Cancer makes finding life insurance challenging. It can be even more worrisome if you’re using medical marijuana to help treat symptoms or side effects from other treatments.
In the United States, roughly 1.7 million people get diagnosed with cancer each year. Plus there are over 100 different types of cancer.
We cannot address every type of cancer in this article. We will focus on the 9 most common types affecting Americans.
- Lung Cancer
- Breast Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Colorectal Cancer
- Bladder Cancer
- Skin Cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
- Kidney Cancer
If you don’t see your diagnosis here, give us a call at (888) 987-8447. The first part of the article will also cover general information about life insurance with cancer before diving into specifics.
Your health class will depend on your diagnosis. We’ve created a rough guide to give you an idea before you talk to an agent. However, your best bet is to give all your medical information to your agent up front so they can see which company will likely give you the best offer.
As long as you apply with a marijuana-friendly company, taking medical marijuana won’t matter.
How Do Life Insurance Companies View Marijuana and Cancer?
Most life insurance companies have not yet caught up with the times, hiding behind federal law on marijuana prohibition. Many will automatically decline anyone taking cannabis for either recreation or medical reasons, even if you have a medical marijuana card.
There are 12 cannabis-friendly life insurance companies who won’t automatically penalize you consuming cannabis. Some are more progressive than others on the amount you can smoke each week to get a non-smoker health class. Some won’t put limits on the amount you consume as long as you take it in the form of an edible, tincture, or balm.
For medical use, life insurance companies will focus on your condition rather than your treatment. So while it would be wise to apply with a cannabis-friendly company, the underwriters won’t evaluate your application like they would someone who smokes recreationally.
Privacy Concerns with Cannabis
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guarantees the privacy of medical information. This is well known in hospital settings, but it also extends to insurance applications.
Anything you disclose to your insurance agent or on an application cannot be shared. Your spouse, your employer, not even the government itself is allowed to access that information.
It doesn’t matter whether you live in a state where cannabis is legal or still subject to prohibition. HIPAA protects your privacy.
This law allows people to have honest conversations about their lives with their medical professionals as well as the insurance industry. It’s best to tell your insurance agent up front if you have a medical marijuana card so they can get quotes from companies who won’t hold it against you.
When Can I apply for Life Insurance with Cancer?
If you have been recently diagnosed, then you will be declined in most cases. This can either come as a decline or a postpone, where the life insurance company will tell you to check back in 6 months or a year.
Every life insurance company will want to know how you respond to treatment. Insurance companies get nervous about unknowns, and a new cancer diagnosis presents many unknowns.
Different types of cancer will require varying lengths of time before the insurance company will consider the application. On top of that, different companies have different wait times for the same type of cancer.
The longer you are cancer free, the better your application looks.
For a rough guideline, see the table below. It is the average of different types of cancer between different companies. You may get different results as you give your insurance agent more details.
Stage 1 – Surgery Only
Postpone – 6 to 12 months
Stage 1 – Surgery & Radiation/Chemo
Postpone – 12 months
Postpone – 12 months
Postpone – 5 years from treatment completion
Decline – seek other types of insurance
Some stage 2 cancers can be covered within 6 months of recovery. These often include:
- Prostate cancer
- Some colon cancers
- Thyroid cancer
Other stage 2 cancers will require longer than a year for an underwriter to consider the application. Longer stage two wait times include:
- Breast cancer
- Bladder cancer
There are extreme variations at all stages. The best course of action is to have an independent agent prescreen your application with several insurance companies to see who will offer you the best tentative health class.
What General Information Will the Insurance Company Want?
When you first contact an insurance agent, they will ask about your health. That’s how the insurance companies decide what to charge. The way you can make the process faster and easier is having all your health information handy. This allows the agent to get an idea of what your health class may be and which companies to look at.
You will need to have all this information ready anyway to add to the application.
The underwriter will want to know:
- What year was your diagnosis?
- What type of cancer you have/had
- How long did your treatment last?
- Have you undergone any chemo or radiation therapy in the past 5 years?
- Have you been unable to work in the past year due to cancer or another reason?
- Do you have a family history of cancer?
- Have any close family members died of cancer?
Depending on the type you had, there will be more specific questions.
Other Rating Factors
Medical conditions are not the only factor underwriters take into account. Keep in mind these other factors will also affect your rates:
- Biological sex
- Family history
- Smoking (tobacco or cannabis)
- Alcohol consumption
- Blood pressure
- Cholesterol levels
- Driving record
- Any other medical conditions
- Dangerous travel, occupation, or hobbies
How Do Life Insurance Companies Rate Lung Cancer?
The main factor in assessing lung cancer is the type (small cell or non-small cell) and the stage. Both the stage at diagnosis and the worst point.
The best chance for getting the best underwriting outcome is early stage diagnosis, preferably in situ or stage 1. Most people who had stage 1 or in situ can still qualify for standard rates.
Stage 2 lung cancers tend to lead to mild or moderate substandard rates. You also see these called table ratings. Most companies will want a few years between your application and your cancer recovery before they’ll issue a policy.
Stage 3 and 4 creates difficulties in getting traditional life insurance. You will probably need to look into guaranteed issue life insurance to get coverage.
If you apply too soon after treatment, you may get a worse rating than if you wait a year. But talk to your agent to get advice about your specific situation. Most applications before you successfully recover result in a decline or postpone.
How Do Life Insurance Companies Rate Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer requires several specific questions before an underwriter can appraise your application. Answering these questions for your insurance agent can also help pre-screen your application. That way you make sure you’re applying with the best company, instead of hoping for the best.
- What was the original date of diagnosis?
- What was your age at the date of diagnosis?
- What stage was the cancer at when diagnosed?
- Did it worsen?
- Was there evidence of lymph node involvement at the time of your diagnosis or did it develop later?
- How was the cancer treated/removed?
- Excisional Biopsy?
- Lumpectomy / Wide excision?
- Hormonal therapy?
- What medications were taken, or are currently being used?
- What was the last date treatment was advised?
- Were there any recurring incidences?
- If yes, how many?
What Ratings Can You Expect for Different Stages of Breast Cancer?
The most significant contributing factor to your life insurance health class is the cancer stage. Other details will also affect the underwriter’s assessment, but they have less influence.
If you had ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), then you can qualify for a traditionally underwritten life insurance policy as high as a standard rating. Most carriers will want to see at least one year pass since your last treatment.
Life insurance companies consider stage 1 extremely mild. The size of the tumor should neither have exceeded 2 cm or advanced past the breast tissue. You can still qualify for standard rates. Although you will need to wait a little longer before applying, roughly 2 years.
Stage 2 is the final stage that insurance companies will consider you for traditional policies. However, if it’s been more than 10 years, there is still some room for consideration.
Tumors either cannot exceed 5 cm if there is no spread into lymph nodes, or they cannot exceed 2 cm if there was spread to axillary or breastbone lymph nodes.
The best case scenario is a substandard (table) rating at best. It’s more likely to have a lower table rating. Some companies will apply an extra flat fee based on the severity, time frame, or secondary health risks.
Stage 3 typically means you will have to seek out a guaranteed issue life insurance policy, regardless of the time frame. Call an agent about your options.
Guaranteed issue policies become the only option for stage 4 breast cancer. These policies have no underwriting. Coverage is also guaranteed. They only require you to be within a certain age range and pay premiums.
This type of life insurance is more expensive than other types. There are also rules around how companies pay out benefits.
How Do Insurance Companies Rate Prostate Cancer?
Prostate cancer has a different staging system than other types of cancer, and you will need all of the details for your T, N, and M categories to start getting an accurate picture of a possible health class.
The good news is that since prostate cancer has a high survival rate, it’s easier to get life insurance after overcoming it.
Questions the Underwriter Will Ask About Your Prostate Cancer
You will get the following questions for both a pre-screen and on your application:
- At what age were you diagnosed with prostate cancer or elevated PSA?
- What is your current PSA level?
- Has it increased or decreased in the past year?
- What stage was your prostate cancer at diagnosis, and at its worst?
- What is your Gleason score?
- What type of treatment did you receive for your prostate cancer?
- Cryosurgery or Cryoablation?
- Prostatectomy? (Partial/Radical)
- Did you take any type of prescription medication for your prostate cancer (typically via hormonal
- If so, what medication were you prescribed and what was the dosage?
- Do you have a history of cancer if your family?
- Do you (or have you) use any type of tobacco?
- Do you have any other health issues not related to prostate cancer?
Ratings You Can Expect with Prostate Cancer
Underwriters evaluate prostate cancer on a case by case basis. With the variable involved, it’s difficult to provide more than a rough guideline without the specific details.
Providing there are no other risk factors to consider, the following outcomes are a good guideline.
Men who had localized, non-metastasized, or low-grade prostate cancer can qualify for a standard rating at best. The treatment must be successful without evidence of recurrence. Any family history of cancer or tobacco use will push you down to the next level.
Mild Substandard (Table Rating)
If the prostate cancer metastasized and spread to multiple areas/tissue, you can expect a low table rating. Some companies will also add a flat fee for several years, so check with your insurance agent to avoid these, if possible.
Treatment must be successful and limited to simple surgeries and hormonal balance medication.
If you had radiotherapy, then you’ll need to wait for closer to 5 years before getting a traditional life insurance policy.
Moderate Substandard (Table Rating)
If the cancer spread outside the prostate gland, or you needed radical treatment, you will need to wait at least 2 and up to 5 years before getting life insurance.
Flat fees are pretty typical in this range with almost every life insurance company. You will see a mid-range table rating here.
High Substandard (Table Rating) or Postpone
The most common reasons for seeing a postpone or extreme table rating is either not enough time has passed from the last positive cancer test, or there isn’t enough information available for the insurance company to make a decision.
Other, less common, reasons are:
- Radical surgeries
- Distant spread of cancer cells
- Complications of treatment
- Chronic periods of treatment
How Do Life Insurance Companies Rate Colorectal Cancer?
Like prostate cancer, colorectal cancer also used the TNM system. These combine into a stage 0 thru 4.
Stage 0 can qualify for standard rates. At stage 1 or 2, you will most often see a table rating of B, C, or D.
Stage 3 gets more complicated for life insurance. Insurance companies will only approve cases where two or fewer lymph nodes tested positive. Most companies will also require a flat fee on all policies.
While all companies have different underwriting guidelines, most stage 3 with more than two positive lymph nodes and stage 4 cases will receive a decline for life insurance.
How Do Life Insurance Companies Rate Bladder Cancer?
Most insurance companies will approve bladder cancer at standard rates. That depends on the size and type.
Questions the Underwriter Will Ask About Bladder Cancer
Gather all of the following information when you speak with an agent. That way they can give you the best idea of what type of premiums you may pay.
- What was the date of the original diagnosis?
- If applicable, what was the date of a recurring diagnosis?
- What stage was the cancer at diagnosis and at its worst?
- How as the cancer treated?
- Give the dates and findings of the most recent cystoscopy and/or urine cytology
- Does your family have a history of cancer?
- Do you smoke or have your previously smoked?
Ratings You can Expect
A standard rating is the best case scenario. You have a good chance at it if you had any of the following types:
- Benign tumors
- Small cell carcinoma
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Transitional cell carcinoma
For more severe cases, you can still qualify with a mild table rating. You must fit into the following circumstances.
- Fewer than 5 malignant tumors
- All less than 3 cm
- Only first or second grade papillary urothelial carcinoma
- 3 lesions or fewer all of the same size
Other cases may be declined or postponed. If you’re upfront with all of your medical information, you should be able to avoid both of these scenarios.
Skin cancer is one of the most complicated for finding life insurance.
There are so many factors that insurance companies look at to make a decision that it’s near impossible to offer a sensible “if, then” summary here.
The biggest difference between a standard health class and a decline is the age at which you received the diagnosis. The older you were, the better the rating.
The second most significant factor is type. Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma all have different underwriting criteria.
Questions Underwriters Will Ask
- At what age were you initially diagnosed?
- Dates of any relapses
- What type of skin cancer?
- What stage?
- Do you have a family history of cancer?
- Do you use or have your used tobacco?
- When was your last checkup?
Ratings You Can Expect
We’ve had people received standard plus rates. We’ve also prescreened applicants who would have received a decline and switched gears.
With all this in mind, ask your agent to pre-screen you ahead of time.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma presents another challenge for general guidelines on life insurance. Since there are over 30 types, it’s another situation where talking with an agent about the specifics of your case would be the most help.
The more aggressive types tend toward higher table ratings or declines, mainly if they spread to other areas.
Successful treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma only requires a year wait time before applying for an insurance policy. All other types of lymphoma require a 3-year waiting period.
If the cancer spread to other areas of the body, almost every company offering traditional insurance will decline the application.
Insurance underwriters focus mainly on the stage of kidney cancer.
Stage Zero & Stage 1 – People beating these stages frequently qualify for policies frequently qualify for traditional policies. Most of the time qualifying applicants even get standard rates.
Stage 2 – If it’s been more than 5 years, you still have a good chance of qualifying for traditional life insurance, although there may be a table rating.
Stage 3 & 4 – At this time no insurance companies will offer traditional coverage to a survivor of a stage 3 or 4 kidney cancer. Your best option is looking into a guaranteed issue policy.
Each type of leukemia presents different risks, recommended treatments, and categorizations. Chronic leukemia will be more difficult to insure than acute.
Questions Underwriters Will Ask
It’s best to gather all of this information upfront. Let your insurance agent know so they can give you an idea of what your health class will be before applying.
- Date of diagnosis
- Type of leukemia
- Current stage of illness
- Current treatment plan
- Results from the last 6 to 12 months of lab tests
- Do you have a family history of leukemia?
If you’re in remission, you will also need the following information:
- Have you experienced any symptoms in the past 6 months? (If yes, what?)
- Proof of regular follow-up visits with your oncologist/hematologist
Ratings You Can Expect
The main factors in determining your rating are the age at which you were diagnosed, your current stage of illness or remission, and any other health issues.
If you’ve been in remission for more than 5 years without symptoms, you can qualify for standard rates.
Remission for less than 5 years and with no symptoms for the past six months can still qualify but with table ratings.
You can ask your life insurance company to reduce your rates as you continue to stay in remission without symptoms.
Most companies will decline applicants who are not in remission.
How Do I Get Life Insurance If I’m Declined?
If a company previously declined or postponed your application, you aren’t out of options.
You can still qualify for a guaranteed issue life insurance policy. This asks no medical questions. Neither does it require an exam.
This is a last resort option. Make sure to speak with an insurance agent first, especially if it’s been several years since you last applied.
Guaranteed issue policies have much lower benefits than traditional life insurance policies. They also have graded benefits.
For your beneficiary to receive the full benefits, you must live for at least 3 years after you take out the policy.
Most companies use a structure like the following:
110% of premiums paid
60 – 80% of the death benefit
100% of the death benefit
All that’s required of a guaranteed issue policy is that you fall into the age range that the company underwriters. Typically, this is 18 to 65, sometimes 75.
How Can I Save Money On Life Insurance With Cancer
There are several ways to save money on life insurance, even with cancer and medical marijuana.
Apply With a Cannabis-Friendly Company
First, choose a cannabis-friendly life insurance company. These are the top 12 marijuana-friendly life insurance companies. They don’t penalize people for smoking recreationally or for medical reasons.
Term is Cheaper Than Permanent Life Insurance
Next, term life insurance with the medical exam is the lowest cost type of life insurance you can get. It offers the most death benefits for the least amount of premium.
However, make sure it’s the right type of life insurance for your family. Term is best for covering limited periods, like years until retirement or until your children reach adulthood. Permanent life insurance works better for situations like estate planning.
Use a Life Insurance Needs Calculator
One of the absolute best ways to save money on is calculating exactly how much life insurance you need. Instead of multiplying your income by 3, or 7 or 15, working out the exact numbers prevents you from buying too much.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you should just ballpark the number. There’s no sense in paying for any more life insurance than you need.
Enter your text here…TK
How MJ Life Can help
At MJ Life, we are a small group of independent agents who focus on connecting medical marijuana patients and recreational smokers with insurance companies who penalize people for that.
If you have any questions or would like us to prescreen an application, call us at (888) 987-8447. We are happy to help, and there is never any obligation to buy.