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

You may have limited options for disability insurance if you're living with HIV and AIDS, but that doesn't mean you can't get any coverage.

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Amanda ShihEditor & Licensed Life Insurance ExpertAmanda Shih is a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert and a former editor at Policygenius, where she covered life insurance and disability insurance. Her expertise has appeared in Slate, Lifehacker, Little Spoon, and J.D. Power.

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Disability insurance can replace your income while you’re suffering from an illness or injury and can’t work. Unfortunately, most disability insurers are unlikely to offer full coverage to people living with certain pre-existing conditions, including HIV and AIDS.

If you are able to purchase private disability insurance, you may have to accept lower amounts of coverage or pay higher premiums. But even if you're declined, you have other options: You may still be eligible for disability insurance under your employer’s group disability insurance plan, or you can apply for Social Security disability insurance.

Private disability insurance coverage for people with HIV

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 high incomes to replace.

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. They will keep your medical information and HIV status confidential while you choose a policy to fit your needs.

Disability insurance coverage for high-risk communities

Some at-risk groups 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 contract HIV or AIDS. 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. 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.

Purchasing early can be especially beneficial for LGBTQ+ 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, 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.

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Group disability insurance for people with HIV

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.

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.

Social Security disability insurance for people with HIV

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 can offer important financial support.

To qualify for SSDI, simply living with HIV is not enough. You have to show that 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.