It wasn’t that long ago when individuals who were HIV-positive could forget about getting life insurance. It’s interesting, however, that the folks who understand the need for life insurance the most, either face stiff challenges buying it or can’t get it at all.
The good news is that the life insurance industry has opened up somewhat for individuals who have tested positive for HIV.
Easy Article Navigation
- Can people living with HIV get Life Insurance?
- How HIV affects Life Insurance Premium
- The Application Process for HIV Positive Applicants
- What are the Underwriting Factors?
- Life Insurance Options
- Best Life Insurance Companies for Applicants with HIV
- Frequently Asked Questions
HIV in the United States
The facts and statistics regarding people in the U.S. living with HIV are staggering when compared to many other life-threatening diseases. In fact, according to HIV.gov, currently one in seven people in the U.S. are living with HIV and may be unaware of their infection. Here’s the current data:
- About 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV. Of that 1.2 million, approximately 14% don’t know they have the disease and should be tested.
- HIV still has the greatest impact on racial minorities, especially gay and bisexual men.
- Over 36,000 new infections of HIV occurred in the U.S. in 2018.
- In 2018, about 38,000 people were diagnosed with HIV in the United States which is 7% less than the diagnosed cases in 2014.
- Currently, the geographic area where new diagnoses are discovered is in the southern states.
- 15,280 people (adults and adolescents) died with HIV in the U.S. in 2018.
Can People Living with HIV Get Life Insurance?
Because many people living with HIV are living a fairly long and normal life, many life insurers are willing to offer coverage to applicants who are HIV positive.
However, be prepared to provide additional information during the underwriting process and, in most cases, be prepared to pay a higher rate when the policy is issued.
For example, Guardian life currently offers whole life and term insurance policies for applicants living with HIV.
Keep in mind that policies are offered on a case-by-case basis after the underwriter has a complete picture of an applicant’s health situation and is provided evidence that all necessary steps are being taken to manage the disease.
Other highly-rated life insurance companies offering coverage to HIV positive applicants are:
- Guardian Life
- John Hancock
- American Amicable
- American National
How HIV Affects Life Insurance Premiums
Although several life insurers are willing to consider applicants who are HIV positive, most will not offer traditional life insurance policies like Term or Universal life during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It’s also important to note that companies who normally offer traditional life insurance to applicants who’ve been diagnosed with HIV typically will not consider an applicant that was diagnosed less than a year before applying for coverage.
Moreover, your life insurance rates will be predicated on underwriting guidelines which are used to determine which rate class an applicant qualifies for.
Most insurance companies offer several rate classes with the preferred plus having the lowest rates and standard smoker being one of the highest.
The most common rate classes that life insurers will offer are:
- Preferred Plus
- Standard Plus
- Standard Smoker
- Substandard (Table Rated)
No matter how well an applicant is managing his or her HIV, a person who is healthy and doesn’t have HIV is going to be offered lower rates than an applicant diagnosed with HIV.
Life Insurance Application Process for HIV Positive Individuals
Although several companies will consider a life insurance policy for an HIV-positive applicant, the underwriting process is similar for all of them.
When an applicant applies for life insurance and discloses their HIV-positive status, the company will require a supplement to the standard application that effectively drills down into the nature of the diagnosis and the treatment plan devised to manage the disease.
The typically required information will include but not limited to the following:
- The date of the diagnosis
- Current CD4 count and viral load
- Are there any other medical conditions in addition to HIV?
- What medications are prescribed and the dosage of each
- Are you currently symptomatic and were you ever symptomatic?
Rest assured that once the HIV-positive diagnosis is disclosed, the application process will take longer, since medical records and physician statements will be ordered as well as reports from any in-patient facilities where you, as an applicant, may have received treatment.
However, if you elect to purchase final expense insurance (whole life insurance with a low coverage amount) or Guaranteed Issue life insurance (no medical underwriting), the application process will be reduced from weeks and months to just a matter of days.
Underwriting Factors for HIV Positive People
Underwriting a life insurance policy is a method to calculate the mortality risk each applicant presents to the insurance company. When an applicant discloses that they are HIV positive, the insurance carrier will order many tests and reports to determine the risk to the insurer.
HIV positive applicants should expect the underwriter to inquire into at least five areas concerning the HIV diagnosis:
The Stage of the Disease
There are three stages associated with HIV.
- Acute HIV Infection – Acute HIV Infection is considered the early stage of the infection and extends from 2 to 4 weeks from the initial infection while the body produces antibodies to be detected by the standard HIV antibody test. During this period the disease is very infectious because of the speed at which the virus is multiplying.
- Chronic HIV Infection – During the Chronic HIV Infection stage the level of HIV increases while the number of CD4 cells decreases. When the level of CDR cells goes down, it indicates that the patient is experiencing increasing damage to the immune system, and ART (Antiretroviral therapy) is prescribed to help stop the virus from destroying the immune system and leading to AIDS.
- AIDS – Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is the most advanced stage of HIV. This diagnosis is determined when the patient with HIV has an AIDS-defining condition and/or a CD4 count that is lower than 200 cells/mm.
The age of the Applicant
Although underwriting guidelines vary by insurance company, the carriers who will consider an HIV positive applicant require that the applicant be no older than 50-years-old.
The Overall Health of the HIV Positive Applicant
Rarely does an HIV-positive applicant present with only the HIV diagnosis, so the underwriter will inquire about any other health conditions, both currently and historically.
Most underwriters will also be concerned about any lifestyle issues that might be disclosed on the application and whether the applicant is well enough to hold down a job and take care of the activities of daily living.
Is the Applicant following a Treatment Plan prescribed by a Physician?
Even though an HIV-positive applicant cannot be cured of the virus, the underwriter will request evidence that the applicant is managing the illness by taking the prescribed antiretroviral medications and regularly having CD4 levels checked. Antiretrovirals are showing very promising results that treatment will slow or even stop the virus from becoming full-blown AIDS.
What if You are Diagnosed with HIV After Taking out a Policy?
If a policyholder is diagnosed with HIV after a policy is issued, the insurance carrier will honor the terms and conditions of the policy.
However, life insurance policies generally include a 2-year contestability period which allows the insurer to delay paying a claim for death from natural causes during that period while they investigate the underwriting process and answers you provided on the life insurance application.
If the insurer discovers that the policyholder withheld or omitted any medical information on the insurance application, they will likely refuse to pay the claim and will return the premium paid to the insured’s estate.
Most insurance professionals consider the contestability period as a clear threat that an applicant should not lie, withhold information, or omit information on the insurance application.
Life Insurance Options
There are several options for obtaining life insurance if an applicant is unable to qualify for traditional life insurance because of an HIV diagnosis.
Final Expense Insurance
Final expense insurance, which is generally purchased to cover funeral and burial expenses, may be a very good alternative. Since final expense insurance is targeted at seniors, the insurance companies have already liberalized the underwriting guidelines to accommodate seniors who may have one or health issues.
The drawback with final expense insurance is that most companies will only offer it to applicants age 50 or higher and since it is whole life insurance, the rates are much higher than term life insurance.
Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance
Since insurance companies do not consider an applicant’s health or health history in the underwriting process, virtually anyone who is of eligible age, not in long-term care or hospice facility, and living, will qualify for guaranteed issue life insurance.
The drawbacks of a guaranteed issue are that since the insurance company is accepting an unknown health risk, the insurer will place the following restrictions on the policy:
- A cap on the death benefit of $25,000 to $35,000
- A two-year waiting period on paying the full benefit for death resulting from natural causes.
- Extremely higher premiums than traditional term life insurance
Simplified Issue Life Insurance
Simplified issue policies generally do not require a medical exam but they still have many medical questions on the application.
Some companies will issue a policy to an HIV-positive applicant but the majority of companies will not.
Additionally, the premiums for simplified issue life insurance are typically much higher than traditional term life insurance when there are medical issues presented.
Term Life Insurance
Although term life insurance is priced much lower than other types of coverage, some companies will consider an applicant that is HIV positive as long as a treatment plan has been implemented and being adhered to by the applicant. And the CD4 levels are acceptable to the underwriter.
Employer-based Group Life Insurance
If an HIV-positive applicant cannot qualify for traditional life insurance or is too young to purchase guaranteed issue life insurance, he or she should see if their employer offers group life insurance.
If so, a policy should be purchased as soon as possible because group life insurance policies do not consider medical underwriting in order to issue a policy.
Although coverage is generally capped at a multiple of two or three times your salary and the coverage is not portable, group life insurance is a solid solution for buying coverage when you cannot get it elsewhere.
Voluntary Life Insurance from Your Employer
Many employers offer voluntary insurance products like life insurance, disability insurance, and critical and chronic illness plans.
Not only is voluntary life insurance very affordable, most insurance companies that offer voluntary life insurance also have little to no medical underwriting requirements.
This means an employee can purchase life insurance at very affordable rates and qualify for coverage that they couldn’t get in a traditional life insurance policy.
Critical Illness Insurance
This is an insurance policy that typically pays out a lump sum if the applicant is diagnosed with a covered critical illness.
Although there are medical underwriting requirements, the requirements are fairly liberal and as such, an HIV-positive applicant has a good chance of qualifying for coverage
Best Life Insurance Companies for People Living with HIV
Although there are hundreds of life insurance companies operating in the United States, only a select group will consider an HIV-positive applicant for coverage.
The companies that do will have strict underwriting guidelines. But applicants who can demonstrate that they are on a regimented treatment plan and are managing the virus have a good shot of finding life insurance coverage at affordable rates.
Guardian Life a is highly rated life insurer that offers Term and Whole Insurance to individuals who have been diagnosed HIV positive as long as they meet the required underwriting criteria:
- Self-identify as an individual living with HIV
- Be on highly active antiretroviral therapy for at least two years and demonstrate favorable lab results
- Not have had an AIDS-defining illness
- Be between ages 20 and 60
- Under the care of a doctor specializing in HIV
American Amicable is another highly-rated life insurer that will consider applicants who are HIV positive as long as the applicant meets the following requirements:
- Evidence of excellent compliance with Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) for at least 6 months
- Excellent follow-up and compliance with physician(s)
- Stable, undetectable viral load
- CD4 count greater than or equal to 500
- No history of AIDS or AIDS-defining condition in the last 5 years
- No co-infection with Hepatitis B or C
- No ratable cardiovascular impairment
- No other impairment that exceeds a Table 4 rating
- No history of substance abuse or misuse
Applicants must be age 20 to age 60 and the face amounts available are $250,000 to $500,000.
Probably one of the most recognized names in the life insurance industry, John Hancock will consider HIV positive applicants who demonstrate that they are serious about managing their virus and meet certain underwriting guidelines:
- Applicant must be between the ages of 30 to 65
- Must self-admit HIV positive status
- Monitored by a qualified physician
- CD4 count of 350 cells/mm^3 or higher for at least 2 years, including current CD4 count.
- Current and previous 2-year viral loads must be undetectable
Applicants who are otherwise in very good health and are positively responding to an HIV treatment program have a good chance of getting traditional coverage at an affordable rate.
AIG, one of the largest life insurers which operates globally, has established itself as a leading provider of guaranteed issue (guaranteed acceptance) life insurance.
Although considered a “life insurance policy of last resort”, Guaranteed Issue life insurance is a solid solution for applicants who cannot medically qualify for traditional life insurance.
The underwriting is minimal and straightforward. No medical questions and no medical exams. The applicant need only qualify for the eligible age group of 50 – 85 years old and not confined in a long-term care or hospice facility.
- $5,000 to $25,000 death benefit
- 2-year waiting period for the full death benefit for death from natural causes
- Modified death benefit during the waiting period is 110% of premiums paid
Frequently Asked Questions
Can people living with HIV get life insurance?
Several insurers offer traditional life insurance for HIV-positive applicants who demonstrate that they are properly managing the disease. A few companies offer guaranteed issue policies for applicants between age 50 and 85.
Do life insurance companies test for HIV?
When applying for fully-underwritten life insurance (medical exam required), the blood drawn will be tested for a variety of antibodies including HIV.
Do companies charge higher life insurance premiums for people with HIV?
Since life insurance rates are based on primarily on age and health, an applicant with HIV presents a higher risk and as such, the applicant will be charged a higher premium than a person without HIV.
Can you get life insurance through your employer if you have HIV?
If your employer offers group life insurance, the policy is not typically underwritten so your HIV status does not have to be disclosed.
How much does life insurance with HIV cost?
With any life insurance product, the rates are based on the health classification of the applicant. Individuals who are shopping for life insurance with HIV will pay more for their life insurance than an individual without HIV.