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If you’ve had cancer, you can still qualify for life insurance. But how much your premiums cost and what policies you’re eligible for will depend on your medical history.
How to get life insurance for cancer patients
If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer in the last two to four years, or you’re currently undergoing treatment, you typically won’t be able to access a traditional term or whole life policy. This is because your health is uncertain, and you’re deemed risky in the eyes of the insurer. That being said, you can purchase a guaranteed issue policy.
These policies don’t require medical underwriting, and coverage is — as the name suggests — guaranteed. They’re available in small coverage amounts ranging from $10,000 to $25,000, and have higher premium payments because the provider doesn’t have a complete picture of the person they’re insuring. Final expense insurance is a type of guaranteed issue life insurance.
There’s one exception to this: If you have an early-stage skin cancer that can be easily removed, you should be able to purchase any type of coverage.
What happens if I don’t tell my insurer about my condition?
It’s important to disclose all medical information to your insurer. If you omit any information from your application, your insurer will have the right to refuse to pay out your benefit if you die or become terminally ill — even if you’ve been paying premiums.
Can I get life insurance if I’ve had cancer in the past?
In most cases, cancer survivors are eligible for traditional coverage — but you’ll likely need to wait until you’ve been in remission for more than a specific length of time. The waiting period will vary based on the insurer and these factors:
The type of cancer you had
The date of diagnosis
The date of your last successful cancer treatment
Your insurer’s health underwriting guidelines — for example, how they treat a family history of cancer.
You may also need to pay higher premiums. And with certain types of cancer that are likely to reoccur, you may need to get a guaranteed-issue policy.
Can I access preferred rates as a cancer survivor?
It comes down to your insurer’s underwriting standards and the type of cancer you had.
Depending on your insurer, you might be able to access these rating classes for the following cancers:
Non-melanoma skin cancers
Compare life insurance quotes for cancer survivors
Can I get life insurance if I have a family history of cancer?
Yes, but your family history can affect how much your premiums cost. If a parent or sibling died from cancer before a certain age, usually around 60, an insurer may consider you to be a higher risk. But distant family members and cancers diagnosed in old age generally won’t affect your application. The same goes for gender-specific cancers if you’re the opposite sex. For example, if you’re a male with a mother who had ovarian cancer, that shouldn’t impact your ability to get coverage.
Insurers weigh up family medical histories differently, and some are more lenient than others. If you have a family history of cancer, be sure to compare quotes from a range of insurers to make sure you’re getting the best possible rate.
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While some cancer survivors will be able to get a policy at a competitive rate, others can pay several times more for insurance. Low-risk applicants will generally qualify for preferred plus, preferred, standard plus or standard ratings, which have the cheapest rates. Applicants who don’t fit into one of those categories will get what’s called a table rating.
Table ratings put applicants into a stepped system based on risk. For each step of higher risk, rates go up by 25%. At most companies, you can pay anywhere from 25% to 250% more than standard applicants before your application is denied altogether.
How to increase the likelihood of finding life insurance
To improve your chances of getting a policy:
Collect the right paperwork. You want to have all of your documentation ready before you apply. This includes your complete medical records, pathology reports and records of your treatment plan. The more the insurance company knows about you, your cancer diagnoses and treatment plan, the more likely they may be able to insure you.
Get a note from your doctor. Ask your doctor to write you a note stating when you had treatments for cancer done, when you went into remission and what your prognosis is. This may help the insurance company get a better understanding of your specific situation.
Abide by the treatment plan. It’s important for the insurance company to see that you’re sticking with your treatment plan — meaning going to all follow-up appointments or check-ups. The more proactive you are about your health, the more likely you’re to remain healthy.
What questions might I be asked?
Insurers will want to ask a lot of questions about your cancer and your medical history, which can stir up fear, worry and feelings you might’ve thought behind you. Consider leaning on your loved ones for support during the application process, and be prepared to answer questions such as:
Do you have a family history of cancer? What was the age of onset?
Has anyone in your family died from cancer? If so, at what age?
What type of cancer do you or did you have?
Have you been advised that the cancer is treatable and what’s the percent chance of success?
What treatments did you receive while you had cancer?
Are you currently in remission? If so, how long have you been in remission?
Are you still taking medication or receiving tests?
What is the contact information of your doctor?
Can I take out critical illness insurance for cancer?
Critical illness insurance offers a lump sum benefit payment if you suffer from a specified illness. If you’re currently in remission, you may be able to take out a critical illness policy. But you’ll want to check the fine print to make sure a relapse of your previous cancer isn’t excluded from coverage.
The cancers commonly covered under critical insurance policies are:
Carcinoma in situ of the breast
Malignant bone marrow disorder
Carcinoma in situ of the male or female organs
It’s important to keep in mind that insurers determine application approval and coverage based off of each individual situation.
What can the benefit payment be used for?
The lump sum benefit your policy offers can be used to pay your medical bills, help with your recovery and manage ongoing expenses that may arise from expensive treatments and strenuous rehabilitation processes. You can also use the benefit to offset any time taken off from work that results in missing your regular income.
Each insurance company has its own set of guidelines for covering cancer survivors, so you may need to apply with several companies in order to find one that’s the right fit. Compare life insurance companies to get started.
Frequently asked questions
It depends. If you get cancer after taking out insurance, some policies may include a specific condition that requires you to notify your insurer of any diagnosis or genetic test result — check the fine print closely to be sure. But even if you’re obligated to tell your insurer of your diagnosis, your rates won’t be raised while your policy is active.
However, when it comes time to renew your policy or if you decide to change your level of coverage, you’ll have to inform your insurance company of your diagnosis.
Yes, you need to disclose all medical information to your insurer, even if you didn’t get the information through a doctor’s office.
Because the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act doesn’t apply to life insurance, your insurer can raise your rates if you test positive for a genetic predisposition to cancer.
No, your insurer can’t cancel your policy because of a cancer diagnosis if you’ve paid all of your premiums on time and were honest on your application.
Dawn Daniels is a publisher with Finder, based out of Oregon. Her background includes editing more than 40 published books, including Financial Fitness: 21 Easy Exercises to Get Your Personal Finances in Shape Fast by Dr. Vi Scott. In her spare time, Dawn enjoys hiking ridiculous distances and collapsing in exhaustion.
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