Among the many contemplative moments brought on by weeks of pandemic-induced isolation, you might be asking yourself whether you should get life insurance—or whether your existing policy covers death due to the coronavirus.
Sure, your family may be driving you batty as you all try to occupy the a single bubble of personal space for an uncertain amount of time, but you still want to know they’ll be taken care of in the event of a worst-case scenario.
I spoke with Nicholas Mancuso, senior operations manager at insurance comparison site Policygenius, to about the process of getting or maintaining life insurance during the coronavirus pandemic.
Know that you’re certainly not the only one with questions: Mancuso said there’s been a marked increase in interest around life insurance policies at Policygenius, although the company hasn’t been tracking whether that’s specifically due to coronavirus concerns.
Here’s what you need to know—just keep in mind that we’re talking only about term life insurance, which covers you for a certain number of years, and not any other life insurance product.
Whether you’re interested in getting a new life insurance policy or you already have coverage, you can be sure of one thing: if you die from the coronavirus, the benefits for your policy will still be valid.
“There are exclusions for large scale acts of war and things like that. But illnesses and pandemics are not verbatim excluded on policies,” Mancuso said. “If you were to pass away from the coronavirus, that policy would pay out.”
Life insurance carriers typically ask if you’ve traveled in the past few years and if you plan to travel shortly after your policy begins, because they want to be aware if any of your far-flung destinations are high-risk due to a localized outbreak of an illness. If that’s the case, they may delay finalizing your policy to ensure you don’t contract the illness.
That line of questioning applies to the coronavirus, too: “A lot of the carriers are putting [in] exclusions for traveling to high-risk areas,” Mancuso said, explaining that Italy, for example, is one of them. “The carriers would probably postpone any type of offer for you until you have been home for a significant amount of time and it’s shown that you are asymptomatic.”
Granted, if you live just about anywhere in the U.S. right now, you’re probably in an area with heightened risk for the coronavirus. That potential exposure won’t prevent you from getting coverage, but you need to be confident you’re in good health when you apply.
Yep–that part of the life insurance application process where someone asks you a bunch of questions about your health and takes a blood sample is still happening.
If your policy requires a medical exam, a medical professional will visit you at home to perform a basic health exam—clad in a mask and gloves, of course. You won’t be tested for the coronavirus during this visit, but the examiner will be on the lookout for coronavirus symptoms—and carriers will also ask you specific questions about symptoms even before sending someone to your home.
If you live in an area where any sort of contact is discouraged—or you don’t feel comfortable having someone come to your home—you can still get life insurance by shopping for a non-medical or accelerated underwriting option. There’s a health questionnaire involved, but no in-person visit. If you’re approved, it’ll be for a smaller benefit than you could get from a standard policy: typically between $500,000 and a million. Once physical distancing restrictions have been lifted, you’ll have options to increase the value of your benefit, either by switching to a standard policy or by adding supplemental coverage.
Whichever route you take, be aware that every policy has a contestability period that usually lasts about two years. That means if you lie on your health questionnaire, the insurance company may decide you committed fraud and bar your family from receiving your benefit.
If you’re researching life insurance options right now, you won’t see a spike in premium costs due to the coronavirus, Mancuso said. That’s because life insurance rates are regulated by actuarial tables that estimate your risk based on a multitude of factors. Insurance companies must register their rate tables with the states where they do business. Mancuso said that while rates can fluctuate due to factors like increased longevity, sheer demand doesn’t play much of a role.
If you want to get an idea of what you might pay per year for life insurance, ValuePenguin has a comprehensive guide that breaks it down by age and benefit level. Experts usually recommend getting a policy valued at 10-15 times your annual salary.
The life insurance underwriting process usually takes three to eight weeks while a carrier walks you through the application process and determines your level of risk. If you apply for accelerated underwriting, it may take less time.
One change to note during the pandemic is that some insurance carriers are waiving what’s called conditional receipt—the temporary coverage they offer while you’re going through the approval process. That means while you’re getting approved during the coronavirus pandemic, you won’t have that temporary coverage. You also may need to sign a good health statement saying your condition has not changed between first applying for a policy and finalizing and p