How Does a Cancer Survivor Obtain Life Insurance?

One of the most loving things I can do for my family is to purchase life insurance, but my application was turned down, presumably because of my cancer history.

The advertisement for a well-known insurance agency came in the mail on a Tuesday. Tuesdays are our typical junk mail days, so I almost threw the large envelope away, but a catchy phrase appeared in the clear cellophane window on the envelope: “You can’t be turned down.”

I wondered how true that statement would turn out to be.

In the past, I’d tried several times to obtain both whole-life and term life insurance, but as soon as the word “cancer” appeared on my application, red flags immediately went up. The insurance companies made it clear they didn’t want to offer coverage. I felt like a leper. I wondered if stamped across my application, in huge lettering, was the word “unclean” instead of “uninsurable.”

Both my husband and I applied for term insurance policies through the mailer. We wanted to be prepared for the future and knew the policies we’d requested, though only $20,000.00, would at least provide for burial costs one day.

Several weeks later, we received replies. My husband received an approval letter and a nicely packaged policy along with a request for the first monthly payment. I, on the other hand, received a thin envelope with a denial letter. The company stated they couldn’t approve my request for coverage due to information contained in medical records. I wondered how they had copies of my medical records. I hadn’t given them permission to review them, but apparently, according to the denial letter, an independent firm had been contracted to supply them with the information. The reason for denial: “prescribed medication.”

When we’d submitted the applications, we’d been asked to list all medications we were currently taking. I take medications for hypothyroidism, high cholesterol and hypertension. None of those should have resulted in a denied claim, in fact, my husband was taking the same medications although his prescription dosages were slightly lower. It didn’t make sense. Why would the insurer approve my husband’s application and deny mine, unless it was because of a six-letter word. Cancer.

When a person is diagnosed with cancer, financial security becomes a huge concern, especially as medical bills start to mount. Along with that concern comes the prospect of one’s imminent demise. Though not all cancers end in sudden death, some do. The person with cancer needs peace of mind that when the time comes, their loved one(s) will be financially able to cover burial costs. Insurance can help with those expenses.

It may be next to impossible to secure term life insurance with a history of cancer, but supposedly, there are companies willing to offer policies. Each of those have their own requirements and may use medical records to assess a person’s risk for long-term coverage.

Life insurance is a lucrative business. Insurance companies want to insure as many people as possible. To do that, they need a large customer base. Since many with cancer are living longer lives, survivors fall into the potential customer category.

The denial letter stated I had the right to appeal the decision. I will most certainly do that. I’ve been in remission for almost eight years. That should count for something! I’m sure the insurer may ask for more detailed information, and I’m willing to provide that.

Hopefully, in the future, insurance companies will be more careful in wording their advertisements. Instead of saying, “You can’t be turned down,” they should say something like, “We’d love to insure you, but may request more information.”

Most people I know who’ve survived cancer are open books. We share our medical information freely in hopes it will help someone else. Why should we balk when an insurance company asks to know more? Why do we become offended when refused service?

Of course, I think I’m a good risk, I’ve beat cancer this long and expect to continue living cancer free for the rest of my life, but I also need to know when the time for my death comes, I’ll be able to have a decent and proper burial. For that to happen, I need a good insurance policy.

The dictionary defines the word “insure” as arranging for compensation in the event of damage to or loss of property, or injury to or the death of someone in exchange for regular advance payments to a company or government agency. Just because I had cancer in the past doesn’t mean I should be penalized in the future.

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