Life Insurance for Cancer Survivors


Cancer survivors may want life insurance for the same reasons as other people. They get married, have children, get a new job, and face other life cycle events. Unfortunately, obtaining coverage during the first few years after the end of treatment may be impossible, and the premiums will be much more expensive after that.

No Coverage for Two Years

Typically, insurance carriers will reject an application for life insurance coverage during the first two years after the end of treatment. Some insurers will refuse to insure a survivor for the first five years.

Higher Premiums

After that point coverage will be available, but it will be much more expensive that for people without a history of cancer. Cancer survivors are typically placed in the most expensive (riskiest) tier of insurance coverage. They may also be required to pay an additional premium of $2.50 to $10.00 per $1,000 of coverage. The additional premium will decrease each year for the next 3-5 years until it is eliminated. The survivor will still be in the most expensive tier of insurance coverage, even if they are otherwise healthy.

A history of cancer can increase the annual premiums by a factor of 2 to 10, depending on the type of cancer and other factors. Typically, two years after treatment one should expect a four-fold increase in premiums as compared with someone who has no cancer history.

2+ Doctor Visits = Active Treatment

Note that most insurers consider patients who have more than one surveillance appointment per year to be still under active treatment, even if they have been without any symptoms. So if you are still having diagnostic tests and meeting with your oncologist two or more times per year, you should answer yes to the questions concerning a history of cancer within the past two years.

Failing to answer these questions honestly can result in a denial of any claims. Although insurance companies are limited to challenging the accuracy of responses within the first two years a policy is in effect, there is no time limit if they can establish that there was intentional misrepresentation or fraud. The insurance company will request a copy of your complete medical history before paying any claim, and if they find that you were less than honest, they can deny payment. When dealing with insurance companies, be completely up front, so that they have no grounds for denying a claim.

Employer May Offer Life Insurance

You may be able to get life insurance through your employer. However, many life insurance companies specify in their group life insurance contracts that medical underwriting is required whenever an employee seeks an increase in coverage beyond the amount of coverage they obtained when they were initially hired. (Individual life insurance policies always require medical underwriting.) Medical underwriting usually results in a rejection for any kind of a cancer diagnosis.

The underwriting may be more stringent depending on the amount of coverage. Some insurers may be more careful when the amount of cover exceeds a fixed threshold (more than $1 million) or a specific multiple of annual income.

If you get the sense that your life insurance application will be rejected, don't even bother applying. You don't want to have a rejection for life insurance on your record, since the rejection itself can make it more difficult to obtain life insurance.

Look Into High Risk Pools

It pays to shop around and to solicit quotes each year. There are some insurance carriers that specialize in providing coverage to high risk clients. You should also call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 to ask about the high risk pools for your state.

Copyright © 2005-2018 by Mark Kantrowitz. All rights reserved.

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