As treatment for all types of cancer have improved, life insurance underwriters have been forced to re-evaluate their guidelines for different types of treatment and how the mortality experience has actually changed.
One good example is with prostate cancer. While the base guidelines are still pretty much the same, that being that the diagnosis level psa is 10 or below, and the cancer is a medium to low grade and stage, there have been some shifts in acceptability of treatment methods and post treatment results.
The historical majority of prostate cancer treatment has been by radical prostatectomy. In medium to lower grade cancers this is usually sufficient without chemo or radiation to resolve the issue. Because there is no prostate, the resulting psa is 0 and from an underwriting perspective that would be the approvable result.
A little fuzzier underwriting guideline has to do with men who chose to forgo the prostatectomy and instead have a radioactive seed implant. Because the prostate remains in place, there is a psa level post treatment. The guideline for years has been that a person can get better than standard rates when their psa reaches .50 or less with a seed implant. The problem has been, while the seed implant has been very effective in treating the cancer, it is not uncommon for the psa to never quite make it to the benchmark .50.
Recent thinking from underwriters has been, especially in older men, to cut some slack on that bench mark and allow readings as high as 1.0. This will have a substantial impact on the number of cancer survivors who will qualify for better rates than in the past. It may not seem like a huge leap of faith on the part of the insurance companies, but rest assured it is a quantum leap for someone whose psa came down to, say, .65 and bottomed out.
It will take a good independent life insurance agent to determine the right company for you to seek insurance quotes from. These are not changes that will be quickly embraced by the New York Life’s and Northwestern Mutual’s of the industry. They will likely stick to the more conservative approach for some time to come.
As treatments improve and the success and mortality experience improves, expect to see underwriting changes follow for breast cancer survivors. We have already seen quantum leaps from 10 years ago and it’s only going to get better.
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