Cancer? You were likely unprepared for the news and its emotional tolls. A cancer diagnosis forces you to look at your mortality. You may question how you can protect your family from financial disaster if you lose the cancer battle.
You can buy life insurance if you currently have cancer or you are a cancer survivor, but it may be challenging and require some legwork.
With a pre-existing cancer diagnosis, expect your life insurance premiums to be higher.
If you’re currently undergoing cancer treatment or have late-stage cancer, you may still qualify for coverage that requires no medical exam, like a guaranteed-issue or simplified-issue policy.
If you’ve been cancer-free for several years, you may have more life insurance coverage options, including a term life or permanent life policy.
Insurance companies have varying eligibility requirements and consider each person’s medical history individually, so talk to an independent financial planner or an insurance agent about your options.
Life insurance provides financial security to your loved ones after you die. And, yes, you can still get life insurance even with a cancer diagnosis, but your options may be limited.
Am I applicable for life insurance if I have cancer?
Yes, if you have cancer, buying life insurance is possible. However, it may be more challenging to find suitable coverage at an affordable cost.
When applying for life insurance after a cancer diagnosis, cancer is considered a pre-existing condition. A pre-existing condition is a health problem you had before the date the insurance coverage begins. When it comes to life insurance, you may be subject to higher premiums or be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition.
In general, insurance companies look at the type of cancer, the stage, and your age to determine if they will issue a policy. Whether you’re in remission or undergoing treatment will also impact your ability to get life insurance and how much you pay.
Some insurers use guidelines from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER) to calculate your expected survival rate based on your type of cancer and stage.
Life insurance for people with cancer
The type of life insurance available to you depends on where you are with your cancer diagnosis.
For example, you may not qualify for traditional life insurance policies if you’re currently receiving cancer treatment or just finished treatment. This is also true if the tumor has metastasized (spread to other parts of the body) or has reached an advanced stage.
Traditional life insurance policies include term life and permanent life. They are typically less expensive than other types of life insurance policies, but they require information about your health and a medical exam.
In this case, a guaranteed issue or simplified-issue policy may be your best bet. These plans don’t need a medical exam but usually offer lower death benefits at higher costs. An alternative is to enroll in group life insurance through your employer. Most group life policies do not require a medical exam either.
Regardless, various life insurance options for current cancer patients have their benefits and disadvantages:
- Permanent coverage that lasts for the rest of your life as long as you pay your premiums.
- The best option for older people and those with health conditions who want life insurance to pay for final expenses.
- No medical exam or health questionnaire.
- You can’t be turned down because of your medical history.
- Death benefits can be used for any purpose.
- Coverage amounts are generally limited to $25,000.
- Premiums are higher than other policies.
- There is typically a waiting period of two years. This means if you die less than two. years after getting the policy, your beneficiary won’t receive the death benefit, but they will get a refund of the premiums you paid plus interest.
- A fast way to get coverage.
- Typically, offer a higher death benefit limit compared to guaranteed-issue policies.
- No medical exam is required, but you will likely have to fill out a health questionnaire.
- Usually less expensive than a guaranteed-issue life insurance policy.
- Premiums are higher than traditional policies.
- There is also a waiting period like the guaranteed-issue policies.
- Coverage amounts are also limited, but may be higher than guaranteed-issue policies.
- Not much life insurance companies offer this type of coverage.
Group life insurance
- Coverage can be purchased through your employer, a professional association, or an alumni association.
- Coverage is guaranteed for most basic group life insurance plans, so you will likely qualify even with a cancer diagnosis.
- Convenient and inexpensive.
- No pre-existing condition exclusions.
- If the policy is through your employer, then the coverage is tied to your job. This means you run the risk of losing the policy if you leave your job or can no longer work, but a handful of group policies may be converted to individual policies.
- Choices may be limited since the typical group policy is for term life insurance.
- The amount of coverage is also limited and may be based on your salary.
- You may have to wait for the open enrollment period to sign up for the policy.
Life insurance options for cancer survivors
If you’re in remission or have been cancer-free for several years, a traditional life insurance policy may be an option.
For example, some insurance companies will only insure a cancer survivor if it has been 10 years since the diagnosis. Other companies may offer a traditional life insurance policy to a cancer survivor after five years of completing treatment. Again, the type of coverage you may qualify for depends on the type of cancer, the stage at diagnosis, and your age.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of life insurance options for cancer survivors:
- Coverage is for a pre-determined length of time, such as 10, 15, 20, or 30 years.
- This type of coverage is typically the most affordable life insurance option.
- Guaranteed payout to your beneficiary for as long as the policy is in effect.
- Coverage is temporary, and premiums are based on your age when you buy the policy.
- If the policy expires, and you’re still alive, you have the choice to buy a new policy, but your premiums will likely be significantly higher
- A medical exam may be required.
- This type of coverage does not build cash value.
- Coverage never expires as long as you pay your premiums.
- Builds cash value which you could access to pay for cancer treatment.
- It is more expensive than a term life policy.
- A medical exam is usually required.
There are different types of permanent life insurance that offer a variety of flexibility based on your needs.
What life insurance companies will ask about cancer diagnoses
Not all companies sell life insurance policies to people diagnosed with cancer. Furthermore, the companies that do will have varying eligibility requirements.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to work with an independent financial planner or an insurance agent familiar with life insurance policies for cancer patients. The insurance agent can shop around to find the most suitable and affordable coverage for you.
Your broker or insurer will ask preliminary questions about where you are with your cancer diagnosis to determine what type of coverage you may qualify for.
Consider the answers to these common questions as you prepare to shop around for coverage:
- What type of cancer are you diagnosed with?
- Has cancer spread to other parts of your body?
- What is the stage of your cancer?
- When were you diagnosed with cancer?
- What treatment did you receive?
- How long ago did your treatment end?
- Have you had any recurrence of cancer?
- Are you currently receiving cancer treatment?
- How long have you been cancer-free?
While a cancer diagnosis is not a barrier to life insurance, it makes qualifying for coverage difficult. Your options may be limited, and the cost of premiums may be higher. However, don’t let that deter you from giving financial security to your loved ones when you die.
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