How cancer can affect buying insurance
Insurance protects your finances when something unexpected happens by, for example, paying you if your home is damaged by fire or meeting your medical bills if you unexpectedly fall ill.
Cancer can affect insurance in three ways:
It can make it harder to get some types of insurance on reasonable terms.
A diagnosis may trigger a payout from health insurance policies.
It may be possible to draw out money from life insurance early.
Within this section we have information about buying:
What you pay for insurance is called the ‘premium’. Insurers set the premium so they will have a big enough pool of money to pay out all the claims, cover their costs and earn a profit.
Insurers usually estimate the likelihood of you making a claim before deciding what premium to charge you, and whether to exclude some types of cover or limit any payout. If the risk of you claiming on insurance looks higher than average, the insurer may:
charge you a higher premium than the standard rate
apply an excess
refuse to cover the types of claims it thinks you’re most likely to make – this is called an ‘exclusion’
refuse to insure you at all.
To assess the risk of you claiming, insurers will ask you questions. With health or life insurance, they may want to see your medical reports or ask you to have a medical examination. The insurer, not you, pays for medical reports and examinations.
If you don’t answer the questions fully and truthfully, the insurer may refuse to pay out if you make a claim later on.
You don’t have to agree to medical reports or examinations, but if the insurer doesn’t have enough information to assess your application, they may refuse to cover you.
The insurance market is competitive and premiums vary from one insurer to another. So it’s important to shop around, especially if you have a medical condition (referred to by insurers as a ‘pre-existing medical condition’). An insurance broker can help you shop around. To find an insurance broker, contact the British Insurance Brokers’ Association.
How cancer can affect buying insurance
Back to top
If you’ve had cancer or you’re living with cancer, you can sometimes face higher premiums, special conditions or refusal when buying life insurance and some types of health insurance. This includes policies that have a health insurance element, such as travel insurance.
You shouldn’t have problems getting insurance unrelated to health – for example, home insurance. If you do, contact our financial guides on 0808 808 00 00 for information about making a complaint.
Close relatives (children, brothers and sisters) of people with cancer may also find it hard to get life and health insurance on standard terms. This is because, in a small number of cases, people whose close relatives have had cancer may be at a higher than average risk of getting the same cancer.
When talking to insurers, you may be asked some difficult or upsetting questions about your health, for example about the likely outcome of your cancer (prognosis). Unfortunately, not all insurers are sensitive to the needs of people affected by cancer, so you may want to contact only a couple of companies at a time.
After campaigns by Macmillan Cancer Support and other organisations, having cancer now automatically counts as a disability from the time of diagnosis under the Equality Act 2010. This act makes it illegal to treat people less favourably because of disability, but there is an exception for insurance.
An insurer can treat a person with a disability less favourably if the disability increases the risk of claiming, but only if:
the assessment of your risk of claiming is based on relevant information
the information is from a source that’s reasonable to rely on, such as statistical data or medical reports
the way the insurer treats the person is reasonable, given the information available.
If challenged, the insurer will have to provide evidence to show that it has met these conditions.
Insurers are encouraged by their trade body, the Association of British Insurers (ABI), to offer cover on standard terms if at all possible. If they can’t offer this, they should offer standard cover at a higher premium. Only if those options aren’t possible, should they consider exclusions or, as a last resort, refusal. The ABI advises insurers that any exclusion should be worded so that unrelated conditions would continue to be covered.