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Can you get life insurance if you have cancer?

Here’s what to know about getting life insurance after a difficult diagnosis

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After a cancer diagnosis, it’s common to be filled with questions about your treatment and prognosis. Dealing with your health at this time is stressful enough, but you’re likely also concerned about how you can secure the future for your loved ones. How will they manage if you are not around to provide for them? Will they be able to pay a mortgage or school tuition?

Many people take a second look at their finances when they receive unexpected health news and want life insurance to protect those closest to them. While a cancer diagnosis will change the risk, it will not always exclude the possibility for coverage.

Your family is worth exploring the options that’ll provide financial assurance if you’re no longer here to provide. Find out what to expect about having cancer and getting life insurance.

In this article:

Why might cancer affect your life insurance policy approval?

Life insurance providers measure risk when deciding on a policy approval. Part of that assessment includes questions on medical and health history, including cancer. Providers look at the type of cancer you have, what stage it’s in, treatment history, and recovery dates. Policy approvals are a bit trickier in these circumstances because having a cancer diagnosis increases the risk a provider takes on you if the cancer affects your life expectancy.

But insurance policies for those with cancer are certainly within reach. Providers don’t see cancer as an automatic red light, and you shouldn’t, either. There’s a lot more that goes into the approval process.

Insurance providers typically divide people into underwriting risk classes: “standard” and “preferred.” The purpose behind these classes is to better understand an applicant’s life expectancy — one of many factors that determine the policy’s premiums, and impact whether an applicant can be approved at all.

There are also table ratings for people with more complicated medical histories. The table ratings might apply to your situation if you have a new cancer diagnosis or have survived cancer. An insurer assesses your risk class by asking many questions about you. Here is some information they might request:

A medical exam is also a standard part of many, but not all, life insurance applications.

Some insurance providers also request an attending physician statement (APS) for more information about your health. An attending physician statement is a summary of your health condition. It’s completed by a doctor already familiar with your medical history, such as your primary care physician or oncologist. Insurers requiring an APS will typically reach out to you or your physicians to ask for one.

You can certainly get life insurance if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, but it’s possible you’ll be listed in the standard underwriting class or the table ratings.

Does it matter if your cancer diagnosis is recent?

Life insurance providers will ask about your date of diagnosis. But when you were diagnosed might not matter as much as knowing what kind of cancer you have, what stage it’s in, and what the prognosis is. You have more coverage options if your cancer was recently caught at an early stage or your healthcare professional considers you cancer-free now after a diagnosis from years ago.

Your prognosis and consistency of your health when applying for life insurance are usually more important factors for approval than the timing of diagnosis. It’s not that you’ll be denied a policy simply because you were recently diagnosed. It’s that enough time has to pass after your diagnosis to give medications and treatments time to stabilize your health.

Getting to that point doesn’t happen immediately because you and your doctor have to find the right medication or treatment for your cancer. And without stability, a provider might not give you a quote for a premium or policy amount.

Some life insurance experts estimate it can take 6-12 months of medical stability before they give an accurate quote for a policy. So don’t feel discouraged if you’re denied approval soon after your cancer diagnosis. Try again later when you can prove more firmly that your cancer is well managed.

What if your cancer is in remission?

Partial remission is a welcome relief. Your cancer is under control and responding well to treatments. Being in remission is also good for the outcome you want to see in a life insurance application.

But life insurance approval doesn’t happen the day after you’re told you’re in remission. It’s common for insurance providers to take a “wait and see” approach before approving a policy. That waiting period varies based on the type of cancer, how aggressive it was, and how likely it could return. If you apply for insurance too soon into your remission, you could be denied even if your doctor thinks your prognosis is good.

The longer you are in remission, the better your chances of getting a life insurance policy. How long you have to wait depends on the insurer. Some providers like to see a person in remission for five years. But some types of cancer, such as bladder or cervical, have just one- or two-year waiting periods. Other providers have more stringent underwriting rules and want 10 years of remission before issuing a life insurance policy.

How does cancer affect what you pay for life insurance?

Having cancer won’t necessarily stop you from getting life insurance. But the insurance provider will likely put you into a higher underwriting risk class — and that means higher premiums. Premiums vary among providers, so it’s a good idea to shop around no matter the stage of your cancer journey.

Some policies might also offer an accelerated death benefit rider. This optional policy feature might allow you to access benefits during your lifetime if the cancer returns, and the diagnosis is terminal. Such a rider is invaluable when you’re trying to meet end-of-life medical costs and other necessities.

With a Haven Life policy, people can access up to 75% of the death benefit or $250,000, whichever comes first. The remainder of the benefit will be available to beneficiaries after you pass.

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About Catherine Lovering

Read more by Catherine Lovering

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit:

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