If you have been denied for life insurance coverage after a prostate cancer diagnosis, you are not alone. Frequently, life insurance companies will deny coverage or institute a five-year waiting period for men who have recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Neither of these options is appealing: on the one hand, you don’t have life insurance coverage; one the other, you wait the five year period without coverage and risk still being denied. If simply reading this scenario is creating a pit in your stomach, we can help you.
The good news is that certain life insurance companies will take on the risk of insuring you without a waiting period. The better news? It’s also possible to qualify for affordable premiums.
The Reason for the Five-Year Waiting Period
The reason that most carriers require a waiting period after a prostate cancer diagnosis or after the date of your last treatment is simple: this provides them with better odds that your cancer won’t return.
The five year time period became the benchmark thanks to the Surveillance Epidemiology End Results, also known as SEER, a program developed by the National Cancer Institute. This program is designed to provided epidemiological information pertaining to cancer occurrences and survival statistics. In layman’s terms: SEER is responsible for studying cancer occurrence rates and survival statistics, and its findings indicate that 5 years is the amount of time is takes to reduce a cancer patient’s risk profile.
Reports from oncologists, researchers and doctors are all submitted to SEER and are analyzed to ascertain patterns. The patient’s reports are submitted anonymously, and provide a good overview of cancer patterns.
The downside to using SEER as a baseline for life insurance underwriting is that SEER reports fail to take into account the details surrounding an individual’s cancer. In an industry that evaluates coverage on a case-by-case basis, overlooking unique details in a case is a grave error – one that leaves many families without coverage.
Why Prostate Cancer Should Be The Exception
For many individuals, five years means nothing; it’s an arbitrary term. Particularly to an individual who has been diagnosed with – or is undergoing treatment for – cancer.
Recovery can be as rapid as 1-2 years, with no remission. For those with more aggressive cancer, the road to recovery may be longer. It all depends on the person and the type, stage and grade of cancer which which they have been diagnosed.
For prostate cancer, especially, five years means very little.
Thanks to breakthroughs and innovations in prostate cancer screenings, most cases of prostate cancer are detected early. What’s more: a large bulk of prostate cancer cases require no treatment, as this form of cancer grows so slowly.
This process is called “watch and wait treatment,” and involves monitoring the disease through PSA tests, DREs (also known as “digital rectal exams”) and biopsies. In such instances, a lot of insurers will consider waiving the five year waiting period for coverage, provided the cancer has not spread.
The term used to refer to prostate cancer that has not spread is “in situ,” and the period of time a company will monitor this status will vary based on a variety of factors.
Let’s Talk Premiums
We know what you’re thinking: cancer diagnosis + waiting period = high insurance premiums, right?
Not exactly. Your life insurance premiums fall into four risk class categories, set by underwriters. These categories are: declined, substandard, standard and premium.
A lot of companies are going to view your cancer risk in terms of how easily cured your type of cancer actually is. Obviously, this means that cancers that are easily curable/treatable are going to make it easier for you to obtain life insurance coverage.
The problem with this type of risk determination is – yep, you guessed it: all cancers and all risks are viewed differently, depending on the carrier and the applicant’s overall health. This makes it difficult to say how your prostate cancer will impact your insurance, even if you adhere to a waiting period.
Generally speaking, non-melanoma skin cancers, prostate cancer and cancer of the thyroid are deemed “low risk cancers.” With these cancers, the longer you remain cancer-free, the better your chances are of lowering your premiums and reducing the risk that they will return.
The primary factors that companies will consider when looking into covering someone with prostate cancer are your PSA and your Gleason Score.
PSA stands for prostate specific antigen, which is a protein that is produced by the cells in the prostate gland (both cancerous and noncancerous cells produce it). It is measured via a blood test.
The main problem with using this type of test to measure risk is that PSA tests are notoriously unreliable. An increased PSA level does not always indicate the presence of cancer. In fact, many factors, including age, are linked to elevated PSA levels.
The Gleason Score is a bit more reliable. This unit of measurement indicates how likely a cancer is to spread. The lower the score, the less likely the cancer is to spread. When combined with PSA test results, underwriters can get a decent estimate of one’s risk.
The Wait Is Over
The good news is that a lot of companies don’t require a 5 year waiting period, especially if you are armed with the tools necessary for underwriters to accurately view your risk. The better news? We can help you figure out which companies won’t make you wait.
Prior to applying for life insurance you should see your doctor. You’ll want to make sure all of your medical records are up-to-date, including your pathology test results, both your Gleason Scores, your current PSA measurement and any changes/updates to your treatment plan. It is best that you do not apply until you have undergone all of your required tests. This way, you’ll ensure that the information you’re providing is the most accurate and up-to-date.
Up-to-date medical record are beneficial, because underwriters will compare your cancer to cases and patterns found in the SEER database. Being as accurate as possible could lower your risk and your premiums.
Additionally, you should be visiting your doctor regularly and following treatment plans and other recommendations to the letter. As a cancer patient, you will already be red-flagged as a risk, so ignoring the treatment methods prescribed to you will only serve to further increase your risk, as well as have poor effects on your health.
If your medical records are updated and you are following your doctor’s orders, your agent will be able to quickly point you in the right direction, toward agencies that will cover you and take on your risk. Be sure to keep your agent apprised of any changes in your status, so that he or she can best communicate them to your carrier’s underwriter.
There is one important thing you will need when applying for life insurance coverage with prostate cancer: patience.
You are unique, and to find the coverage that best suits your needs may take some time, even with the help of an agent. This is why it is important to trust your agent and know that he or she is there looking out for your best interests.
We know that living with cancer creates many hurdles, and we believe finding life insurance doesn’t have to be one. Let us do the work and take the stress out of applying for coverage. Give us a call today.