A cancer diagnosis is a life-changing event, even if the prognosis is good. It’s especially concerning — and challenging — for people who don’t yet have life insurance. Unfortunately, obtaining that critical layer of financial protection for your loved ones is much more difficult afterward.
It’s not impossible, however. Many life insurance companies do issue policies to cancer patients and people who’ve only recently gone into remission. Getting life insurance is even easier if your cancer has been in remission for several years.
Still, you need to be realistic about how much life insurance you can get after a cancer diagnosis and how much it could cost you. You need to know which life insurance providers are best for people in your situation.
Best Life Insurance Companies for Cancer Patients
These are the best life insurance companies and policies for people who’ve been diagnosed with cancer or who worry about a cancer diagnosis in the future.
Each does at least one thing really well, whether it’s providing higher benefits on guaranteed issue coverage or offering a wider range of coverage options to people who’ve been cancer-free for some time. Our top overall pick offers the best value for the widest array of potential policyholders.
Best Overall: Mutual of Omaha
Mutual of Omaha is the best overall life insurance provider for cancer patients thanks to its flexible, easy-to-obtain whole life insurance option.
As a guaranteed issue life insurance policy, this product doesn’t require a medical exam or consider health factors when you apply. You can’t be turned down due to any medical issues lurking in your past, including a known cancer diagnosis. Nor does the stage or type of cancer factor into Mutual of Omaha’s underwriting decision. The only factors that matter are your age, gender, and coverage amount.
- Mutual of Omaha guaranteed issue policies build cash value over time
- Qualify for death benefits as high as $25,000
- Open to applicants between the ages of 45 and 85 in most states
- Rates remain level as long as the policy remains in force
- Benefits never decrease due to health (including a worsening cancer prognosis or new type of cancer) or age
- If you’ve been in remission for a few years, you may qualify for term life coverage with higher death benefits
- If you die of natural causes (including cancer) during the first two years of your policy, your beneficiaries get all the premiums you paid plus 10%
Best for Younger Cancer Patients: United Home Life
United Home Life Insurance accepts life insurance applications from anyone under age 80, including minors whose parents apply on their behalf.
Everyone in this broad age band qualifies for guaranteed issue coverage, making United Home Life the best no-exam life insurance provider for young cancer patients and people who’ve survived childhood cancer.
Meanwhile, United Home Life’s Provider product — a simplified issue policy that does involve some health questions — offers a no-cost accelerated death benefit rider specifically for people diagnosed with life-threatening cancer. Provider may be appropriate for people with early-stage or low-risk cancer.
- Full death benefit payable on day one of policy year three — otherwise, beneficiaries receive full return of premiums plus interest
- Guaranteed issue insurance offers level coverage until age 100
- Guaranteed level premiums on guaranteed issue policies
- Guaranteed issue policies can’t be canceled except for nonpayment
Best for Medical Underwriting on Whole Life Policies: Colonial Penn
Colonial Penn offers guaranteed issue life insurance to cancer patients with premiums starting around $10 per month and acceptance up to age 85. That’s not bad — but it’s not the main attraction here.
The main attraction for some applicants is Colonial Penn’s simplified issue whole life insurance policy, which offers coverage up to $50,000 with no medical exam required. You’ll need to answer some basic health questions and may be excluded if you’re currently in treatment for cancer or recently went into remission for a type of cancer that Colonial Penn considers life-threatening. But if you’re approved, your rates are likely to be lower than on a comparable guaranteed issue policy.
- Available to applicants between the ages of 40 and 75 in most states
- Optional living benefit for cancer patients allows you to access up to 25% of your death benefit if you’re diagnosed with any cancer other than skin cancer
- Pay premiums monthly, quarterly, twice per year, or once per year
- Premiums and death benefits are locked for the duration of the policy
Best for Affordable Premiums: Globe Life
Although it’s not guaranteed to be the most affordable life insurance option for every cancer patient, Globe Life does have a strong reputation for very low premiums — as low as $1 per month for $100,000 in coverage for children and $3.49 per month for adults.
Globe Life offers simplified issue coverage but not guaranteed issue coverage, which means there’s a chance your application could be denied due to a cancer diagnosis. But a less serious type of cancer or cancer that’s been in remission for some time shouldn’t disqualify you.
- Get coverage up to $100,000 in most states
- Rapid application and approval — often same-day
- No medical exam required, ever
- Accelerated death benefit available for cancer patients with terminal diagnoses
- 30-day money-back guarantee on all policies
Best for People With a Family History of Cancer: Haven Life
Although it’s unusual among cancer-friendly life insurers for not offering guaranteed coverage policies, it’s still worth mentioning thanks to an underwriting process that’s gentle with people whose family health histories include cancer diagnoses and deaths.
Haven’s secret is an unusually low premium scale for a term life insurance company. While it can’t compete with guaranteed issue insurers in raw price terms, Haven Simple no-exam term policies begin at less than $16 per month. Revealing that a close relative died of cancer might raise your rates, but it won’t disqualify you, and you’ll never have to worry about taking a medical exam.
- Terms range from 5 to 20 years with Haven Simple
- Coverage up to $500,000 with Haven Simple
- Coverage up to $3 million with Haven Term, but a medical exam may be required and recent cancer patients likely won’t qualify
- Optional accelerated death benefit rider available to people with terminal cancer
Best for Cancer Survivors: John Hancock
John Hancock offers a wide array of life insurance policies for people at all stages of life. While it doesn’t offer guaranteed issue coverage and thus isn’t ideal for people undergoing cancer treatment or only recently in remission, John Hancock has two things going for it that make it appropriate for people who’ve been in remission for a while and no longer qualify as cancer patients:
- Affordable premiums on high-value term life insurance policies (death benefits starting at $750,000)
- John Hancock Vitality, a wellness rewards program that encourages healthy living with potentially valuable discounts on healthy travel, outdoor equipment, and more — plus up to 25% off your life insurance premiums
- Get term life coverage up to $65 million, far more than most competitors
- Permanent life insurance options include universal, variable universal, and indexed universal
- Choose an adjustable death benefit that keeps pace with your coverage needs
Best for Higher Coverage Amounts: Globe Life
Globe Life makes a rare second appearance on this list as the best life insurance provider for cancer patients seeking higher coverage amounts on final expense policies.
You can get up to $100,000 in coverage here, even if you’ve had a cancer diagnosis in the recent past. However, because Globe Life doesn’t offer guaranteed issue coverage, your health status could affect your premiums. A higher coverage amount doesn’t necessarily mean a lower cost per unit of coverage.
Best for Living Benefits: AIG Direct
AIG Direct offers a guaranteed issue life insurance product that’s appropriate for cancer patients and people recently recovered from cancer.
What really sets AIG Direct apart, though, is its general lineup of living benefits — optional riders that add value to your policy before you die. Two stand out for cancer patients:
- An accelerated death benefit rider that lets you claim up to 50% of your death benefit in life if you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness, including cancer
- A chronic illness rider that provides some financial benefits if you’re diagnosed with a serious but nonterminal illness that affects your ability to take care of yourself, including cancer
- Coverage for applicants up to age 80 in most states
- Coverage amounts range up to $25,000
- All-online application process for guaranteed issue coverage
Methodology: How We Select the Best Life Insurance for Cancer Patients
We use several important factors to select the best life insurance policies and companies for people with cancer. They all relate to the availability, breadth, usefulness, or cost of coverage in some way.
Policy Types Available
Unfortunately, cancer patients and people in relatively recent remission don’t have much choice when it comes to life insurance.
Most issuers don’t offer cancer patients term life insurance coverage or whole life insurance policies with substantial death benefits. Instead, they offer guaranteed issue life insurance policies that don’t consider medical history in underwriting. While applicants can’t be turned down for medical reasons, they won’t qualify for as much coverage as they might need.
With that in mind, we strongly prefer insurance companies that offer other types of insurance coverage to people with cancer — not just guaranteed issue. Failing that, we look to companies with unusually flexible or generous guaranteed issue products.
Coverage Amounts Available (Death Benefits)
Guaranteed issue life insurance death benefits typically top out at $25,000 or $50,000, depending on the issuer. A few companies offer higher death benefits on guaranteed issue coverage, up to but usually not in excess of $100,000. All else being equal, we prefer higher insurance death benefits for cancer patients.
Underwriting Criteria for Cancer Patients
Every insurance company treats cancer patients differently. Indeed, every insurance company has its own definition of “cancer patient.”
Generally, insurers consider cancer patients “cured” after five years in remission, but some are stricter or more lenient. Likewise, insurers consider applicant factors like cancer stage and type, both of which affect life expectancy.
All else being equal, we like insurers that treat cancer patients with dignity and reflect that approach in their underwriting.
Guaranteed issue life insurance — the only type of coverage that many cancer patients qualify for — is often available to older applicants. Age 45 to 80 or 85 is a typical range, depending on the issuer and the policyholder’s state of residence.
Other types of life insurance skew younger. For example, for term life coverage, a typical age range is 18 to 60 or 65. Accordingly, we prefer companies that respond to as many applicants as possible by offering broader guaranteed issue age ranges and offering term life coverage to cancer patients deemed lower-risk.
Riders and Other Add-Ons
Optional policy riders and add-ons are critical for cancer patients seeking peace of mind. They’re also important for life insurance applicants who worry about a cancer diagnosis down the road.
Life insurance riders that we look for when assessing insurance for cancer patients include:
- Waiver of premium rider, which allows you to temporarily stop paying premiums if you’re too sick to work
- Accelerated death benefit rider for terminal illness, which allows you to receive a portion of the promised death benefit after a terminal diagnosis but before you pass on
- Accelerated death benefit rider for serious illness, which allows you to receive a portion of their death benefit if you’re seriously ill but haven’t received a terminal diagnosis
- Convertible term rider, which allows you to convert a term life policy to a permanent life policy, possibly even after a cancer diagnosis
All else being equal, we prefer insurers that provide more rider options — and more flexibility within those options — to cancer patients.
Family History Considerations
If you haven’t been diagnosed with cancer but have a family history of the disease, you need to understand how life insurers approach applicants in your position.
Generally, a family history of cancer isn’t disqualifying. However, if someone in your immediate family died from cancer complications at a relatively young age — typically under 60 or 65 — you may be deemed higher-risk than someone without that history.
Every insurer approaches this question differently, but we give preference to those that don’t consider family histories of cancer disqualifying. We’re especially pleased with companies that don’t consider family histories of cancer at all, although this isn’t common.
FAQs About Life Insurance for Cancer Patients
You have questions about getting life insurance after a cancer diagnosis. We have answers.
What’s the Difference Between Life Insurance and Cancer Insurance?
Cancer insurance is more like health insurance than life insurance, although it has some similarities with the latter. It provides reimbursement of certain cancer-related costs, including copays, deductibles, out-of-network consultations, hospital care, and nonmedical costs like child care and lodging for the patient and eligible family members.
Cancer insurance is useful for people without primary health insurance and those with high deductible health plans. Out-of-pocket cancer treatment costs can easily stretch into six-figure territory if you don’t have health insurance.
Many cancer insurance policies don’t cover expenses on an as-incurred basis. Instead, they provide a lump-sum payment after a confirmed diagnosis.
Can You Get Life Insurance After a Cancer Diagnosis?
Yes, but it’s not going to be the type or amount of coverage you’d likely qualify for before your diagnosis.
If you’re concerned about the impact of a future cancer diagnosis on your life expectancy — and what that might mean for your loved ones — then you should apply for life insurance while you’re still healthy. Unlike health insurance companies bound by the Affordable Care Act, life insurance providers can deny your application due to a preexisting condition like cancer.
Following a cancer diagnosis, you’re most likely to qualify for a guaranteed issue whole life insurance policy with a relatively small death benefit. This policy should be adequate to cover your final expenses and perhaps settle some small debts that outlive you, but it won’t sustain your loved ones for many years.
How Much Life Insurance Can Cancer Patients Get?
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with cancer, you’re unlikely to qualify for term life insurance. You’re also unlikely to qualify for whole life insurance (or other types of permanent life insurance) with higher death benefits.
However, even if you’ve recently been diagnosed with cancer, you can likely qualify for guaranteed issue life insurance. Guaranteed issue coverage doesn’t take your health history into consideration, so you can’t be denied for a preexisting condition like cancer. The catch is that guaranteed issue coverage death benefits tend to be low — under $50,000, and often $25,000 or less.
When Is a Cancer Patient Considered “Cured” for Life Insurance Purposes?
This varies by issuer, and some are stricter than others. The National Cancer Institute says you’re considered a cancer survivor — no longer a cancer patient — after five years in remission. At this point, the risk of the same cancer recurring is low (although not zero) and you’re expected to live longer as a result.
Insurance companies that abide by this definition are likely to be much more lenient with your application after the five-year mark — or whatever time frame they use for their own purposes. As a cancer survivor, you may qualify for medically underwritten term life insurance policies and higher-benefit whole life insurance policies. However, your cancer diagnosis likely continues to weigh in the form of higher premiums, as insurers judge you to be riskier than someone who never had cancer.
How to Choose the Best Life Insurance Policy After a Cancer Diagnosis
Getting life insurance after a cancer diagnosis is not always easy. You need to understand the options available to you and be realistic about the type and amount of coverage you’re likely to qualify for.
With that in mind, consider the following:
- Your age — if you’re older, low-benefit guaranteed issue policies may be the only option
- How much life insurance you need — whether you’re just covering final expenses or need a more substantial death benefit
- Whether you want your policy to remain in force forever — if so, you’ll need some sort of permanent life insurance product
- How much you can afford to pay each month — if you qualify, term life insurance premiums are much lower
It’s always important to shop around for the best deal on life insurance. All the more so when you’re considered high-risk due to a preexisting health condition. However your search proceeds, know that you don’t have to accept the first offer you get.