I started Insurance Blog by Chris™ because I have a passion for insurance. Here at the blog, our job is to educate and inform people about the best insurance for them. Since then, we have grown into national brands with a large team of researchers helping people understand all forms of insurance.

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Written by Chris Huntley
Founder of Huntley Wealth & Insurance Services Chris Huntley

Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insu...

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Reviewed by Rachael Brennan
Licensed Insurance Agent Rachael Brennan

UPDATED: Apr 19, 2022

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Is it possible to get life insurance for cancer patients and survivors? If you’re in this group—which actually includes millions of people—you might think you can’t get affordable life insurance.

But, the life insurance industry has been evolving in recent years, especially in response to advances in medical technology and the increasingly longer lifespans being lived by cancer patients and survivors.

This is increasing the life insurance opportunities available to anyone who is a cancer survivor.

Life insurance for cancer patients and survivors comes under what is loosely known as high-risk life insurance.

In most cases, life insurance coverage will be available, though there may be certain limitations, and higher premiums are very likely.

Can You Get Life Insurance with Cancer?

In the vast majority of cases, the answer to this question is a resounding yes!

But with that said, the process certainly won’t be as easy as buying coverage from a low-cost provider when you are young and in excellent health.

Coverage for cancer patients and survivors is more complicated than it is for young, healthy applicants, so you’ll need the right policy.

What’s more, there are different types of policies you can choose from, which will offer a variety of terms, benefits, and premiums.

For example, you can choose a term life insurance policy to get the highest death benefit for the lowest premium.

Alternatively, you can choose a whole life policy if you’re interested in permanent coverage.

And, even if you currently have cancer, you may be able to qualify for a guaranteed issue policy that will offer, at least, a reduced death benefit.

Working with a knowledgeable, experienced life insurance broker will be your best option to find the right coverage for your situation and budget.

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Life Insurance for Cancer Patients

If you purchased life insurance before the onset of cancer, there won’t be any issues.

Whether it’s a term life policy or a whole life policy, the life insurance company will not be able to increase your premium or reduce your death benefit because of the cancer diagnosis.

In fact, they won’t even be able to cancel your policy, except for nonpayment of premiums.

The real issue occurs when you purchase life insurance after the fact.

If you’re a current cancer patient, it’s likely the only policy you will qualify for is guaranteed issue life insurance.

Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance for Cancer Patients

A guaranteed issue life insurance policy will be issued regardless of your health condition.

However, it does come with a limited death benefit—typically not more than $25,000 or $50,000—and at a higher premium on a per thousand basis.

Equally important, guaranteed issue life insurance has a waiting period.

Typically, no death benefit will be paid within the first two years after the policy is issued. After that period has expired, your beneficiaries will be entitled to the full amount of your death benefit.

One limitation of guaranteed issue life insurance is that you won’t be approved if your cancer diagnosis has been determined to be terminal.

However, it is possible to get a policy if you are currently undergoing treatment with a positive prognosis, or if you had a recent episode and you are in remission.

Life Insurance for Cancer Survivors

The variables for cancer survivors are more extensive, but so are the options.

Depending on the type of cancer you had, the success of the treatments, and how long ago the episode was, you would generally be able to qualify for traditional life insurance coverage.

Even so, you should expect to pay a higher premium for that coverage. That may limit the amount of the death benefit you’ll be able to include in your policy.

RELATED: 5 Critical Tips You Must Know Before Buying Life Insurance

Life insurance companies have as many as 15 different ratings they use to classify the health of every life insurance applicant.

Those ratings look something like this, though the specifics will vary from one company to another:

  • Preferred Plus: This will be the rating for someone who is in excellent health, with no family history of major illnesses or health conditions before age 60, and proper height/weight ratio. This applicant will get the lowest premiums available.
  • Preferred: A person in this rating will be in very good health with only minor health conditions.
  • Standard Plus: You’re in good health, with no family history of major illnesses or health conditions before age 60, and while you may be overweight, you’re not obese.
  • Standard: Requires generally good health, though there may be family health issues. You may qualify for this rating if you are overweight, but not if you are obese.

Table Ratings

Depending on the severity of your cancer and how long ago it occurred, you may qualify for a standard rating.

But, if the cancer is more severe, and more recent, you likely would qualify under what are known as table ratings.

Also known as “substandard” ratings, they are referred to as table ratings because the premium rates are calculated from a table that typically includes 10 or more levels.

In a typical table rating, you’ll receive the standard premium rate, plus an additional 25% for each level you reach on the table.

For example, if you have a table rating of 2, you’ll receive the standard premium rate, increased by 50% (2 X 25%).

If you are given a table reading of 5, you’ll be assigned the standard premium rate, plus 125% (5 X 25%).

With a table rating of 2, a standard premium rate of $1,000 will be increased to $1,250.

You’ll pay more for the coverage, but, at least, you’ll be able to get traditional life insurance.

Still, you may need to compensate for the higher premium level with a lower death benefit.

The Type of Cancer and How Recently it Occurred are Factors

This is where the variables associated with life insurance for cancer patients and survivors come into play.

In certain extreme situations, such as a combination of lung cancer that occurred only one year ago, it’s likely you’ll be rejected for traditional life insurance. That’s where guaranteed issue life insurance comes into the picture.

But, for other forms of cancer, and particularly those that have been in remission for several years, it will generally be possible to get traditional life insurance coverage, albeit at higher premium levels.

Life insurance companies will be interested in the following information:

  • How long ago you received the initial diagnosis of cancer.
  • The type of cancer, the stage level, and whether or not it metastasized.
  • Any treatments you experienced to remedy the cancer, and how long they lasted.
  • If there have been any repeat episodes since your last treatment.
  • Any current therapies, including medications, you are on to control or prevent a relapse.

Again, the further in the past your cancer episode was, the greater the likelihood of getting coverage, and getting it at a more affordable premium.

Apart from the cancer diagnosis itself, life insurance companies will look at your overall health.

If you are otherwise healthy—you have no heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, are overweight, or smoke—you’ll have a better chance of getting more affordable coverage.

That makes a strong case for managing your overall health to optimize it any way you can.

RELATED: Check Sample Life Insurance Rates by Age (No Personal Info Required)

Cancer in Your Family History

This is the cancer-related factor that is completely beyond your control. Life insurance companies don’t look at only your personal health; they also consider the health history of your immediate family. That includes your parents and your siblings.

In most cases, life insurance companies will only be concerned if your family members developed cancer before the age of 60.

They’ll also take a close look at the types of cancer, how common it is in your family, and if anyone died from the disease.

Unfortunately, your family history of cancer will be a consideration in evaluating your application even if you don’t have cancer and have never had it yourself.

And, it will play an even bigger role if you have had cancer in the past.

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Life Insurance Living Benefits for Cancer Patients

One of the advantages of having life insurance is that many policies provide living benefits.

That can be especially important in the case of cancer patients, who often face extended periods of time experiencing high-cost treatments and therapies.

Cash Value Policy Living Benefit

The first living benefit is if you have a cash value life insurance policy, like whole life insurance.

You’ll be able to borrow against the cash value of the policy to help with current living expenses.

Should you die with an outstanding loan balance, your beneficiaries will get the full death benefit, less the payoff of the loans outstanding.

But, the loans can provide a valuable source of cash to help pay for expensive treatments and even living expenses.

Living Benefits Rider

Many policies also have living benefit riders. This can include an accelerated death benefit that allows you to access a percentage of your death benefit, up to a certain dollar amount.

For example, if you have an accelerated death benefit provision—which usually costs nothing extra in premium dollars—that allows you to access 50% of the death benefit on a $200,000 policy, you’ll be able to access $100,000 while you are still alive.

Once you die, your beneficiaries will receive a reduced death benefit. But, in that way, the policy will provide for you when you are alive and undergoing treatment, and for your beneficiaries when you die.

Depending on the type of accelerated death benefit you have in your policy, there may be certain limitations.

For example, the life insurance rider may require that your diagnosis is terminal for you to access part of the death benefit early.

Even so, it can provide a valuable living benefit to help you manage both medical costs and living expenses.

Buying Life Insurance for Cancer Patients and Survivors

Life insurance for cancer patients and survivors is admittedly one of the more complicated coverage types.

That’s because there are so many variables, including the type of cancer, the success of the treatments, how long ago the disease occurred, and many other factors.

That’s why you need the help of a specialist in high-risk life insurance to get the best policy if you are a survivor.

As life insurance brokers, providing life insurance for cancer patients and survivors—as well as many others with serious health conditions—is our specialty.

Since we work with dozens of life insurance companies, we’ll be able to place your policy with the company that will take the most favorable view of your health condition, and offer the lowest premium.

And, due to the many variables connected with life insurance for cancer patients and survivors, we’ll handle all the paperwork for you. You can rest assured that you will not pay anything extra for our services. We are compensated by life insurance companies specifically for placing applicants with those companies, so you’ll pay nothing extra.

If you have a special insurance profile, whether it has to do with your health, your occupation, or even any high-risk hobbies you have, put our experience to work for you.

Life Insurance by Type of Cancer: