Medical advances in prognosis-based staging result in major underwriting guideline revisions
SPRINGFIELD, MASS., Sept. 12, 2019 – Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) has been providing insurance protection for individuals diagnosed with breast cancer for more than 50 years and today announced that it has significantly revised its underwriting guidelines to expand access to more individuals, many at more favorable ratings, thanks to recent medical advances.
The driving factor? Prognosis-based staging.
The medical community continues to gain greater understanding of breast cancer. Previously, anatomic features of cancer such as tumor size and the presence and extent of metastasis were given primary attention. More recently, doctors have shifted to prognosis-based staging of breast cancer. This new system considers those anatomic features together with hormonal and HER-2 receptor status, tumor grade, and genetic features of the tumor. This approach results in hundreds of possible combinations that are grouped into prognostic stages.
Adoption of prognosis-based staging of breast cancer in underwriting guidelines has enabled MassMutual to make major revisions in those guidelines, expanding access to life insurance coverage to more individuals diagnosed with breast cancer, and making it possible for many others to qualify for better rates.
Specifically, more individuals with breast cancer may:
- Qualify for a policy immediately after successful completion of their treatment
- Be reclassified into lower risk classes
- Be eligible for more favorable ratings – for example, guidelines for non-invasive breast cancer (ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS) have been revised to address a wider range of scenarios
“Our continued monitoring of medical advances fuels our underwriting guideline updates so that we remain current and aligned,” said Dr. Jacki Goldstein, head medical director, MassMutual. “If we can play even a small role in the peace of mind that comes from lessening the financial worries for someone diagnosed with breast cancer or any other ailment by insuring more people who need what we have to offer, we look for every opportunity to do just that.”
At the beginning of the year, MassMutual also significantly expanded its suite of employee benefits, which included an enhanced cancer care offering to employees. If an employee or dependent is diagnosed with cancer, they now have unlimited access to an oncology nurse who provides concierge-level service. This service helps the patient navigate the health care system to get the care needed and creates a customized support plan to help identify the right facilities, doctors and treatments.
Additionally, MassMutual introduced a new caregiver leave that provides employees with up to two weeks paid leave to care for a loved one who is suffering from a serious health condition. It is at the discretion of the employee to define who a “loved one” is and there is no requirement that the person be an immediate or extended family member. “When someone is diagnosed with cancer, getting the best care quickly is crucial, as well as cultivating a support system that will be there throughout the journey,” said Dr. Claudia Coplein, head of health and wellness, MassMutual. “Professionals and loved ones can play a tremendous role, both physically and emotionally, in the overall support and well-being of someone facing the evaluations, decisions, treatments, worries and stresses that can come with a cancer diagnosis.”
Importantly, while breast cancer is most common in females, approximately 1% of all breast cancer diagnoses in the U.S. occur in men. While that may not seem significant, this equates to more than 2,000 expected new cases among American men each year.
MassMutual also plans to announce favorable updates to its underwriting guidelines for individuals diagnosed with prostate cancer this fall.
NEW! (Oct. 31, 2019): MassMutual underwriting guidelines have also just been updated to reflect recent prognosis-based reclassifications for prostate cancer, resulting in more men with diagnoses being eligible for life insurance at more favorable ratings. Why is this important now? Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. About 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed during his lifetime with prostate cancer. In 2019, it is estimated that nearly 175,000 men will be diagnosed. (Source: cancer.org)