Buying Life Insurance After Being Diagnosed With Cancer

 The American Cancer Society estimates doctors will diagnose over 1.4 million new cases of cancer in the U.S. in 2007, with more than 559,650 cancer-related deaths. If you are among the majority of cancer patients and survive for at least five years following your diagnosis, you may face another fight: buying life insurance.

Buying life insurance for cancer patients is challenging, but not necessarily impossible. Your chances for securing a policy depend greatly on the type, stage and grade of the cancer, and even on the treatment plan. There is a relationship between the rate you’ll receive and the curability of your cancer. Certain types of skin cancer, for example, are considered very low risk by life insurance companies and a skin cancer history may not even impact premiums.

Applicants with common and treatable forms of breast and prostate cancer may be able to get a “standard” rating under ideal circumstances. But patients with a history of leukemia or colon cancer may fall into a “substandard” or “high substandard” rating at best, or receive declines. Anyone with cancer that has metastasized likely won’t be able to obtain a policy.

Dr. Charles Levy, senior vice president and chief medical director of AIG American General Domestic Life Insurance Cos., says, “We’re better and better able to differentiate the risks of individual cancers.” Life insurers like AIG American General have sophisticated tables to determine premiums, where they can factor in cancer types and treatments. The end result is better premiums because applicants aren’t lumped together as an “average.”

Most insurers will not offer a policy to someone who is still undergoing treatment for cancer. Depending on your type of cancer, the life insurer may also want to add a surcharge, also called a temporary flat extra. For example, AIG American General sometimes charges temporary flat extras for two to five years, depending on the applicant’s cancer and treatment. The good news is that although these extra premiums can be expensive, they will automatically disappear after a set period of time.

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