Most of us arrive at that point in our lives when we have people depending on us. When, if we suddenly left the picture, their needs might not be taken care of. That’s why it’s always a good idea to seek out and obtain life insurance.
Insurers will tell you that the best policies to obtain are medically underwritten. That is, their assumptions about your health are not based simply on demographics, or basic questions such as “Do you smoke?”, but rather on a detailed look at your medical history and physical condition. If you qualify for a medically underwritten policy, you’ll wind up paying lower premiums, generally, because the insurer has more confidence you won’t die before the term expires.
But medically underwritten policies come with a hitch: It’s not just your health they’re interested in. We all expect a physical exam to come with the territory, but why are there so many questions on the application about my immediate family’s medical history? Do I have to answer these questions?
While there are many things we can do to improve our own health, there is nothing we can do about genetics. That’s why it might seem unfair to many that an insurance application could result in higher premiums, or even be denied as a result of poor family medical history.
From the insurer’s point of view, though, this makes perfect sense. Many diseases have a hereditary component, meaning predisposition to them is inherited. Some of these diseases include:
alcohol and drug dependency
Motor Neuron Disease
While a family history of any of the above disorders does not guarantee that you will succumb to them as well, your risk of suffering from them is increased, subject to other factors. Calculating risk is central to the insurance business, so the subject of family history can’t be ignored.
This is why the application contains so many questions about the medical history of immediate family members (father, mother, brother, sister), prior to age 60. After age 60, insurance companies expect to see a higher rate of illness in all families, and this risk is factored into their policies. Some factors which can increase the risk even further include:
more than one relative was affected
the disease affecting your relative was specific to your gender, i.e. you are a woman, and the history is ovarian cancer
the diseases in your family occurred earlier than would be expected in the general population
the disease affected a gender it doesn’t normally, such as breast cancer in a male relative
certain recurring combinations of diseases, such as breast and ovarian cancer, or heart disease and diabetes
You might be in great shape, non-smoker, moderate drinker, exercising regularly and eating right. But your coverage could still be subjected to high premiums or denied altogether. It might not seem fair, but remember, insurance is a business. Insurance companies would go out of business very quickly if they didn’t identify and mitigate risk quickly and efficiently.
Lying or omitting information to obtain a life insurance policy is a very risky business. Insurance companies can access your medical records through the Medical Information Bureau. If you are found to have made a false application, coverage could be subject to higher premiums or denied altogether. If you die, and a payout is pending, the company can still investigate the accuracy of the original application. If they find you left important information out, your dependents may wind up with little or nothing. Don’t chance it.
If you were adopted, and honestly don’t know your hereditary medical history, disclose this to the agent. You’ll be judged on your own health, alone.
Not at all! The insurance industry is large, diverse, and competitive. Though all companies seek to mitigate risk, they use different standards from one to the other. Some companies are more comfortable with assuming hereditary risks than others. Some will only consider the medical history of your parents, rather than your siblings. The sort of history which might get you a “Standard” rating at one company, could get you a “Preferred” at another.
An insurance agent can help you navigate through the different policies and insurers to find the right policy for you. And remember: The most important factor in what sort of coverage you are offered remains your own health. If you have adverse family history, you’ll need to work on this area a little more diligently.
So, take good care of yourself, not only to increase your chances of getting coverage, but to increase your chances of beating heredity. Remember that heredity is not preordination. You are not doomed by the past to an unhealthy future. Just like insurance companies reduce their risks, so too can you. Take these steps to make yourself a more attractive candidate for a good policy:
avoid illegal drugs and avoid prescription dependency
drink only in moderation
minimize accidental risks by using seatbelts, and by wearing bicycle and motorcycle helmets
A poor family health history just means you’ll have to work a little harder to get the coverage you want. An insurance agent can help you navigate the different companies and their approaches, and get you the policy that’s right for you.