How To Buy Life Insurance After Being Diagnosed With Cancer

Written by Jeff Root

Everyone dreads the “C” word. We’ve all been touched by it. You’ve had a family member or friend or perhaps even yourself touched by cancer.

We all know that the best time to buy insurance is when you don’t need it. If you purchased life insurance when you were younger and healthy then you are in luck. Being diagnosed with cancer after a policy is in force will not affect the renewal of the policy or the coverage.

This is a good tip to remember. Buy life insurance coverage when you are young and healthy and don’t think you need it.

But what if you’ve been recently diagnosed and you don’t personally own a life insurance policy?

Can You Get Life Insurance If You Have Cancer?

A cancer diagnosis has shined a light on your own mortality, and you are scrambling to find a way to protect your family in case you don’t survive the diagnosis.

The good news is that most cancers are treatable and survivable today. The other good news is that you can get life insurance.

If you find yourself uninsured and impacted by cancer, let us walk you through some strategies that will help you make the best decision about life products for your condition.

Depending on where you are on your cancer journey will greatly impact the policy you can purchase and the risk that the life insurance company sees you as.

Categories of Cancer Progression

The progression of your illness has the biggest impact on the type and amount of insurance you can buy. Over time options increase and premiums will decrease.

If you must buy a high premium, lower coverage policy initially, you usually have the option of re-evaluation to a less expensive product as your health improves. Insurance companies have 3 categories every cancer patient is placed in.

1. In Treatment

If you’ve recently been diagnosed or under treatment for cancer, this is the category an insurance will place you in. Your options in this category are the most expensive and the most limited.

In fact, most terminal illnesses fit into this category as well.

The insurance option available to you in this stage is a:

Guaranteed Issue Policy  

Guaranteed issue life insurance is a whole life policy. Whole life not only provides life insurance but there is a cash value component. There is no medical exam required for this policy. Sometimes because of the size of these policies, they are referred to as burial insurance or final expense insurance.

Coverages range from $5,000 to $50,000 for these policies. They are not only designed for those with cancer and terminal illnesses but any person with significant medical issues.

Most guaranteed issue policies come with something called a “graded benefit”. This can be a confusing feature. Basically, the full coverage amount of the policy is not available to you if you die within the first 2 years of the policy (some companies extend to 3).  A percentage of the coverage is available over a graded period of time.

The best way to explain is to give a visual example of how graded benefit works. The below example is a guaranteed life policy for $20,000 with a graded benefit.

Policy Life Premium Paid Interest Earned (at 10%) Death Benefit
6 Months $500 $50 $550
12 Months $1,000 $100 $1,100
18 Months $1,500 $150 $1,650
2 Years $2,000 N/A Full Death Benefit of $20,000

As you can see the benefit in the first two years is only the premium paid plus and cash accumulation the policy might accrue. In this example, we assumed a 10% rate of return. Even though the full coverage is not available, you don’t lose any premiums you paid into the policy. After 2 years, the full coverage amount will be paid.

If you find the insurance options don’t fit your needs you may be eligible for life insurance with your employer under their group health policy.

2. In Remission (Waiting Period)

For most insurance companies, when you are initially in remission, you are treated as if you are still in treatment. At this stage, the guaranteed issue policy is the only policy available to you. The length of time you must in the phase is referred to as the “waiting period” and varies based on the type of cancer you have.

Depending on the company you may not be forced into a graded policy. Coverage, in that case, would be available from day 1 on the policy.

Below is the list of each cancer and the standard waiting period for most insurance companies, before you can buy other life insurance products such as a term policy.

Cancer Waiting Period
Breast 1  – 5 years
Lung 3  – 5 years
Colorectal 1  – 6 years
Uterine 2  – 5 years
Hodgkins and Lymphoma 3  – 10 years
Prostate 6 months  – 2 years
Bladder 1  – 3 years or greater
Melanoma 1  – 5 years
Testicular 6 months  – 2 years
Leukemia 5  – 10 years
Kidney 1  – 5 years
Pancreatic 2 years
Cervical 0  – 1 year
Esophageal 3 years
Larynx 1 year
Ovarian 1  – 5 years or more
Bone 5 years or more
Basal Cell Carcinoma 0  – 3 months

3. Post Waiting Period

Once you’ve been in remission for the required time period the insurance imposes on each cancer type, you are eligible for any type of insurance policy.

You can apply for a wide variety of permanent policies as well as term policies. You will be treated like any other buyer. All factors such as age, gender, health, tobacco use, etc. will determine what tier of pricing you are eligible to purchase.

Strategies To Buying Life Insurance When Diagnosed With Cancer

These 2 strategies can be employed no matter what your cancer timeline is.

Like any application for life insurance full disclosure and honesty on the application is important to the company as well as your insurance agent can find the best policy fit.

1. Gather Full Medical Records

The more detail you have about your cancer history will help company underwriters determine acceptability as well as pricing. Full records usually result in better pricing.  The following items are what you need to collect and keep as you apply for insurance.

  • Family History
  • Type & Date of 1st Diagnosis
  • Type Treatment
  • Time of Remission
  • Stage of Cancer
  • Report of Tumors, Lymph Nodes & Relapses

2. Shop Around

It is easy to panic and make rash decisions when your life is shaken by a cancer diagnosis. Don’t buy the first policy you see advertised. Many companies regularly advertise on television and radio offering policies for cancer patients and survivors.

Some of the products are good, but many will not be the most cost-effective policies you can find.

Get multiple quotes from a wide variety of companies before you make a decision about what you should purchase.

Below are the top 11 best insurance companies for cancer patients.

Top Life Insurance Companies For Cancer Patients

Company A.M.Best Customer Reviews
1. Protective Life A+ 4.1 / 5
2. Lincoln Financial A+ 3.9 / 5
3. John Hancock A++ 4.1
4. MetLife A+ 3.9 / 5
5. Banner Life A+ 4.3 / 5
6. Prudential A+ 4.2 / 5
7. Pacific Life A+ 3.7 / 5
8. Mutual of Omaha A- 4.0 / 5
9. Transamerica A 4.0 / 5
10. AIG A 4.1 / 5
11. SBLI A+ 4.0

Each of the life insurance companies below was chosen based on a number of factors, including:

  • Financial Stability
  • Claims Paid Out
  • Life Insurance Customer Review
  • Best Life Insurance Rates

When determining the best life insurance company for cancer patients, you want to be sure to take these factors into consideration.  The last thing you want is to have coverage that does not pay out because the company is not reliable.

You also don’t want to work with a company that has a history of bad life insurance company reviews, as this is usually a tell-tale sign that they do not have the best service. Lastly, their rates and the number of policies they pay out are big factors as well.

You will find good value in an affordable life insurance policy where all of these factors intersect.  Each of our best life insurance companies for cancer has a healthy combination of strengths in these factors.

Because of the changing landscape of companies entering the market as well as changing underwriting guidelines, having an independent agent is critical to making the best insurance buying decision.

Work with an Independent Life Insurance Agent

Independent agents are not exclusive with anyone carrier and can offer you a wide variety of options for coverage and price.

Because of this, they usually can find you the best life insurance rates.  On top of that, they can also help you understand the terms of various policies, and identify what the best life insurance company and policy is for you.

Contact us today and let one of our agents give you multiple options. Our agents are experts with a vast array of insurance companies. They understand each unique product and can customize a policy for you to give you the best coverage and pricing.

Compare the Best Life Insurance Rates for Cancer Patients

Easy coverage in hard times.

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