If you are among the majority of cancer patients who survive for at least five years following a diagnosis, you may face another battle: buying life insurance.
Finding decent life insurance quotes after a cancer diagnosis is challenging but not necessarily impossible. Your chances for securing a policy depend greatly on the type, stage and grade of the cancer, and even on the treatment plan.
Most insurers follow guidelines from the National Cancer Institute’s “Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results” (SEER) database. It provides reports on nearly three million cancer patients. Oncologists, doctors and medical researchers across the United States submit reports to the database, in which nameless patients are assigned a number. Insurance companies then access the information for underwriting purposes. Insurers can review patient demographics, morphology, diagnosis stages, first-course treatments, tumor locations and follow-up procedures.
It’s unusual if an insurer offers a policy to someone who is still undergoing treatment. If they have a good prognosis, they may become eligible for a policy. Life insurance companies often examine medical records and physicians’ reports for breast cancer survivors seven years after a completed treatment. If the prognosis is good, the patient can ask for a re-evaluation and lower premiums.
Most cancer survivors who apply for life insurance do so after five years of being cancer-free.
The life insurance price you receive will hinge on the curability of your cancer. Certain types of non-melanoma skin cancer, for example, are considered very low risk by life insurance companies, and a skin cancer history may not impact premiums at all.
Most insurers will not offer a policy to someone who is still undergoing treatment for cancer. Depending on your type of cancer, the life insurer might add a surcharge, also called a temporary flat extra. The good news is that these surcharges automatically disappear after a set period.
Life insurance companies generally use these classes to determine your premium:
- Super Preferred (also called Preferred Plus)
There are usually ranges within these categories, too, such as “Standard Plus.”
Applicants with common and treatable forms of breast, prostate, testicular and thyroid cancer may be able to get a “standard” rating under ideal circumstances.
But patients with a history of leukemia or colon cancer may fall into a “substandard” or “high substandard” rating at best, or receive declines. Anyone with cancer that has metastasized likely won’t be able to obtain a policy.
If you cannot get a life insurance policy on your own, you may be able to get life insurance through your employer at a “group” rate.