Cancer Survivors and Life Insurance
There are an estimated 17 million cancer survivors in the United States. This number is expected to rise to over 20 million by 2026. In the past, it may have been very difficult for a person with a cancer history to purchase life insurance. With the introduction of targeted therapies, immunotherapy, and personalized medicine, more people are surviving cancer and living full and active lives after cancer. And, many cancer survivors want and need life insurance coverage after cancer.
Life insurance provides financial peace of mind to your loved ones after your death. The benefit can pay off debt, pay for funeral/burial expenses, and provide income replacement in the event of your death. Life insurance allows you to plan for the financial needs of your dependents in the event of your death.
Several factors may impact your ability to get a life insurance plan as well as how much the plan will cost. These include:
- The type of cancer you had: Cancers with more favorable outcomes and long-term survival rates may be more attractive to life insurance companies. Some types of cancer diagnoses tend to have better outcomes than others. A life insurance company may take that into account your specific diagnosis when determining if you are eligible and the cost.
- How long you have been in remission: Typically, the longer you have been cancer-free, the less your life insurance premiums may be.
- Waiting Period: There may be a waiting period for coverage or payout based on when you last received cancer treatment
- Your health status, other than your cancer history: Insurance companies are concerned about the risk associated with any policy they issue. If you have other health problems, like diabetes, high blood pressure, or obesity, your ability to get coverage as a cancer survivor may be more challenging.
The cost of your life insurance policy is also dependent on the type of coverage you choose. There are several different types of life insurance including:
- Term life insurance: Covers a certain period of time in an individual’s life. For example, if you are 40 years old and you purchase a 30-year term policy. That policy will cover your life until the age of 70. Because there are time limits to the policy, term life insurance policies tend to be the least expensive. Be advised the insurance provider can ask for updated health information during renewal times and can also decide not to renew your policy based on changes to your health status.
- Cash value insurance: This type of insurance includes whole life, variable life, universal life, and survivor life policies. These policies tend to be more expensive than term life insurance and often are the only option for people with complex medical histories. The price you pay for this coverage contributes to lifelong insurance coverage and increases the amount of the cash value. Thus, you can borrow against this type of policy or cash it in for money. The premiums for cash value plans can vary based on the type of plan you buy.
- Guaranteed issue whole life insurance: These plans are typically for people over the age of 40 and can be attractive for people with pre-existing medical issues. This type of plan provides a limited death benefit. The benefit can be withheld if the individual dies within a few years of purchasing the policy.
- Group life insurance: This type of life insurance is offered through employers. If you have returned to work after cancer treatment, this can be a good option for cancer survivors. However, the amount of coverage is often limited to your salary (for example 1x your base salary). You may be able to purchase supplemental coverage through group plans, but this may be subject to medical underwriting. The cost of this supplemental coverage will increase as you age. These policies are not portable meaning you usually can’t maintain this coverage if you leave this job.
If you are a cancer survivor interested in exploring your options for life insurance, you should contact multiple providers and obtain quotes for different types of coverage. Do not minimize your cancer history. Be honest with insurance brokers about your cancer history, treatment, and survivorship. Withholding information can result in a denial of coverage. Talk with insurance brokers about what you need life insurance coverage for and how to best access coverage given your cancer history.