You’re Coverable: Life Insurance for Cancer Survivors

You’re Coverable: Life Insurance for Cancer Survivors

Dan beat cancer.

The best healthcare in Boston, the good vibes and prayers of his loved ones and his own iron determination took him home. If only he’d give up that actuarially suspect hang gliding, I’d give him good odds on outlasting us all. Hang gliding. Dan was always so 1970s.

Suffering from cancer is habitually described as a battle: she beat that cancer; his battle with cancer is over. Dan hates this imagery, preferring to work with a palette of scurrilous, scandalous, unprintable metaphors. I can safely share this one: chemotherapy, he says, is like being tied up in a sack full of poisonous snakes, and every time one bites you, it says: “You’re doing great.” Dan is the model of the impatient patient.

It’s not that he lacks gratitude. Every Sabbath, he gives thanks in his synagogue, names wife and daughter as his personal glimpse of Paradise. Dan knows life now, how it can run. My pal, Mister Clean, lest he sound too ideal, did make one wee mistake prior to illness: Dan went to that clinic without any life insurance – not a shekel of coverage, as he relates it.

We were young men back then, in the latter days of the 1980s – in our late 20s. Dan can be forgiven his lapse. We all felt invincible in those halcyon years. He did have a wife and an infant daughter, though.

His survival was luck of the roll, I suppose; a Reno beater – a hair raiser. Dan lived to see the Red Sox win it all, and I called him from a Moscow casino, where I’d watched the final out. Life can be beautiful.

Let’s run down his life. Dan married his Jewish dreamboat – man on first; a daughter appeared – first and second; he beat cancer – sorry for the wording, Danny – bases loaded; the Sox won the World Series – grand slam. That’s what we call Massachusetts priorities.

Back to his error. No life insurance: it could have been a game changer. It’s really too bad: our 20s are the perfect time to buy life coverage. You get the biggest death benefit for the smallest premium: protect that young family, set up your case to enhance coverage when needed. Dan is unsurprisingly keen on life insurance now, but as a cancer survivor, is he coverable at all?

Yes he is, indeed. Cancer survivors as a rule can purchase life insurance. The details depend on the insurer, but there are principles to guide.

First up, a person fully recovered from cancer will have to wait a few years – the number determined by the severity of the cancer suffered.

Cancer treatment has improved over my lifetime, yet in hard cases it still involves chemotherapy, radiation and bone marrow transplants – all approaches rough on the body. These therapies work, but recovery can take its toll, and a while. Meanwhile, some treatments are less invasive and the bounce-back is rapid.

If you overcome skin cancer, the wait before applying for life coverage is generally one year. Overpower leukemia, though, and the wait is an arduous ten years. Clean of lung cancer? Hold on for three years. Knock breast cancer on the head? It depends on the stage you suffered, but generally – two years. Prostate? One year. The delay can be rough on the nerves, but the goal is reachable.

It’s not that insurance providers are trying to inflict punishment. Dan’s stratospheric medicals bills were paid out quickly by his life insurance company – he had that coverage through his job, thank God – and they never quibbled over a nickel. When he qualified for that policy, Dan’s health was clean. No insurer, health or life, can afford to chance major preexisting conditions. In our case, they simply need to know that you’re cancer-free before providing life coverage.

You can do positive things in the waiting room. Work to improve your overall health. You know the drill: good diet, moderate exercise, positive thinking. This will improve your chances of receiving coverage at better rates when you finally apply. It may keep you with us just that much longer, helping to salve the bitter taste of nearly losing you prematurely – you’ll see that in your loved ones’ eyes, right, Dan?

What about the rates? You’re higher-risk material now, so don’t expect membership in the preferred or super-preferred risk classes. I certainly don’t rate for those cabins, and I’m fit as a cracking old fiddle.

I like to quote my French Impressionist doctor, Dr. Seurat, who managed my health in smoggy old Moscow: “Despite all appearances, you’re quite healthy.” Call me blessed, internally. I’ve been pretty lucky, so far.

The insurer will comprehensively grill your medical history, as always, for everyone. Cancer beaters can qualify for standard rates, upon consideration of all circumstances. These extend beyond medical record to lifestyle, family history and so on. You may end up paying a premium on your premium, if you know what I mean – or perhaps, not.

The insurance company applies a table-rating system that weighs your mortality risk – let’s be frank, your survivability. Each rating class – A, B, C and so on – assigns a percentage to be added to the premium you’d normally pay for a particular risk class. If you qualified for standard-class premiums, and your health risk puts you in rating class A, that would add 25% to the monthly premium. As the rating classes advance, so does the cost.

It can be tough, but it’s doable. For Dan, there was no option – he had those treasures to protect. He was careful about getting the best rate: Dan worked with an independent life insurance agent, who teamed with a good range of providers.

She introduced him to the concept of impaired risk underwriting, a real brow-scruncher for mortals, cherry pie for insurance agents. The important part is that she understood; Dan got an affordable rate. If you’re similarly situated to my dear old friend, go and do likewise.

This advice is for cancer-free people. Life policies specifically for those who otherwise lack coverage but were recently diagnosed with cancer are available: they’re called guaranteed issue life insurance. They are expensive and the benefits are limited to around $25,000, but that may be enough to cover final expenses. A tough topic to broach, but in life on this Earth, it’s good to know about everything.


60 Year Old Male with Cancer Needing $1M of Coverage

  • 2019 had Gleason 3+4/Stage 2 prostate cancer
  • Cavalier Associates shopped the case out and was getting postpones or large flat extras. Our underwriting team stepped in and knew that Lincoln would be a player.
  • Because the insured had a prostatectomy and the Gleason Score was no worse than 3+4 and the margins were clean, Lincoln was able to use their prostate cancer niche and go STD with no flat extra.

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