma testicular, or papillary thyroid cancer diagnosis.
A past diagnosis of leukemia or colon, renal, lung, bladder, or breast cancer might knock you down into the standard rating classification. It will depend on the company you’re working with.
When You Were Diagnosed
The underwriter will look at the date you received your cancer diagnosis. If it was fairly recent, they might be hesitant to insure you, even if you’re in remission.
When You Received Your Last Treatment
The date of your last cancer treatment will also influence what the underwriter assigned to your case recommends. It depends on the type of cancer, but in general, they like to see that you’ve been in complete remission for five years.
Other Aspects of Your Health
You can eat well, exercise, never smoke and still develop cancer. Cancer is a cruel disease, and it’s never fair, but a diagnosis can feel particularly frustrating when you feel like you’ve done everything right.
A healthy lifestyle and few other health issues are good news, though, when you’re looking at buying life insurance. Underwriters look at your entire life, not just your cancer diagnosis, and every little thing can decrease the premium you’re likely to end up paying.
Will Your Diagnosis Affect the Life Insurance Your Family Members Are Eligible For?
A cancer diagnosis can influence the premium your immediate family members might have to pay should they purchase life insurance for themselves. In general, it’s your siblings and children affected.
The impact of your cancer diagnosis on your immediate family members depends on several factors, including the type of cancer you have, your gender and theirs, and whether the cancer has a hereditary component.
Your family members might still be able to receive a preferred plus rating if the type of cancer you have has a high survival rate and they don’t suspect a genetic element. The same is true for some carriers who take gender into account. If you were diagnosed with testicular cancer, many life insurance companies wouldn’t count that against your daughter or sister should they seek life insurance.
What an Independent Life Insurance Agent Can Do for You
The life insurance application process is complicated to navigate. Any prior or current health problem can make matters even more frustrating.
Life insurance can provide you with invaluable peace of mind and a much-needed safety net for your loved ones. But only when you find and successfully apply for a policy that meets your needs without breaking the bank.
Here at NextGen Life Insurance, we want you to know that you’re not in this alone. We’re dedicated to helping you find a policy with a premium that works for you without sacrificing coverage. We will work with an extensive network of trusted life insurance providers to help you find the best possible plan.
Get your free quote today, or call us at 646-216-4199 to get started.