U.S. Markets open in 1 hr 1 min

Can a cancer patient get any life insurance?

Jack Hungelmann
Jack Hungelmann

Dear Insurance Adviser,
I have a sister who has cancer. Her cancer is slow-growing, and while she has to have periodic chemotherapy treatments, she could live a very long time. She is 54 years old and does not have life insurance. Is it possible to get insurance on someone who has cancer?

Dear Barbara,
There's a saying about insurance: You can buy it only when you don't need it. That's generally true for all types of insurance, unless a federal or state law makes it mandatory that insurance companies accept everyone -- as in the case of the Obamacare health insurance reform law. So your sister will be able to buy health insurance Jan. 1, 2014, regardless of her health conditions. However, no such law applies to life insurance.

She is 54 years old and may still be employed. Maybe she has access to voluntary group life insurance at work. If enough healthy people participate in voluntary group life insurance, insurance companies will often offer a certain amount of guaranteed coverage for all comers regardless of health. I encourage you to look into that.

You don't mention why, at age 54, your sister needs life insurance. Maybe it's to help her children with college costs. Or perhaps it's to provide an ongoing income to her husband, or to pay off a mortgage. If she can't qualify for life insurance, there are some steps she can take now that would ease the financial burden on her survivors. The steps might include setting up a trust or transferring homeownership to a trust or to her adult children. Updating her will and medical directives are musts.

Elder law attorneys have these and many other tools in their toolkit to help those in your sister's position. I recommend that your sister consult one sooner rather than later.

Good luck to both of you!

Ask the adviser

To ask a question of the Insurance Adviser, go to the"Ask the Experts" page and select "Insurance" from the drop-down box. Read more Insurance Adviser columns.

Bankrate's content, including the guidance of its advice-and-expert columns and this website, is intended only to assist you with financial decisions. The content is broad in scope and does not consider your personal financial situation. Bankrate recommends that you seek the advice of advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances before making any final decisions or implementing any financial strategy. Please remember that your use of this website is governed by Bankrate's Terms of Use.

More From Bankrate.com