Finding Life Insurance for People with HIV

Joseph Meyer
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The Basics about Getting Life Insurance with HIV

The reality is that life insurance is an important part of a good financial plan, and your future health and medical treatment costs shouldn’t be the deciding factor in whether you buy life insurance.

While insurers are able to identify those that have HIV in their medical records (in compliance with HIPAA rules), the information isn’t necessarily required on the application or shared with the insurance company. However, you may still find an HIV-positive life insurance policy difficult to find.

If you do have HIV, it’s likely that you will have to pay higher premiums, or that you may require a higher level of health or medical treatment coverage. On the positive side, you may be rejected for insurance if your health is just too poor. It’s a bad thing for an HIV-positive person to find out only after they buy a policy.

Whether or not you require life insurance is a personal and financial decision, and it’s worth comparing all the options, including health and disability insurance, long-term care, and even life insurance.

Read this Consumer Reports article for more on the subject: “Insurance: Finding Life Insurance for People with HIV/AIDS (PDF).

Life Insurance Options to Consider

Finding life insurance for someone with HIV is not as difficult as you may think.

Even though medical underwriting is a limiting factor, it is easier to get a term life policy for someone with HIV than you may think. It is also easier to get term life insurance if you are HIV positive than to relocate your existing life insurance policy.

There are a few different types of policies: term life insurance, whole life insurance, and universal life insurance. Here’s a comparison of term and whole life insurance.

Term life insurance is the most flexible policy you can buy. Term insurance is designed to pay out a lump sum if the insured dies within a specified period of time, called the term.

Term life is often recommended for young people under 35. The annual premiums are generally cheaper than those for whole life policies, and the coverage can be used for a variety of different purposes.

On the other hand, you can buy a whole life insurance policy once. It pays out a lump sum upon death. After that, it can pay out dividends if you allow the policy to grow. A whole life policy is generally more expensive than a term life policy, but it can serve multiple purposes – you can use the life insurance as a retirement savings plan.

Underwriting Factors for HIV Positive People

Many insurance companies will not issue a policy to people with HIV but the perception and facts surrounding HIV have changed. The facts are that people with HIV are living more active lives than ever before. People living with HIV today are much more aware of their condition and take preventative measures. Today’s HIV meds are very effective in treating the HIV virus, and people living with HIV can expect a normal life span.

It is an unfortunate fact that there are some areas of the country that still do not accept people living with HIV, but that is changing. In my state, North Carolina, we have a Public School System that is completely integrated. A few years back there were complaints from parents and students that the schools were going to be forced to accept children living with HIV in schools.

Fortunately, the State officials took a look at what would happen if they revoked the right to attend school HIV Positive. In the years since the ruling individuals living with HIV would have no health care, and would be homeless, and could not work. The Public Schools would have to pay more in food stamps and other assistance to people living with HIV.

In the end the greater cost and no medical plan made it not financially responsible to force people living with HIV to attend school. So the ruling that people with HIV can attend school remains intact.

The bottom line is that if you are living with HIV you can move your life forward and find life insurance.

How advanced is the HIV disease?

The degree of impairment that is likely to occur as a result of an HIV infection varies widely. The risk of developing AIDS increases the longer a person has been infected with HIV.

More than 30% of those infected with HIV develop the AIDS related complex (ARC) between 3-10 years into having the infection. Up to 25% of people infected with HIV develop AIDS within 2-2½ years while up to 34% develop AIDS within 3 years of infection. With effective treatment, approximately 5-10% of people living with HIV will eventually die from AIDS.

According to the NIH, approximately half of people living with HIV in the United States have been diagnosed but only around 20% have been treated.

What is the life insurance applicant’s age?

Unfortunately, this is also one of the most common reasons that people with HIV have trouble finding affordable life insurance. Since HIV is a chronic illness that often requires ongoing medical care and treatment, the insurance company may also factor in the cost of medications and health care into the premiums you’ll have to pay. This can dramatically increase the amount you pay for your life insurance.

Also, the life insurance company will want to find out your current state of health. Whether or not you have HIV, you’ll need to undergo an exam at the doctor’s office and provide lab and test results to prove that you’re in good health. The good news is that most companies will only require you to take the exam once during the process.

What is the general health of the individual with HIV?

Life insurance is a financial product that you buy for yourself or for your family to ensure your financial future in the event that you should die. You pay a regular premium, and in the event of your death, the insurer will pay your beneficiaries a lump sum, defined benefit, or a monthly annuity.

Businesses usually purchase life insurance policies on their key employees to compensate for the financial costs of staff turnover, new management, accelerated expenses, or even lost profits if a key employee has unique technical expertise.

So how can someone with HIV get the best life insurance policy without discrimination? It pays to understand how HIV fits in the spectrum of health screenings.

One thing you need to talk to your provider about is whether you should be tested for HIV. If you are tested, your provider may place you into a high-risk pool, but that is not a guarantee. Some providers automatically place HIV-positive applicants into a high-risk pool; others do not. If you’re in the former, you pay a high rate. If you’re in the latter, you may not be eligible for a life insurance policy at all.

A good provider will be able to offer you the best advice about how HIV fits into your health picture:

Does the person have other serious medical conditions?

If the person does have other serious medical conditions, the cost of the policy would be higher due to the higher risk factors involved.

Is the patient undergoing treatment?

Is the patient in full remission? Once the answer to both questions is yes, following these few tips can help you find life insurance for HIV positive people:

  • Review the policy to make sure that the company will provide permanent life insurance. If the company does not provide permanent life insurance, then the policy is not for you.
  • Do not select the highest face amount possible, since the expenses are likely to increase. A three-year term policy is probably the best for the HIV positive person with a mild case. It should have hospital waiver benefits that will provide for the additional expenses of the HIV positive person when hospitalized.
  • Make sure the policy provides for the expenses for funeral and burial costs.
  • Be sure that the company’s rates are reasonable and competitive. Request a quote from several companies, and compare the rates.
  • If you currently have life insurance, but it does not provide for the added expenses of the HIV positive person, then you can add an endorsement to the policy. This will be a good idea if your primary policy is through your employer.

What if you Already Have Life Insurance

Unfortunately, finding life insurance for people with HIV can still be difficult. The main problem is that life insurance companies are not penalized for over-policing HIV-positive applicants, and they still believe that the virus is more contagious than it actually is. However, times are changing. As awareness surrounding this disease increases, so should potential for affordable life insurance for people with HIV.

The life insurance industry takes a conservative approach to medical review. When you apply for a life insurance policy, they may have you undergo a medical examination, including a blood test. This blood test analyzes your white blood cells to determine the amount of HIV in your system. Once they know your HIV status and what your risk factor might be, they will decide whether or not they will accept you for coverage.

Having HIV does not automatically disqualify you for life insurance but does make life insurance more expensive. Even though there are several factors that influence your application – your demographics, family history of disease, and lifestyle – the most significant factor is your HIV status.

The following guidelines can help you save money on life insurance in general and HIV life insurance in particular.

Why Buy Life Insurance if you have AIDS

Life Insurance can be one of the best ways to protect your family or others – such as a business partner – that depend on you financially. If you have Life Insurance, your loved ones or business partners will receive a lump sum of money, should you or another insured party die.

Other Considerations with a Life Insurance Policy

Before getting settled on a life insurance policy for someone with HIV, there are several factors to consider. Physicians use an insurance questionnaire to find out your health history.

A few questions about AIDS medications and test questions are included in the form.

If you are eligible for life insurance, your physician will write a letter and enclose it in your medical application.

The physician’s letter is a request for medical information regarding your HIV-positive condition. This letter will have to include the diagnosis, pertinent information such as the person or organization that will give benefits, and how the life insurance policy will work.

If the company has questions regarding the diagnosis or the physician’s letter, they will ask the physician directly or they will reroute the application to a claims examiner, the person who has been given the responsibility of reviewing the medical application. The examiner will then contact your physician or your insurance agent if needed.

It is a good idea to inform the company that you have HIV before you file. You can wave the examination of the application for the HIV infection and simply provide your physician’s letter.

For people with HIV, the medical information of the conditions does not change much from year to year. So, there are usually no complications if you have your information on file. It will increase the chances that you will not need to send any medical information with your annual application.