Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be shocking and frightening. Depending on the severity of your diagnosis and your overall financial plan, you may begin thinking about end-of-life planning, which can include a life insurance policy. It may be more difficult to find life insurance coverage after a cancer diagnosis, but it’s not impossible. Below, Bankrate explains life insurance for cancer patients, including what types of policies you may want to consider.

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Key takeaways
  • Group life insurance, burial insurance and guaranteed life insurance may be the easiest life insurance policies to get following a cancer diagnosis.
  • The type of cancer you have will likely influence your ability to get insurance. Insurance underwriters know certain types of cancer have a higher survival rate. If you have a higher chance of surviving, you have a better chance of being approved for life insurance.
  • Make sure to answer truthfully on your medical evaluation forms. If you don’t, your insurance provider could deny you, increase your rates or even accuse you of fraud.

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Can you get life insurance after a cancer diagnosis?

You will likely be able to qualify for burial, guaranteed and group life insurance with a cancer diagnosis, whereas more traditional types of coverage may be off the table. However, approval for any policy depends on the specifics of your cancer and other aspects of your health that demonstrate how much of a risk you are to an insurer. Even with a cancer diagnosis, better overall health will likely lead to a higher likelihood of getting a policy.

The specifics of your cancer diagnosis matter. If you have a form of cancer that’s more easily treatable and has a higher likelihood for remission, you’re more likely to be approved than if your cancer is more aggressive or more advanced. Your other health metrics matter too. If you have other health complications in addition to your cancer diagnosis, you may find it even harder to get coverage.

What are the types of life insurance for cancer patients?

Because life insurance eligibility is based on your health, a cancer diagnosis is likely to affect the types of life insurance you qualify for. You may need to look into a more specialized type of life insurance than you would if you didn’t have cancer.

There are several different types of life insurance that may be available for cancer patients. The easiest types to get are those that don’t go through a medical analysis during the underwriting process.

Guaranteed issue life insurance

Guaranteed issue life insurance may be the easiest type of life insurance for terminal cancer patients to get because it does not require any health screening or medical exam. As its name suggests, this type of policy is guaranteed to be issued, which means you won’t be denied coverage based on your health. It is a type of whole life insurance policy — which is permanent life insurance — so it builds cash value over time and stays with you as long as you live. However, guaranteed issue coverage tends to be more expensive than other types of insurance, and there is usually a cap on how much of a death benefit you can have, often around $25,000.

Burial insurance

Burial insurance, also known as funeral or final expense insurance, is another type of permanent life insurance which generally does not require a medical exam. Burial insurance is intended to finance end-of-life expenses, which can be astronomical. The median cost of funerals in the U.S. is an eye-popping $7,848, and families may choose to spend more depending on your wishes and the needs of those who are grieving. Burial insurance can help give your loved ones the ability to focus on mourning your death rather than organizing finances for your funeral. However, just like with guaranteed-issue coverage, the death benefit on these policies is relatively low and costs can be comparatively higher than other types of insurance since you don’t have to take a medical exam.

Group life insurance

If you or your spouse are still working, you may be able to access a group life insurance policy through your employer. You may also be eligible for a policy if you are a veteran or a member of an organization that offers this benefit. There is usually no medical exam needed for group life insurance, and the benefits may not be very high, but if your employer pays all or part of the premium, it could be worth having.

Does the type of cancer matter to life insurance companies?

Yes. Not all cancers are equal, and some are more severe than others. Underwriters know this, and have access to data that allows them to discern how severe your type of cancer is, especially when combined with your other rating factors. When you apply for life insurance, your company will want to know as much as possible about your health issues, including as much information as you can give them on your cancer:

  • The type of cancer and its stage
  • When you were diagnosed
  • What your treatment plan is, and how you have responded to it
  • If it has metastasized — that is, if it’s contained in one organ or has spread throughout your body
  • Whether this is your first experience of cancer
  • Your family history of cancer
  • Your medications

Can cancer survivors get life insurance?

Yes. Although life insurance after surviving cancer can also be challenging, you may be more likely to qualify for a life insurance policy than if you currently have cancer. Remember that life insurance is complex, though, and your entire medical history — not just your cancer history — will be taken into account.

The details of your health will determine what kind of life insurance you qualify for, as well as how much coverage you can buy. The longer you have been in remission, the more likely it is that you’ll face fewer restrictions. Remember that your overall health is a consideration, too. If you have other health concerns — like high blood pressure, for example — you may see your eligibility or premium influenced.

Life insurance ratings for cancer survivors

If you do qualify for a life insurance policy, your provider will use a rating system to determine the premium that you will pay. The rating tiers are:

  • Super preferred (Preferred plus)
  • Preferred
  • Standard Plus
  • Standard (Regular)
  • Substandard (also called “table ratings”)

If you are diagnosed with a form of cancer that has a lower death rate, you may be accepted for life insurance, but placed in a lower tier. For instance, if you are diagnosed with melanoma, which has a 91 percent survival rate, you may be accepted for a policy, but given a lower rating. Substandard customers generally pay higher premiums, while being rated standard plus, preferred or super preferred generally results in lower premiums.

Does a family history of cancer have an impact?

If there is a history of cancer in your family, it may impact your insurance rates, but there are several factors to consider here as well. The type of cancer is important, since some cancers are more likely than others to be passed on to others in the family. Whether the person with cancer in your family was considered immediate — a parent or sibling — or more distant, such as a second cousin or great aunt, also matters, as does the age of the relative when they were diagnosed.

Frequently asked questions

    • There is no one life insurance company that is best for everyone, since each person’s situation is unique. Finding the best life insurance company for you involves understanding your needs and finding a provider that offers the type of policy, level of coverage and any additional riders that you need.
    • You may be eligible for a guaranteed issue or burial policy, but other types of coverage may be out of reach. If you’re currently undergoing chemotherapy or other cancer treatments and need life insurance, you may want to work with a licensed agent to better understand your needs.
    • Life insurance would cover you if you pass away from cancer and your beneficiary would get the death benefit. And while life insurance is not the same thing as health insurance and isn’t intended to pay your medical costs, life insurance with living benefits could help in several ways. You could add an accelerated death benefit rider, for example, which gives you access to some of your death benefit while you’re still alive. You could use this to pay for treatments or any other costs. You could also add a long-term care rider, which could help offset the cost of a long-term care facility should you need one.
    • Lying on your life insurance application could result in the insurance company rejecting your application and may constitute fraud. It is important to make sure you are truthful and that you answer all questions to the best of your ability.