There have been some dramatic breakthroughs in life insurance underwriting over the past few months, a lot of it having to do with cancer life insurance underwriting. Just as these breakthroughs started there are now more rumors of companies following suit, or tightening the underwriting gap back up. All of them know they aren’t hanging themselves out on a limb with these moves, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good for you, the customer.
These changes by two major companies, with a third and fourth on their heels, aren’t some stroke of genius coming from a symposium of the greatest life insurance underwriting minds, but rather companies coming face to face with facts that they just can’t ignore anymore. There are still some cancers that will eventually kill you. I have a dear friend who has been battling multiple myeloma for almost six years now and he and his wife have chosen to fight it until he wins or loses. This has cost their insurance company millions of dollars and has kept from leading all but a few snippets of what could be called a normal life. Multiple myeloma is not one of those cancers where life insurance companies are feeling like the medical community has turned the tide and the survival rate around to where they can start approving life insurance. My friend has already beat the odds through sheer tenacity and a great insurance plan.
But what about those cancers whose five year survival rate is now 100%, or those cancers that are treated and cured. In the past life insurance underwriting seemed tuned into cancer as a broad subject, almost equating multiple myeloma to stage 1 in situ breast cancer. The change is that it hasn’t been that long ago that women didn’t routinely do self exams and get mammograms. Breast cancer was found, except in rare cases, at a stage and grade that would require aggressive treatment and certainly didn’t offer any guarantees.
Because of education and more awareness and accessibility to testing for breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer and others, diagnosis and treatment are coming at earlier stages and grades than ever. This simply translates into a higher survival rate and finally, life insurance underwriting that matches the good news.
Even a year ago there was no option to get approved immediately after successful completion of cancer treatment unless it was a basal cell carcinoma. Now, and I hope obviously, with lower stage and grade cancers there is that option. Keeping in mind that successful treatment has to have some measure. With breast cancer that might be on completion of a pet scan showing no traces of cancer. With prostate cancer successful treatment is generally measured by a PSA test. These new guidelines went somewhere I thought I would never be in the business long enough to see. For men over 70 the underwriters are finally willing to accept what doctors have considered prudent medicine for years, watchful waiting on low stage and grade prostate cancer. The drum they’ve beat up to now has always been that watchful waiting isn’t treatment and they wouldn’t offer life insurance without successful treatment.
I think there’s another factor in life insurance rumors or changes that make it real for the agent and the clients, and that is whether the insurance company has the guts to stick with it. In the past one company said they would go preferred plus on type 2 diabetes under certain circumstances, age, when it was diagnosed, what the a1c was. And they did for about 4 months. The same company went bold on sleep apnea and said, mild, moderate, severe, preferred plus. After a few months they cut that back to mild and moderate and 6 months later mild sleep apnea is a standard rate. Other companies have stayed steady on those issues while this company came in and went out like the tide.
I bring this up because the moves that company made were not backed up by medical science and the moves made recently on cancer life insurance underwriting are. Time of course will tell, but underwriting that says immediately upon completion of successful treatment is around to stay based on my conversation with the company.
Bottom line. Life insurance underwriting is a work in progress. The thing that makes companies stand out and come out ahead for their clients are companies that do their homework and make calculated, educated moves. If you have any questions, of if I can help with any of the health issues I’ve covered, call or email me directly. Let’s talk.