20 November 2012 0 Comments

Cancer — Can You Get Life Insurance?

Over my years in the life insurance industry I have talked to many people who assume that because they have had Cancer, they will not be eligible for life insurance.  Or it will be too expensive to afford.  That could be true of some cancers, but not all.

Sometimes people believe that “tumor” always means “cancer.”  This is not true.  A tumor that is  benign is not cancer and will likely have no adverse affect on your life insurance premium.  A malignant tumor is cancer and will affect both your ability to obtain insurance at any cost and, if you can get it, what the premium will be.

One-third of all people will have some form of cancer during their lifetime and it is the number two cause of death in the U.S. only preceded by cardiovascular/heart disease.  So it is a subject that has garnered much research by life insurance companies.  They want to find ways to provide coverage for this portion of the population—not just a “decline.”  But they must do so in a way that will not adversely affect the premiums of other insured’s or of their company profits.

Some skin cancers, such as basil cell carcinoma, will not adversely affect premium and do not preclude one’s ability to obtain immediate coverage unless there have been a number of episodes.  However, another cancer that begins on the surface of the skin—melanoma—is a very serious cancer and will have a bearing on premium and availability of coverage.

Some cancers are classified as “in situ” which designates the least invasive cancer and might be insurable with no waiting period.  However, most other cancers will result in a “postpone” by the underwriter for 1 to 3 years following diagnosis or in many cases from date of cessation of treatment.  Then, depending on the Grade of the cancer (I-IV, with I being the best) and the Stage (size, lymph node involvement and metastasis) a standard premium, often with a flat dollar-per-thousand surcharge for a fixed number of years, might be offered.  If there was radiation and/or chemotherapy, there might also a Table 2 to 4 table rating included.  Remember, once the policy has been issued the premium is set even if the cancer returns, assuming there was full disclosure on the application.

If you have had cancer, it is generally not a good idea to blindly proceed with an application.  First, obtain a copy of your pathology and surgical report (if applicable) from your doctor and submit this, along with a signed authorization, to your agent who should be able to obtain the best offer by researching various insurance companies.   There are some cancers where this may not be necessary and I’ll be discussing some of those in my upcoming blogs.

Next, I’ll be discussing prostate cancer with a real life story included.

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