Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Good (Insurance) News for Cancer Survivors

Not so very long ago, marking “yes” to the cancer question on a life or health insurance application meant an automatic decline. Well into the 90’s, in fact, it was exceedingly difficult for folks with a cancer history to find life insurance (and almost impossible to find health insurance).
But times, and the industry, have changed.
For one thing, diagnosis and treatment have both come a long way. Advanced screening technology and alternative medical treatments have opened up the market in a way not anticipated only a few years ago. Survivors are finding that it’s even possible to buy insurance at standard rates.
A recent article in the National Underwriter mentions one life insurance carrier which “will now offer individual life insurance at standard rates to many women over 40 who have early-stage (Stage 1) breast cancer, who have strong prospects of survival and who have no major health problems.
There have always been life carriers who specialize in the “high risk” or “substandard” markets, and who have offered quality plans, at often less-than-competitive rates, or with waiting periods before full coverage takes effect (so-called “guaranteed issue” plans). Health carriers have been even more reluctant to offer cover; of course, this is a different risk, with the potential for multiple claims.
Historically, carriers have either declined cancer survivors outright, or placed such onerous additional premium requirements that plans were unaffordable. But in a nod to increased recovery rates, carriers are beginning to reassess how they price policies. For example, one trend is toward limiting how long these rate-ups (commonly called “flat extra’s”) remain in force. By automatically dropping off after a few (usually 2 to 3) years, they encourage folks to stick with the plan, and ultimately reward them for doing so by permanently reducing the premiums. Very much a win-win.
The health insurance side has also seen some improvement, although not as dramatic. Since this type of policy allows for potential repeat claims (as opposed to life insurance plans), underwriters tend to be more circumspect. Still, there seems to be an acknowledgement that at least some survivors can be underwritten. The more information an underwriter has, the more likely he (or she) is to take a serious look a survivor’s insurance application.
The message here is simple, really: if you’re a cancer survivor, don’t assume that you’re uninsurable. It’s at least worth trying.
UPDATE: Post on cost of treatment here, and more good life insurance news here.
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