Table of Contents
Table of Contents
- Life insurance plans may offer cash benefits to cover expenses related to COVID-19.
- There is no pandemic exclusion for life insurance, so claims cannot be denied based on a pandemic.
- Getting COVID-19 or having ongoing health issues could affect your ability to qualify for life insurance or the coverage amount.
- The pandemic has made it harder to get approved for life insurance, especially for those who had COVID-19 or are in high-risk categories.
- Life insurance companies will pay out death benefits for COVID-19 and getting the vaccine does not affect coverage.
The pandemic has raised questions about insurance coverage, especially for life insurance. Searches for "Does life insurance cover COVID?" and "Does life insurance cover pandemics?" yield over 1.2 billion and 500 million results, respectively.
People are now more motivated to ensure adequate insurance and financial protection for their families, but confusion and misinformation online have created further concerns about how life insurers handle COVID.
If you have questions about how COVID-19 affects life insurance coverage, here are some considerations.
Does Life Insurance Cover Any Costs Related to COVID-19?
While health insurance provides coverage for medical treatments, life insurance provides a death benefit to named beneficiaries after a policyholder dies. Some life insurance plans do offer cash benefits that could help to cover health care and other expenses should you become sick with COVID-19. Certain life insurance plans provide cash benefits for COVID-19-related healthcare and other expenses.
It's important to remember that loans or withdrawals from your policy's cash value may generate an income tax liability, and they will reduce the cash value and death benefit. Loans will also accrue interest.
Does Life Insurance Cover Pandemics?
Yes, life insurance does cover pandemics, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).1 The organization says "there is no pandemic exclusion for life insurance," so if you have an active policy that is in good standing, a life insurance company cannot deny your claim.
Does Getting COVID-19 Prevent People From Purchasing New Life Insurance?
Similar to other health conditions, getting COVID-19 could affect your ability to qualify for a life insurance policy and how much you pay in premiums.
Insurers look at several factors when determining whether to approve you for coverage and at what rate. These factors include things like your age, medical history, family health history, gender, whether you smoke and even where you live.
COVID-19 is within the top 3 of leading causes of death, and there have been ongoing reports about survivors experiencing long-haul symptoms after contracting the virus, such as permanent lung damage, severe headaches, cardiac issues and post-traumatic stress disorder.2,3 If you have ongoing health issues — regardless of whether or not they are related to COVID — this could affect your ability to qualify for a policy, the coverage amount you're approved for or your ability to qualify for life insurance altogether.
Is It Now Harder to Get Life Insurance Coverage Due to the Pandemic?
According to AARP, many life insurance companies have seen an increase in applications for life insurance.4
And because of the pandemic, getting a policy could be more difficult or it could take longer to get approved — especially if you've had COVID-19. This is also true if you're in a high-risk category or have recently traveled to a COVID hot spot.
High-risk individuals may include those with multiple comorbidities or organ transplant history. COVID hot spots are areas within or outside of the U.S. that have a high rate of COVID transmission.
Though policies vary by insurer, there have been reports of some insurers delaying application decisions or imposing a 30-day waiting period before someone can apply for coverage.5 A waiting period may also apply if someone tested positive for COVID but wasn't hospitalized. Some insurers have also asked applicants to provide additional medical records and other information to prove they are now negative of the virus and have fully recovered. Depending on the life insurance company, people who have traveled to a COVID hot spot may also have to wait until 30 days after they return home before they can apply for coverage.
If you're planning to apply for life insurance any time in the near future, you'll need to weigh all these considerations and likely apply for coverage before you travel to prevent potential delays during the application process.
Will a Life Insurance Company Still Pay if Someone Dies of COVID-19 ... Or a Vaccine for It?
There has been widespread misinformation about this topic online, particularly related to the vaccine. On social media, several users have even claimed that life insurance companies won't pay out death benefits if you get the vaccine.
This is completely false. Several states and industry groups have come out against these claims. The Wisconsin Department of Insurance and the Wisconsin Council of Life Insurers, for example, both issued statements debunking these myths.6 The council's president confirms that COVID-19 vaccination is not a reason for denying benefits.
There are also false claims that life insurers will deny benefits if you die of COVID-19. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), this isn't true.7 The organization also says it hasn't come across any insurance policy in its research that specifically denies death benefits due to infectious disease — COVID-19 included.
There are certain circumstances in which a life insurance company may deny coverage, but these situations are exceedingly rare. For example, if you failed to disclose on your application that you had COVID-19 or another health condition, or if you provided falsified medical records, then an insurer could have grounds not to pay out death benefits to your survivors. However, an insurer would have to discover any intentional falsehoods during the "contestability period," which typically lasts two years from the date the policy was purchased. If someone dies after this period ends, then an insurer won't be able to deny benefits if they discover the person lied on their application, according to the III.
This is an extreme case, but it's worth mentioning that the bar to be denied the death benefit is pretty high — regardless of COVID-19.
COVID-19 & Life Insurance: How to Get the Coverage You Need
Does life insurance cover COVID, and does life insurance cover pandemics? The answer to both is yes.
As industry experts have said, there are no exclusions in life insurance policies for pandemics or infectious diseases such as COVID-19.4 While it's understandable that many people would have these questions in the midst of a global pandemic, it's also important to separate fact from fiction so that people can get the coverage they need.
The pandemic has led to new considerations for insurers and individuals alike. Many people now feel an urgent need to get life insurance. The underwriting process has also changed a bit due to this ongoing public health crisis. It can take longer than usual for some applicants to get this coverage, and COVID has added a new element that insurers need to weigh as they make policy determinations. However, this doesn't mean insurers can deny benefits claims. If a policyholder dies of COVID-19 and their policy is in good standing, their beneficiaries will still receive the death benefit.
The Bottom Line
If you're considering getting a policy or have questions about your existing policy, reach out to your insurer and seek information from credible sources, such as your state's department of insurance or the NAIC. Though the pandemic has had some impact on the life insurance process, this coverage is too important to delay. Even if you have to provide additional information or answer additional questions to get a life insurance policy, it's well worth it.
- NAIC INSURANCE BRIEF COVID-19 AND INSURANCE. https://content.naic.org/sites/default/files/inline-files/Insurance%20Brief%20-%20Covid-19%20and%20Insurance.pdf.
- Leading Causes of Death. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm.
- COVID long-haulers: Questions patients have about symptoms. https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/covid-long-haulers-questions-patients-have-about-symptoms.
- AARP Answers: Your Insurance Coverage and the Coronavirus. https://www.aarp.org/money/budgeting-saving/info-2020/insurance-policies-during-coronavirus-faq.html.
- Global life insurers impose restrictions, worried about long-term pandemic risks. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-insurance/global-life-insurers-impose-restrictions-worried-about-long-term-pandemic-risks-idUSKBN29U0FC.
- Press Release, March 15, 2021, Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Confirms Getting Vaccinated Will Not Impact Life Insurance Policies. https://oci.wi.gov/Pages/PressReleases/20210315Vaccine%26LifeInsurance.aspx.
- ARE LIFE INSURERS DENYING BENEFITS FOR DEATHS RELATED TO COVID-19? https://www.iii.org/insuranceindustryblog/are-life-insurers-denying-benefits-for-deaths-related-to-covid-19/.