Life insurance for recovering alcoholics

Recovering alcoholics won’t qualify for most life insurance policies until their third year of sobriety. The lowest rates are only available until you’ve been sober for 10 years or more.

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Amanda Shih

Amanda Shih

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Amanda 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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In a recent study, more than 61 million U.S. adults were classified as binge drinkers and over 17 million as heavy drinkers based on their alcohol consumption over the last 30 days. [1] But having an alcohol addiction can make it more difficult for you to buy life insurance for up to a decade after your final drink.

Because of the medical conditions associated with excessive alcohol use, many providers decline coverage or significantly increase premiums for recovering alcoholics during their first 10 years of sobriety. Here’s how recovering alcoholics can secure a policy to protect their loved ones. 

Key takeaways

  • Recovering alcoholics can be declined life insurance up to three years after their last drink.

  • Recent or multiple DUI convictions will lead to automatic application declines.

  • Seeking treatment or counseling may help you get better rates.

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How much does life insurance cost for recovering alcoholics?

The cost of life insurance is calculated by how risky you are to insure. If you’re less healthy or have a riskier lifestyle, you’ll receive a less favorable insurance classification and higher premiums. 

Summary

  • Three to four years sober: Substandard (highest) rates

  • Five to nine years sober: Standard rates

  • Ten or more years sober: Preferred or Preferred Plus (lowest) rates

Recovering alcoholics will get Substandard rates or be declined coverage after three or four years of sobriety and get Standard rates after five years or more, according to Policygenius data from February 2022. 

Here’s how much a 35-year-old might pay monthly for a $500,000, 20-year policy in different classifications:

Table 8 (Substandard)

Standard

Preferred

Female

$111.17

$38.69

$25.18

Male

$135.25

$46.54

$29.97

Methodology: Average rates are based on term life insurance policies for 35-year-old male and female non-smokers in a Table 8, Standard, and Preferred health classification as of 2/01/2022. This calculation is a composite of the 10 carriers that offer policies through Policygenius, including AIG, Banner, Brighthouse, Lincoln, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, SBLI, and Transamerica.

To be considered for Preferred or Preferred Plus rates, you need to be sober for 10 years or more. You may be considered for a better insurance classification if you’ve sought treatment for your alcohol abuse, such as counseling or entering a rehab facility.

Why does alcohol use affect life insurance rates?

Alcohol use makes you a riskier life insurance applicant because excessive drinking increases the chances you’ll injure yourself or others while intoxicated. It can also cause serious health issues, including: [2]

The CDC defines excessive drinking as binge drinking or heavy drinking:

  • Binge drinking: Four drinks (women) or five drinks (men) during a single occasion

  • Heavy drinking: Eight drinks (women) or 15 drinks (men) during a single occasion

If you have a recent DUI/DWI conviction on your motor vehicle report, it’ll be even harder to find life insurance coverage. Most providers won’t offer you a policy until at least five years after your conviction.

How do life insurance companies test for alcohol use? 

If you have a few drinks per day, your insurer probably won’t be too concerned about your alcohol consumption. Life insurance companies want to know if your drinking could cause health issues or dangerous behaviors.

During the underwriting process, you usually take a medical exam with routine blood and urine testing for substance abuse and share past medical records.

Blood tests will identify carbohydrate-deficient transferrin (CDT), [3] a common sign of heavy alcohol consumption — defined as about five drinks per day in this test — in the previous two weeks. 

You’ll also be asked questions about whether you drink or use any other substances and how often. Other questions could include:

  • If you are not currently a drinker, when was the last time you consumed alcohol?

  • Do you have any history of excessive drinking?

  • Have you ever received alcohol-related counseling?

  • Have you participated in inpatient or outpatient alcohol treatment?

  • Have you been sober since your last treatment?

  • Have you ever had a DUI/DWI?

Answer these questions honestly. If you lie, your application could be declined and you may have trouble buying coverage in the future. 

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How can recovering alcoholics get life insurance? 

If you currently have an alcohol addiction, you should seek treatment in addition to buying life insurance. Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous can provide support that will be valuable for your recovery.

If you are a recovering alcoholic, you will face some hurdles when buying a life insurance policy, like higher premiums and longer application processing to ensure a thorough medical history review. You’re not completely out of options if you don’t qualify for a traditional policy yet:

  • Group life insurance: Many employers offer subsidized life insurance to employees that doesn’t require any health information for approval. Coverage may be limited and you’ll lose the policy if you change jobs.

  • Final expense insurance: If you don’t qualify for traditional life insurance, final expense policies offer coverage up to $40,000 for those 45 years and older, but at high premiums.

  • Reapply in the future: Insurers are more likely to consider you for their best rates after you’ve been sober for 10 or more years. Get some coverage now and shop for a new policy or ask for a rate reconsideration after you hit this milestone.

Buying life insurance as a recovering alcoholic can be more involved than the process for someone with no addiction history, but it’s not impossible. It helps to know what challenges you might face. A Policygenius agent can help you find the best policy for your family’s needs.

Frequently asked questions

Can you get life insurance if you’re a recovering alcoholic?

Recovering alcoholics can buy life insurance only after three years of sobriety and will pay much higher rates than people with no history of alcohol addiction.

How do life insurance companies measure alcohol consumption?

Many insurers define heavy drinking as more than three drinks per day. They will also review your health for alcohol-related conditions and blood test for indicators of heavy drinking.

How long do you have to be sober to get life insurance?

You need to be sober for three years or more before you can qualify for most life insurance policies. You’ll be eligible for the best rates after 10 years of sobriety.

References

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Policygenius uses external sources, including government data, industry studies, and reputable news organizations to supplement proprietary marketplace data and internal expertise. Learn more about how we use and vet external sources as part of our

editorial standards.
  1. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

    (SAMHSA). "

    Highlights for the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health

    ." Accessed February 17, 2022.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    (CDC). "

    Alcohol Use and Your Health

    ." Accessed February 17, 2022.

  3. Medical University of South Carolina

    . "

    %dCDT Frequently Asked Questions

    ." Accessed May 07, 2021.

Author

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

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Amanda 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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