Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) continues to be a leader in providing life insurance coverage for breast cancer survivors, updating its underwriting guidelines continually to reflect the positive long-term survival benefits of early detection and new treatments such as the use of trastuzumab (Herceptin).
MassMutual's underwriting guidelines -- revised in 2001, 2002 and 2004 -- take into consideration the vigilant screening programs that now detect many breast cancers earlier.
These advanced screening programs, combined with new treatment protocols, have helped lead to as much as a 50 percent reduction in long-term mortality for those diagnosed with Stage 1 cancers, according to the British medical journal, The Lancet. Even women with later-stage breast cancer are living longer and may still be eligible for life insurance coverage.
"Our updated guidelines reflect the positive diagnostic and treatment strides that have been made," said Valerie Kaufman, M.D., vice president and chief medical director of Individual Insurance at MassMutual. "We have updated our ratings three times in the last five years. Consequently, we have 14 risk categories today, compared to only four in 2000. That means it's easier for women to qualify for coverage, and many will pay less."
"Women needn't make the leap of faith that just because they have breast cancer, that means they automatically don't qualify for life insurance or disability insurance coverage," said Susan Sweetser, head of Women's Markets for MassMutual. "That's simply untrue. We encourage women to apply for insurance, because of the protection it provides."
Although underwriting risk depends on factors including tumor size, microscopic characteristics and lymph node invasiveness, MassMutual's guidelines suggest that:
Women with noninvasive cancer (stage 0) may indeed be eligible for preferred rates;
Women with small Stage I tumors (1 cm. or less in size) are eligible for insurance immediately after surgery, with only a small, extra premium charged for six years, and then standard rates afterwards;
Those with larger Stage I tumors (1 cm. or more in size) are eligible for insurance one year after treatment for the same extra premium charged for six years, and standard rates afterwards;
For those with more advanced tumors, many are still eligible for life insurance if no evidence of cancer exists after three to five years post-treatment.
"We want to help ensure that the more than 200,000 women annually diagnosed with breast cancer have life insurance options that can protect their families over the long term," said Dr. Kaufman.
"Medical research and the work of such organizations as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation have helped reduce the overall breast-cancer mortality rate by 2.3 percent since 1990," she added, "But we still have a long way to go."
MassMutual's disability insurance organization also reviews medical data to ensure its underwriting guidelines reflect survival trends. "Our disability insurance guidelines recognize that not only are women living longer after diagnosis, but they are leading normal, productive lives," said Melissa Millan, corporate vice president, Disability Income and Long Term Care insurance at MassMutual.
In addition, MassMutual's disability insurance unit is donating $1,000 to local breast cancer organizations for each "Never kissed a frog. Never had to.sm" or "Pearls of Wisdomsm" financial seminar held during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.
"These seminars are among many initiatives that MassMutual has undertaken to educate consumers about disabilities and the need for disability income insurance if they are injured or ill and cannot work," said Millan. "I'm thrilled that we were able to reach out to and help so many local communities across the country, in the process."
MassMutual's commitment also includes its sponsorship this past summer in eight U.S. cities of the Danskin Women's Triathlon, which donates 10 percent of all entry fees to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
In conjunction with that sponsorship, MassMutual donated more than $5,700 to the Foundation on behalf of the more than 570 triathlon participants who attended MassMutual's financial seminar, "Never kissed a frog. Never had to."