Can you get disability insurance if you’re HIV-positive?

People living with HIV and AIDS may have limited options for disability insurance, but that doesn't mean they can't get coverage at all.

Zack Sigel


Zack Sigel

Zack Sigel

Managing Editor

Zack Sigel is a managing editor at Policygenius who oversees our mortgages, taxes, loans, banking, and investing verticals.

Published October 18, 2018|4 min read

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Disability insurance can replace your income while you’re suffering from an illness or injury and can’t work. These monthly benefit payments can be used for almost anything, from paying your medical expenses to making mortgage payments.

If you’re HIV-positive, it may be possible for you to purchase disability insurance, but you may have to accept lower amounts of coverage or pay higher premiums. Unfortunately, that’s because most disability insurers refuse to cover people living with certain pre-existing conditions, including HIV and AIDS.

But you’re not completely out of options. You may still be eligible for disability insurance under your employer’s group disability insurance plan, if one is offered. You can also apply for Social Security disability insurance, which pays monthly benefits just like commercial disability insurance, although in smaller amounts.

Read on:

Disability insurance coverage for HIV-positive people

While standard policies may be unavailable, there are two ways that people living with HIV and AIDS can get disability insurance coverage.

Simplified-issue disability insurance

When you apply for disability insurance, you’ll have to take a medical exam during the underwriting phase of your application. The presence of HIV or AIDS will be detected in the blood or urine test.

A simplified-issue policy skips the medical exam. However, you’ll still have to answer a questionnaire about your health, and one of the questions on it will likely ask about your HIV status. Lying about this information could cause your claim for benefits to be denied if you become disabled.

If your insurer does approve your application, you may only be offered limited amounts of coverage, and you may have to pay more for it than a person in good health would. However, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get to skip the medical exam if the insurer believes your health profile is too risky.

High-risk disability insurance

Some insurers offer disability insurance to people with HIV, but only under a high-risk policy. Such policies are much more expensive than a conventional disability insurance policy, but they may be an important part of your financial plan. People in higher-income careers, like lawyers or doctors, may especially benefit from such a policy, since they may have large student loan bills to pay and expensive standards of living.

If you’re living with HIV and need disability insurance, but don’t think you can get enough coverage from a simplified-issue policy, a licensed representative at Policygenius can help you navigate your options. He or she will keep your medical information and HIV status confidential while you choose a policy to fit your financial situation.

Coverage for HIV-positive people through a group policy

Many employers offer disability insurance as part of the employee benefits package. Group insurance policies may be either short-term or long-term disability insurance, and both types of coverage may pay benefits for pre-existing conditions. These are guaranteed-issue policies, meaning that you get covered as long as you’re part of the group.

Nevertheless, check your policy to be certain. Sometimes, disabilities caused by certain pre-existing conditions, including HIV and AIDS, will be excluded from coverage. In other cases, you may have coverage for disabilities caused by HIV and AIDS but only if you’ve worked for the company for a predetermined period of time, usually one year.

Five states require employers to provide short-term disability insurance: California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. Puerto Rico also mandates such coverage.

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Disability insurance can be an important part of your financial plan, but make sure you choose a carrier that understands your condition.

Social Security disability insurance

If you can’t get coverage from a private company, you may be eligible to receive Social Security disability insurance (SSDI). The SSDI program has a low acceptance rate and may pay only a small benefit amount, but it could be an important bit of financial scaffolding.

To qualify for SSDI, simply being infected by HIV is not enough. You have to show that you can no longer do any “substantial gainful activity”, which means you can’t earn an annual income above a certain amount established by the Social Security Administration. If you’ve been successful in treating your condition and don’t need to miss work, you may not qualify for SSDI.

However, if your condition becomes severe, you should apply for SSDI as soon as you have to leave your job. Qualifying applicants can also receive Medicare coverage as part of their benefits.

How at-risk communities can get coverage for HIV and AIDS

Some at-risk groups, like gay and bisexual men and trans women, have an elevated risk of contracting HIV. Members of these communities should look into purchasing disability insurance as early as possible. If you already have coverage, and your policy is guaranteed renewable, then your coverage will continue even if you become infected. When you purchase coverage, make sure it does not have an exclusion for HIV and AIDS.

If you need disability insurance, the earlier you purchase, the better. For one, if you lock in your premiums when you’re younger and have a non-cancelable policy, you’ll pay the same rate throughout your working life.

But purchasing early can be especially beneficial for LGBT people. That’s because some insurers will reject your application if you’re using pre-exposure prophylaxis (PReP) to prevent HIV. While this may seem counterintuitive – why penalize customers who are trying to reduce risk? – insurers have been slow to revise their underwriting guidelines to account for PReP. If you’re planning to begin PReP, try to get insured before you start taking the medication.