The battle against breast cancer touches many family across the United States. After decades of research, improvements in detection and more aggressive treatments, progress is being made against the disease.
In recognition of the improved prognosis, The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. has become the first life insurer in the nation to offer life insurance to women age 40 and older who have been treated for early stages of breast cancer at the same prices as other healthy women their age. Previously, women treated for this disease would have to pay more for coverage or would be denied coverage.
Under The Hartford’s new guidelines, individual life insurance policies are available at standard rates to women who have been treated for the first time for small (1 centimeter or less), well differentiated, localized Stage 1 breast cancer and have a strong prognosis for survival based on the results of common tests.
“Because the outlook for those with breast cancer is so much better today than in the past, The Hartford became convinced that we could also do better in underwriting people with breast cancer,” said Dr. Ann Hoven, chief medical officer for The Hartford’s Individual Life Division.
“The Hartford based its new underwriting criteria for breast cancer on past experience as well as expectations of continued improvements,” Hoven said. “We wanted to take a forward-looking approach and make a difference with our actions, calling attention to the importance of early detection and enhanced treatment.”
Up to 15 percent of those treated for Stage 1 breast cancer in the past five years – more than 100,000 women – would be eligible for life insurance policies at standard rates, Hoven says. Other applicants may continue to buy life insurance but at higher rates.
“It’s critical that women have life insurance coverage, especially when you consider that many families depend upon two incomes,” Hoven said. “Women who stay at home to take care of children or older parents need life insurance, too. The care they provide is very difficult to replace and the cost can be significant.”
Women have special life insurance needs, and many are underinsured or lack any coverage. LIMRA International reports that women typically have less than 60 percent of the coverage men have ($179,377 death benefit for women versus $305,090 for men). In addition, women earning more than $100,000 purchased just over half the number of policies purchased by men in the same income group, according to LIMRA International.
Approximately 40,000 women in the United States were expected to die from breast cancer in 2005, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The Hartford’s new coverage guidelines reflect research by the NCI indicating that the annual death rate from breast cancer declined by 20 percent since 1991.
“The Hartford’s initiative reflects the improving chances for survival from breast cancer, especially in the early stages,” Hoven said. “Treatment for breast cancer has improved and continues to improve every year. There really is a great deal of hope that we’re winning the fight against breast cancer.”
Want to learn more about life insurance? Read our article The Most Frequently Asked Life Insurance Questions.