Insurance Underwriting: what’s a cancer-afflicted chick to do?

  • 22 February 2012

What more will cancer take from me?

This is the question I asked myself yesterday as I received the latest insurance underwriting decision: DENIED.

Not long ago I asked my financial planner if I would qualify for long-term care insurance. Now living on my own, with no family support nearby, I realized the wisdom of putting into place now–at age 59–a plan for my care should medical hard times befall me down the road. Did I have sufficient assets at this point to afford insurance that would cover me for home health care or residence in a medical facility? It seemed logical. I didn’t want to end up like my parents in a skilled nursing facility wondering whether I would outlive my lifetime savings and be put at the mercy of public assistance.

Boy, was I naive!

To my shock and dismay I discovered that while I qualify financially for such a policy, I pose a poor risk to these bureaucrats. The underwriters of policies for two separate companies denied me coverage outright without even giving me the opportunity to take a medical exam or a detailed phone survey. Never mind that I had no lymph node involvement. Never mind that I have been in remission for nine years. Never mind that I never smoked, rarely drank, have no chronic pain or joint replacements, maintain a healthy heart and weight, eat right (mostly) and moderately exercise aerobically at least 150 minutes per week. I just don’t get it. I’m at least as fit and able as most Americans my age.

Cancer was the operative word.

I wasn’t the only one stunned. My financial planners also expressed shock at this outcome. Now the task begins for them to arrive at an alternative plan that will provide some safeguards tailored to my unique circumstances.

I should have expected it. After all, I’m still in a high-risk medical insurance pool even though nine years have passed since my last chemotherapy treatment. And the premiums for this policy soar every year to heights that will soon make it unaffordable to me. Then I’ll join the ever-growing ranks of 47 million Americans with no health insurance. Unless I land a high-paying job or a job with medical benefits, the Holy Grail of countless unemployed applicants.

One silver lining: many non-profits exist to help the uninsured and under-insured pay for medical visits. I list some links to their helpful sites in the Resources section of my website. And from the Lymphedema Mavens internet radio show this week, I discovered an organization, The Medicine Cabinet, that provides free prescription drugs to patients who qualify.

Still, the harshness and cold rejection of these insurance companies stings me. Reviewing all the insults to my body and soul, the betrayals by my body and a trusted loved one, I’d say I’ve had more than my share of woes for a lifetime. I only wish the insurance gurus would realize how much they add to the stress, grief and betrayal that cancer (with or without lymphedema) inflicts on us. I wish they comprehended how much they inflate the ranks of those who must resort to public assistance, further burdening the taxpayers and those fortunate enough to have insurance.

Let’s have a cancer tea party. Let’s burn effigies of the insurance companies’ logos in protest of their uncaring spirit.

Have you been denied a medical or other policy by an insurance company because of cancer? Because of any other illness? If so, how did you cope with the setback? If so, what do you do now for healthcare coverage or long-term care coverage?