It looks like we’re not out of the woods yet, and may not be for a while. The coronavirus continues to hospitalize thousands every day, and new strains of the virus continue to appear. Drug manufacturers have said we may need an annual vaccine to protect against COVID-19, much like a once-per-year flu shot.
Because of the coronavirus, many people have not only inquired about how their health insurance covers the virus, but questions concerning life insurance have also crossed many people’s minds as well.
- If I die from COVID-19, am I covered?
- Will life insurers still issue me a new policy during these uncertain times?
- How have life insurance companies responded to COVID-19?
- Does the coronavirus make it more crucial that I have life insurance?
In this article, we’ll address those questions and more.
The good news is “yes.” Your claim would be paid if you were to die due to having COVID-19, much as it would for any disease or illness, such as complications of diabetes or dying from pneumonia caused by having the flu.
Your life insurance policy is a legal and binding agreement between you and the insurance company. In your policy, they name specific exclusions that would preclude them from paying a claim, such as dying while participating in an insurrection or death while committing a felony.
That being said, there are a couple of instances where a life insurance company might contest a claim:
- If someone didn’t disclose on their application that they had been infected with COVID-19
- If someone recently visited a region with a heavy outbreak, like India, before applying for a life insurance policy and didn’t disclose it
Misstatements on a life insurance application can be grounds for denying a claim, such as giving an incorrect date of birth. Honesty is always the best policy, and that includes when applying for life insurance.
When your life insurance policy goes through the underwriting process, and the answers to the health history questions on the application are reviewed by the underwriter, they will be checking to see what you disclosed about having had COVID-19. If you have had it, it’s quite likely that the insurance company will request your medical records from your doctor to see the severity of your case and the long-term prognosis.
Because of your bout with the coronavirus, it may take longer to get a decision on your application, and it’s possible that you could be accepted but charged a higher premium than you were initially quoted. All of this is subject to change as life insurers continue to adjust to mortality rates.
Some life insurance companies have also made it easier to obtain life insurance by suspending medical exams for applicants because of social distancing policies. Paramedics that come to your home or office to examine you for the issuance of an insurance policy are healthcare workers, and insurance companies have taken this step for their protection.
Though underwriting may be a bit tougher during the pandemic, many life insurance companies have stepped up and made adjustments to help people during a very stressful and uncertain time.
These are a few of the ways major life insurance companies have responded to the pandemic:
- MetLife/Brighthouse Financial issued a directive that people having group life insurance through their employer and got furloughed or temporarily laid off would have their life insurance coverage extended for 12 months as long as they continue paying premiums, and their policy would have no limitations on paying out a claim related to COVID-19. Typically, group life insurance coverage isn’t something you still have if you're furloughed or laid off.
- Northwestern Mutual offers people a 90-day grace period, instead of the standard 30-day grace period, during which policyholders can postpone their premium payments while still being able to submit a claim. Insureds can then add an additional 90 days to reinstate their policy. This benefit applies to individual term and whole life policies, as well as group life insurance.
- MassMutual has made a very generous policy of offering free three-year term life insurance policies to frontline workers at a high risk of exposure, such as first responders and in-hospital personnel.
- Prudential and several other life insurance companies have let their policyowners know that they have a hotline for COVID-19 related questions.
The life insurance industry has generously responded during the pandemic with changes like these, much like they did after 9/11 when life insurers paid death benefits to families even though acts of war or terrorism are excluded on life insurance policies.
The coronavirus has heightened people’s awareness of their mortality and the need for health, disability, and life insurance coverage. The benefit of having life insurance hasn’t changed because of the pandemic; if you have anyone that would suffer financially if you died, life insurance coverage is a must-have.
If you’re providing financial support to a spouse, children, parents, or anyone else who would be negatively impacted by your death financially, you should have enough life insurance to replace that support for as long as your loved ones need it.
If no one depends on you financially, for example, you’re single or an unmarried student, you probably don’t need life insurance at this point in your life if you have enough assets to cover the cost of your final expenses, including medical and burial expenses. A term life insurance policy would be a good choice.
It’s probably too early to know for sure, but if people that have had COVID-19 show adverse long-term effects on their health, such as respiratory disorders, underwriting, and the pricing of policies may be affected.
In summary, since you’ve read this article, now is a good time for you to evaluate your existing life insurance coverage to make sure the amount you have is adequate. If you don’t currently have life insurance coverage, either through an employer or an individual policy, you should consider buying a term life insurance policy. Term life is relatively inexpensive and will provide you with the peace of mind that comes from protecting your loved ones from a financial catastrophe.
Having grown up in upstate New York, Bob Phillips spent over 15 years in the financial services world and has been making freelance writing contributions to blogs and websites since 2007. He resides in North Texas with his wife and Doberman puppy.
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