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Breast Cancer Survivors Get Life Insurance

Their chances of long-term survival have been so improved that now many breast cancer survivors can qualify for life insurance policies! The actuarial odds of their long-term survival can be computed, and priced.
10/28/2014 03:26pm ET | Updated December 28, 2014
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Breast cancer awareness month has brought a heightened appreciation of the importance of money in finding the cure, prevention, and even expanding treatment options for this deadly disease. Billions of dollars have been raised in this effort. And the money has had an impact. More and more people -- women and men -- have survived this once-fatal diagnosis and gone on to live healthy, productive, and grateful lives.

In fact, their chances of long-term survival have been so improved that now many breast cancer survivors can qualify for life insurance policies! The actuarial odds of their long-term survival can be computed, and priced. And these life insurance policies for breast cancer survivors are not priced out of reach. So the career mother (or dad) who goes back to work and supports a family can insure against the loss of her income.

According to Byron Udell, founder, president and CEO of AccuQuote.com, life insurance for breast cancer survivors is a relatively new development. "In the old days, you couldn't get it," says Udell about breast cancer survivors obtaining coverage. "But now, it's much different, and it really depends on two key factors -- how long you've been cancer free and what stage the cancer was in."

The life insurance application process is a bit more extensive when there is a history of breast cancer, Udell explains. AccuQuote's licensed life insurance advisers learn as much as possible about the specifics and details of the applicant's cancer. Key issues are: date of diagnosis; the stage of the cancer at diagnosis; how the cancer was treated; how long ago the person was declared cancer free; date of treatment completion (if applicable); if they are on any medications; if there were any reoccurrences; and whether the cancer metastasized.

There are also questions about family history, although Udell says that to his knowledge no insurer has required genetic testing before issuing a policy. He does say that if the cancer has recurred, there is little possibility of getting approved for a policy. But AccuQuote's quote engines are able to search the broadest spectrum of available policies and prices for survivors. And it doesn't cost anything to try, he notes.

The Cost of Life Insurance for Breast Cancer Survivors

Here's an example of potential premiums for a 57-year old woman who is a breast cancer survivor. Her cancer was caught early -- at stage 0 (non-invasive) or at stage 1 (invasive, but not terribly advanced). If one year has passed since she's been declared "cancer free," she could purchase a $500,000, 10-year term life policy for a $1,333.73 annual premium. If she wanted a 20-year term, it would cost $2,400 per year.

Yes, it's more expensive than if she had never had cancer. But it would provide a half a million dollars for her survivors.

Another example: A 42-year-old woman was just declared cancer free but can't apply for coverage right away. As long as time continues to pass without the cancer returning, she CAN eventually get a policy. Her wait time would be dependent on the stage of the cancer.

If her breast cancer was stage 0 (non-invasive), she'd have to wait one year (when she'd be 43) for approval. At that time, she would be eligible for a standard rate. For a $500,000, 20-year term policy, that standard rate would be $767.24 per year -- plus she would pay an annual additional $1,500 extra payment that reflects her medical history. (The amount of that "flat extra" payment is based on the face amount of the insurance. Some policies remove the flat extra after 5 or so years, rewarding the insured for staying cancer free). In total, this woman would pay $2,267.24 per year.

Like most life insurance, the younger you are, the less expensive your rates will be. In other words, if the above example were quoted for a 30 year old woman who had breast cancer instead of a 42 year old, she would pay only $1,905 annually for that $500,000, 20 year term policy (which includes the flat extra), instead of the more than $2200 per year that the 42 year old would pay.

Worst Cases and the Best Possibilities

If you're a survivor of more advanced breast cancer, you're probably so grateful that it can't be measured in dollars and cents. But you might feel better knowing that life insurance companies can, and do, price your survival -- and are willing to bet on your longevity by writing a policy to cover your life!

Udell explains that If someone had stage 2 or 3 breast cancer but has been cancer free for 3-5 years, it's still possible to obtain coverage (although if you survive stage 4 you'd have to be cancer free for a minimum of 10 years for any chance of approval). The more advanced the cancer was or is, the higher the cost will be. But the rate will go down as more time passes without the cancer reappearing.

Surviving breast cancer is priceless and surely can't be measured in money. Contributing to breast cancer research is one of the more valuable things you can do with the money you have. And it shouldn't take until someone you love is impacted to open your eyes.

The most optimistic thing we can say is that we are getting longer term survival rates, and hopefully getting closer to a cure or prevention of this dreaded disease. In fact, we are making such good progress that life insurance companies are now willing to bet on breast cancer survival. And that's The Savage Truth.

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