Life Insurance for Cancer Survivors

Categories: Cancer Survivor Support

February 18, 2020

It's not uncommon, as a cancer survivor, to consider your life insurance policies. One common concern is whether you'll qualify for life insurance as a cancer survivor.

If you've been diagnosed with cancer, you may be wondering what it might be like trying to obtain life insurance after your diagnosis. Good news! Plenty of life insurance companies happily insure cancer patients and survivors. Premiums and coverage specifics differ from case to case. But you'll be happy to hear that you can still get life insurance. Cancer won't stop you from getting covered.

Based on your cancer history and the rest of your factors, you may have to pay a higher rate than if you hadn't received a cancer diagnosis. After being in remission long enough to see your risk level drop, you could see your premiums go down with it. Then you may even get premiums down to baseline levels. Many factors go into insurance rates. The best way to figure out what you'll have to pay is to ask questions.

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Do certain types of cancer make it harder to get life insurance?

Life insurance is an industry that doesn't focus much on what makes their customers unique. Adjusters look at complicated tables and make judgments based on data alone. Different types of cancer have different survival rates.

Life insurance companies will offer (or not offer) policies accordingly. When they consider cancer patients or survivors for life insurance policies, companies consult the National Cancer Institute's SEER database. SEER stands for "Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results".

The SEER Expected Survival Life Tables give companies an idea of life expectancy based on their diagnosis and stage. Life expectancy doesn't change much for some cancers that are detected early and treated. A stage 1 skin cancer survivor in remission will likely have similar premiums to a  similar healthy individual. But less treatable forms of cancer like pancreatic can have significantly higher premiums for eligible patients.

Insurance companies separate applicants into one of four categories.

This helps them decide what rates to offer. The four categories are:

  1. Preferred plus - the "lowest risk" group. People in this group have the lowest premiums.
  2. Preferred - the second-lowest risk group.
  3. Standard plus - the second-highest risk group.
  4. Standard - the "highest risk". Standard insurance policies still offer coverage but require higher premiums.

These categories aren't specific to those with a history of cancer. All life insurance applicants are reviewed this way. Classification is a matter of risk factors and demographic factors. Cancer is just a part of the equation. If you're young and otherwise healthy, a few years of remission may be enough for preferred plus.

If it hasn't been very long since remission things may be different.  Anyone can apply for life insurance, of course. But the type of cancer you've had to deal with will definitely affect your rate. Don't be discouraged by this. Many cancer survivors have received excellent policies.

Purchasing a life insurance policy will give you the option between guaranteed issue and whole/term policies. Guaranteed issue will be available to nearly every applicant. However, premiums can be surprisingly high for guaranteed issue policies, even higher than expected for cancer survivors. On the other hand, traditional term or whole life policies can be difficult to qualify for. Term policies are only effective for a specific amount of time, whereas whole life has no end date. The main advantage of these policies is lower premiums, and you may qualify for them once you're in remission.

How does a cancer survivor get life insurance after cancer treatments?

Once treatment is over and the cancer is in remission it's considered a pre-existing condition by insurers. The stage, type, and prognosis will determine the impact on your rates. However, it shouldn't stop you from applying for or receiving life insurance. Millions of cancer survivors go on to live full, healthy lives every year. Part of that process is obtaining life insurance.

Life insurance ensures that your family will be taken care of in the (hopefully distant) future. It's likely that premiums will be higher for all but the most basic cancers. However, life insurance is a critical part of maintaining your estate. Once you've explained your situation, companies will be happy to work something out with you.

The actual process of applying for life insurance isn't much different than before. You may already partner with an insurance company for your auto or home insurance. If so, they may be able to offer you a life policy. If not, they'll at least have a referral for a company that can. You may be eligible for a policy due to Veteran or Active Duty Military service. It's important to keep those in mind too. 

Are there different options for life insurance for a cancer survivor?

Yes! Just like anyone else purchasing life insurance. As a cancer survivor, you have options based on your current situation and needs. You may have a large family and need more coverage than an average person in your situation. Luckily, many insurance companies can accommodate that.

You're not restricted to a specific insurer. The insurance marketplace lets patients and survivors choose a policy that works for them. Don't worry that you can't be insured or that your premiums will be too high. It's always worth checking.

Finding the right insurance policy can take some time. But the people who work with those companies are experts. They've found policies for people with every possible background. That includes cancer survivors! Figure out what you're looking for and how much you want to pay. The insurance companies will find something that works for you.

Life insurance is just a small part of a forward-looking plan. However, it's a critical one. It's straightforward to obtain life insurance after surviving cancer and it's not difficult to do. Check with any companies currently providing you insurance services and branch out from there. It's easier than it seems to get covered. There are life insurance options available, even if you recently rang the bell to signify you're done with treatments.

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