Can You Get Life Insurance After a Cancer Diagnosis?

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  • If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you may be considering your family’s future financial security. Learn how to get life insurance after a cancer diagnosis.

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you may be considering the best way to provide financial security for your family’s future. Thankfully, many individuals can still get life insurance after a cancer diagnosis, but their options may be limited. Before you begin your search for a life insurance policy, here are several things you should know.

Can You Get Life Insurance If You Have Cancer?

If you have cancer, you can typically still get approved for a life insurance policy. Your risk profile, which is assessed during the medical underwriting process, will determine the type of policy you may purchase and the amount of the death benefit you’ll qualify for. Regardless of policy specifics, you'll likely have to pay higher premiums than someone in good health. 

If you currently have cancer or are a survivor, companies may consider some or all of the following factors before approving your policy purchase:

  • The type of cancer you have
  • Whether the cancer is active or in remission
  • How long it has been in remission
  • Available treatment options and/or how long it has been since you underwent treatment
  • Your overall prognosis

What Type of Life Insurance Can You Get If You Have Cancer?

The type of life insurance policy you’ll qualify for after you've received a cancer diagnosis often depends on the type of cancer you have and how your insurance company views your risk profile. For example, if you’ve just been diagnosed with a high-risk cancer, are currently receiving treatment or your cancer is advanced, you probably won’t qualify for a traditional whole or term policy, regardless of the insurer you choose. However, if you’ve been in remission for several years, don’t show signs of relapse and your prognosis is good, some insurers may let you purchase a traditional plan at a slightly higher rate than someone without cancer.

If you’re denied a whole or term policy because you have cancer, you may still get approval for a no-medical-exam policy, which is a type of plan that doesn't require a medical exam during the underwriting process. These plans, which typically offer lower death benefits at higher premiums, may be ideal if you’ve just finished treatment or you’ve recently been diagnosed with cancer but have a good prognosis for survival. 

There are two main types of no-medical-exam coverage: guaranteed-issue plans and simplified-issue plans.

Simplified-Issue Plans

A simplified-issue plan is a type of permanent insurance that offers a limited death benefit. These policies are designed for individuals who may not qualify for a traditional policy because of serious health issues, a high-risk lifestyle or a family history of cancer or other life-threatening diseases. When you apply for simplified-issue insurance you won’t have to undergo a medical examination, but you will have to fill out a detailed questionnaire that covers your medical history, your family medical history and your overall health. Most companies also require access to your medical records.

When applying for coverage through a simplified-issue plan, individuals typically receive a decision quickly, so you can get coverage fast.

Guaranteed-Issue Plans

If you don’t qualify for simplified-issue life insurance, you can still purchase a guaranteed-issue plan, which guarantees coverage regardless of your health. When applying for a guaranteed-issue plan, you’ll have to fill out a simple questionnaire with basic health information and a brief medical history.

Guaranteed-issue life insurance is a type of permanent insurance, so your coverage stays in effect as long as you pay your premiums. However, the death benefit may be capped, and some policies have graded death benefits, so if you die within the first few years after the plan was issued, your beneficiaries may only receive a payout equal to the premiums paid, plus interest. This type of policy is often used as a way to cover burial expenses, medical bills and other end-of-life costs.

Shopping Around

Because each insurer views risk differently, even when it comes to cancer, shopping around may be the best way to find out what life insurance options are available to you.

Life Insurance Riders for Individuals Who’ve Been Diagnosed With Cancer

Life insurance riders can be used to modify a basic policy, providing extra protection or other benefits in specific situations, as defined in the contract. Although recent individuals with a cancer diagnosis may not be eligible to purchase many of the available life insurance riders, survivors of cancer and those who’ve experienced long-term remissions may benefit from the additional protections they offer. Those who have had a cancer diagnosis may want to consider adding on accelerated death benefits such as:

  • Terminal illness riders. This type of rider grants you tax-free access to your death benefit if you relapse and receive a terminal diagnosis. Most companies don't place limitations on how you can use these funds.
  • Critical illness riders. This rider pays out if you’ve been diagnosed with certain types of cancers or other qualifying illnesses that are serious but survivable that may leave you with high medical bills.
  • Long-term care riders. Although LTC riders can be expensive to add on to a policy, they can help with the cost of in-home or residential long-term care services if you should need them.

Do I Need to Tell My Life Insurance Carrier About Cancer?

It’s important to be honest with your life insurance company about your diagnosis and any other health conditions you may have at the time of purchase. If you’re dishonest about a medical condition or you don’t disclose a cancer diagnosis, you’ll risk voiding your policy, which can mean your beneficiaries will be left with nothing. 

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