The Hartford cuts rates for women with breast cancer

Monday, October 3rd 2005, 5:41 pm
By: News On 6

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. is cutting life insurance rates for some women with breast cancer, citing improved treatment and research that is helping more women survive the disease.

The policies, which will cost the same as for healthy women, will be available to women 40 and older who have been treated for early stages of breast cancer. Previously, those women would have paid more for coverage or would have been denied coverage.

``Treatment for breast cancer has improved and continues to improve every year,'' said Ann Hoven, chief medical director of The Hartford's individual life division. ``There really is a great deal of hope that we're winning the fight against breast cancer.''

Due to medical advances the death rate for breast cancer has dropped 20 percent since 1991, Hoven said.

The Hartford's new underwriting guidelines provide individual life insurance policies at standard rates to women who have been treated for localized, small breast cancer, which is defined as one centimeter or less, and for women with a strong prognosis for survival.

Up to 15 percent of all life insurance applicants who have been treated for stage-one breast cancer in the past five years, or more than 100,000 women, would be eligible for life insurance policies at standard rates, Hoven said.

A 50-year-old women who has been treated for early stage breast cancer and does not smoke could buy a $500,000, 20-year term life insurance policy for an annual premium of $1,545. The same coverage before the new pricing included a surcharge of $2,500 a year for five years, or $12,500.

There is not yet enough data on mortality rates to expand the policy to women under 40, Hoven said.

Industry representatives could not say whether the policy is a departure for the life insurance industry. But David F. Woods, chief executive of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, said The Hartford is ``aggressively reaching out to a population that thought it could not get life insurance.''

Hoven compared the changes in life insurance coverage with insurance 10 or more years ago for those with a history of heart attacks. Insurers then required applicants for life insurance to wait a year or more before being considered for coverage.

More than 211,000 cases of breast cancer among women in the United States are expected this year, and more than 40,000 are expected to die, according to the National Cancer Institute.