I'm a Cancer Survivor - Can I Still Get Life Insurance?

Michael Shannon O’KeefeMar 3, 0018

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You’ve survived what is possibly the greatest health challenge in your life. You know a multitude of doctors, nurses, and receptionists by their first names. You can chat knowledgeably with them about their family members and their hobbies - and you can identify each by how they move through a dark room. You note every minuscule change in your body and emotion. You have an intimate understanding of clinical terms and medicines you still wish had remained on the outskirts of personal knowledge. You know your family and friends' emotional breaking points and how to pick up the pieces afterwards. You are a cancer survivor. More than ever before, you herald the Now while planning for the future.

One anticipatory move you might be considering is Life Insurance - both whether you need it and if it is even available to you. Currently there are over 300 companies in North America offering insurance policies in varying degrees for cancer survivors. While not every survivor is eligible for life insurance, many insurance agencies are surprisingly sympathetic towards your situation.

Life insurance is not right for everyone - survivor or not. Are your loved ones financially independent? Are your children grown? Would you find comfort having a safety-net for your family or are you looking to expand your portfolio? Can you downsize major financial commitments in your life yet still live comfortably? It's important to remain honest with yourself - openly discussing your finances and intentions with your loved ones.

Should you choose to move forward with insurance, mentally prepare for a considerable amount of in-depth research. No one is better qualified to choose which insurance is best to financially care for your family in the event of your passing. As a survivor, you'll also need to prepare answers to the following questions prior to discussing options with an agent or broker. While you might know these answers forwards and backwards, having proper documentation from doctors and treatment centers will eventually be required.

Questions They'll Ask:

  1. When were you first diagnosed?
  2. What type of cancer was diagnosed?

                 - Specifics and changes to diagnosis?

                 - Tumor size(s)?

                 - Were lymph nodes involved in the diagnosis?

                 - Did the cancer metastasize?

     3. What course of treatment was chosen?

                - Start and finish dates?

     4. Relapses if any?

     5. Current medications? 

     6. The most enjoyable on a very tough list… How long have you been Cancer Free!?

As one might expect, premiums will be higher than those of individuals without pre-existing conditions. Each variable within your personal treatment, medical history, and statewide insurance regulations affects personal policies. Stating that one insurance company is better than the next for cancer survivors is cavalier - there's simply too many individual moving parts to consider. However, starting with a base education in the industry gets you one step closer to a decisive plan.

You understand better than most the importance of education within personal insurance plans. The goal of the following is to protect your family - not to vilify life insurance representatives. As with any industry, “a few bad apples spoils the bunch.” Considering 1 in 3 Americans will have some form of cancer in their lifetime, there's a very good chance the insurance representative has been touched in some way by cancer in their lifetime. However, life insurance is a numbers and money game. Here are some suggestions to continually revisit when shopping for life insurance.

1) Do Your Research

Prior to making a single phone call (still the best way to connect with an agent), get to know the language of life insurance. It’s easy to become lost in the whirlwind of new words and phrases. Get a strong grasp so you’re not continually playing catch-up in your head, or consulting a handwritten glossary every five seconds.

2) You Are in Control

After answering the above questions regarding your history, you may feel defeated and somewhat powerless when choosing your life insurance policy (after all, it's been a rough road). Remember, you’re still in charge. Insurance salespeople still want you to commit to their policy, rather than to the next company over.

3) Investigate Your Salesperson

Are they an agent or a broker? Are they independent or part of a larger firm? Do they make their money through commissions or quotas? What are their motivations? Are there any online reviews regarding this individual? It’s perfectly reasonable to ask how and where they will be making their money within your policy - don't be bashful. In the end, go with your gut...and remember to check out the company as well.

4) Never Be Bullied

If an insurance individual develops a pushy attitude or says anything along the lines of “Fine, but this is the best deal you’re going to get,” it might be time to shop elsewhere. There’s no need to bite back - unfortunately, they might be correct. Thank them kindly and inform them you need to think about the decision. You most likely have many other options at your disposal.

5) Question Vague Answers

Should a broker or agent not fully explain the policy you’re shopping, how it will affect your family, and why it’s involved in the first place, remain wary. It’s most likely they either, a) aren’t the most experienced sales person you could be speaking with, or b) don’t have your best interests in mind.

6) Read the Fine Print

Prior to signing, go over your policy at least three times as a minimum. If you don’t understand something (even an issue previously explained) ask explicit questions and get direct answers. If you're one who retains information better outside of an office, many insurance sales people will be willing to meet you for coffee or have a casual meeting elsewhere.

7) Stay Current

After you've committed to an insurance company, they are required by law to inform you of any changes in policy information. It is your responsibility, however, to continue your education in life insurance. The 'annoying' packets you receive via mail hold the future financial information of your family. Read Them!!! It is perfectly reasonable to call your agent or broker to request a walk-through of any new information.

8) Utilize Your Community

You’ve probably already been introduced, but each form of cancer has a unique community where you can access information, meet people, and discuss topical issues. Whether you find internet forums, meetings, or websites to your liking, you are not the first survivor to be inquisitive about life insurance. Receive all suggestions provided, (marches and fairs are good places to meet people and ask new friends how they have been dealing with life insurance), but always be diligent in completing your own research no matter the reference.

You've won the battle against cancer, but this doesn't mean that thoughts on how to continue to care for your family after death are unwarranted. There are many options for you to consider and, unfortunately, this is a road that you must walk alone. Fortunately, you have mountains of knowledge online and communities to question prior to making a decision. Do your research, discuss all options with your loved ones, and remain true to yourself. It’s your money. It’s your life. It’s your family. It’s their future.