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Why Your Family’s Medical History Affects Your Life Insurance

Little boy on dads shoulder
Little boy on dads shoulder

There are many reasons an insurer may charge policyholders differently. Anything from a person’s age to their hobbies can affect their life insurance premium.  One of the biggest influences on the price of your policy is your health. But your own health isn’t the only thing that can affect prices. Your family’s medical history also affects how much your provider charges.

Life insurance works by estimating how long a person will make payments during their lifetime. Based on this estimate, a provider will estimate both a person’s coverage and their premium.

Before they hand out a policy, agents will do their best to calculate a potential risk. If a person dies and cashes out their policy too early, the company loses money. Even if a person is in excellent health, if a provider finds that the client’s family has a history of severe medical conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, or heart disease, they may charge higher premiums.

Because genetics play a significant role in your health, insurance underwriters usually like to get a good look at any medical conditions in a policyholder’s immediate family. Your parents’ and siblings’ needs indicate what health issues you might develop as you age, especially if the conditions are genetically linked. Some common medical problems insurers look out for include:

  • Kidney disease
  • Prostate cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Lung cancer
  • Skin cancer
  • Cardiovascular (heart) disease
  • Colon cancer
  • Alzheimer’s Disease 
  • Stroke
  • ALS

Many other hereditary conditions may affect your premium. If you’re worried about how your family history impacts your ability to get coverage, talk to an agent. They can give you a good idea of what they look out for. If you’re at risk for developing health conditions linked to certain kinds of behavior, such as diabetes and lung cancer, making changes to your lifestyle can show providers that you’re less of a risk.

Can Insurers Really Discriminate Based on My Family’s Medical History?

Insurance providers asking for you and your family’s medical history may come as a surprise. Though many laws prevent health insurance providers from charging based on a person’s pre-existing medical conditions, these do not apply to life insurance companies. While no provider can drop your coverage if you already have a policy, your family’s medical history may cause problems if you’re looking for a new plan.

Generally, life insurance is not considered a necessity in the same way as health insurance coverage. Though health and life insurance gamble on their policyholders, life insurance providers are allowed a lot of freedom when charging prices. Suppose a policyholder’s family has a high risk for developing a life-threatening condition. In that case, many companies will consider them a higher risk, charging more on premiums. 

Why Does Medical History Matter So Much?

Many studies show that genes affect how long a person lives. Siblings and other close family members tend to show similar signs of longevity

Besides predicting who will live past 100, your family’s medical history also predicts many medical conditions. Specific genetic markers can indicate anything from Alzheimer’s to diabetes. This is why big insurance companies spend so much time investigating you and your family’s medical history. However, if you can prove you don’t have the same markers for medical conditions, it can work in your favor.

Genetic Tests and Life Insurance

Many people today are familiar with genetic and DNA testing. Though insurance companies aren’t likely to look at your take-home ancestry kit, they will be interested in official clinical lab results. A doctor-ordered genetic test may be able to persuade an insurer not to overcharge. While your family’s medical history may sometimes predict medical problems, you are not just your genes.

Is My Family Medical History My Destiny? 

While your family’s medical history can play a role in your health, they are not the only factor. Your lifestyle, environment, and even individual variations in your genes also determine how long you’ll live. Not all insurance agencies overcharge policyholders for having a family member with poor health. A good life insurance underwriter will consider family history, healthy eating, exercise, and other individual habits.

How Much More Expensive Is My Premium?

Prices will vary depending on the insurer and what health conditions they consider high-risk. If your family has serious health concerns, your premium might increase between $5 – $20 more per month. Suppose you have multiple family members with the same condition, or numerous high-risk conditions show up in your family. In that case, you should expect your premiums to be on the higher end.

Whatever your family history, make sure you’re upfront with your provider. Not mentioning or lying about medical issues can put you at risk for insurance fraud. When underwriting a policy, your provider will have access to all your medical records and use them to find your family’s medical history. Unfortunately, only one state, Florida, has passed any legislation limiting life insurance providers from using genetic information for policy purposes.

Can I Get Insurance Without a Medical Exam?

Suppose your family has a history of severe health issues, and you’re worried about those affecting your premiums. In that case, there are some alternatives you can consider. Guaranteed issue plans skip over the medical questionnaire and the medical exam entirely, offering coverage to anyone who can pay. However, there are some downsides.

Overall, guaranteed issue policies are more limited than regular insurance. They often limit payouts to $2,000 – $10,000, only enough to cover final burial expenses. Even worse, some guaranteed issue plans will only give providers payouts after a policyholder pays their premiums for two years. If the policyholder dies before then, they won’t honor the policy. Even with all the limitations, these types of plans usually charge two to three times the regular insurance cost.
Before looking at alternative forms of insurance, determine how much your family’s medical history will affect your premiums. You can check this by reaching out to an agent or comparing quotes online through websites like Versured. Depending on the insurer, you might be able to secure a better rate than with a no exam policy.

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