Does life insurance cover coronavirus?

Shopping for life insurance may be complicated by the coronavirus, but everyone still has options. If you’re already covered, the death benefit will be paid to your family if you pass away from a pandemic illness.

Nupur Gambhir

Nupur Gambhir

Published May 14, 2020

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  • Life insurance policies already in place likely won’t see any changes due to a pandemic like COVID-19

  • People applying for life insurance policies during a pandemic should be completely honest about any past or future travel plans, otherwise their policy may be invalidated

  • There are life insurance options available for everyone and an independent broker like Policygenius is the best way to find the right life insurance policy for you

Life insurance offers financial protection for your loved ones in the event that you die unexpectedly.

When a pandemic becomes world news, you may start to consider the necessity of purchasing a policy or wonder how news of an outbreak might shape the policy you already have.

While some life insurance companies have changed their approach to life insurance applications in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, independent brokers like Policygenius agent will work with you to compare companies and find the right one to work with your individual circumstance.

If you already have an active policy in place and die of a pandemic illness, your family would still receive the death benefit, even if you had knowingly traveled to areas with a known disease outbreak.

Essentially, life insurance covers pandemics, assuming you were truthful about your travel plans and exposure to illness during the application process.

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Applying for life insurance during the coronavirus outbreak

While the long-term ramifications of COVID-19 aren’t yet known, its rapid spread around the globe has many on high alert. Barring any major changes, however, it’s likely that the coronavirus will have a larger impact on people who are applying for a life insurance policy than those who already have a policy in place.

“The most immediate implication the coronavirus has on life insurance is on applicants. If you’re applying for life insurance now and planning a trip to a country that’s heavily impacted by the disease, you’ll likely need to wait until after your return to complete your application,” explains Nicholas Mancuso, manager of the disability and advanced planning team at Policygenius. “But if you already have life insurance, and you die from the coronavirus, your beneficiary will still receive the survivor benefit.”

Due to the current spread of the coronavirus, there is a chance that your application for life insurance could be affected if you’re traveling.

Many insurers may postpone application approval if you have returned from travel outside of the U.S. within the last 30 days or have future plans to travel abroad.

Additionally, some life insurance companies may postpone your application if you have a member of your household who has recently returned from travel outside the U.S. or if you have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. You may also be required to provide a statement of good health for a new or pending life insurance application.

How each life insurance company will treat your application if you happen to contract the coronavirus will also vary. Insurers may postpone your offer for up to 90 days or until you have made a full recovery.

Application restrictions

If you are older or have certain medical conditions that might make you more susceptible to the coronavirus, you may see some newly imposed restrictions when applying for life insurance. Most life insurance companies haven't changed their approach to policy offerings, but a select few have adjusted their maximum applicant age and insurable underlying health conditions, which could make you ineligible for life insurance if you shop with the wrong insurer. You can make sure you get coverage by shopping around — working with an independent broker like Policygenius can help you find the right life insurance policy and insurer.

As the nature and impact of the coronavirus continues to develop, how insurers approach life insurance applications and policies could change. However, for the time being, your best bet on getting the best life insurance policy is to shop around as well as cancel any unnecessary international travel.

A Policygenius advisor can work with you for free to help you shop around for the right life insurance policy.

How stay at home mandates could affect your application

If you are quarantininig in a state other than the state you permanently reside in, this could have implications for your residency on your life insurance application. Some life insurance companies are requiring that your paperwork match the state you are currently in, even if it is not the state you actually reside in. Others are still accepting paperwork for the state you permanently reside in.

Because this varies for each life insurance company and application, you'll want to discuss how to proceed for your application with your life insurance agent.

The life insurance medical exam

Given the current stay at home mandates, is it safe to take the medical exam during the coronavirus outbreak?

Short answer: yes. Medical examiners are taking extra precautions during the coronavirus outbreak. They’ve modified their scheduling capacity to ensure the safety of their staff and each individual taking the medical exam while proactively taking all necessary precautions to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, such as washing hands with soap and water. Alongside this, all examiners are required to protective equipment such as gloves and masks covering the nose and mouth.

If you are unable to take the medical exam at this time, you can still get coverage with a no medical exam life insurance policy.

No medical exam life insurance

Not every life insurance policy requires a medical exam. While a no medical exam life insurance policy might not always offer optimal coverage, you have a few policy options that don’t necessitate a medical exam and can offer you some protection during the coronavirus pandemic:

Mutual of OmahaTerm Express 20, 30 18-50$25,000-$300,000
Term Express 10, 15 18-50$25,000-$300,000
SBLIN/A 18-60$100,000-$500,000
TransamericaTrendsetter LB Term 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 18-60$25,000-$249,000
Trendsetter Super Term 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 18-60$25,000-$99,999

It’s important to note that getting a policy that doesn’t require a medical exam still requires recent medical records and doesn’t necessarily shorten the life insurance application process. If you want a faster turnaround time after you apply, you’ll have to get a plan with accelerated underwriting. An accelerated application also doesn’t require a medical exam, but not everyone qualifies for accelerated underwriting, and applications can be rejected without clear reasons as to why.

No medical exam temporary coverage

If you want to ensure that you’re covered during the coronavirus pandemic while you await a decision on your life insurance application — you don’t have to sacrifice optimal coverage for your safety and health if you cannot get a medical exam.

You can opt-in for temporary life insurance coverage, which is the coverage you get during the life insurance application process so that if you die, your beneficiaries still get some death benefit. This would enable you to postpone the medical exam portion of the underwriting process until the coronavirus outbreak subsides.

Most life insurance companies still require the completion of the medical exam for temporary coverage to go in force, but Policygenius works with three life insurance companies that offer this supplementary coverage without a medical exam:

Here is the type of coverage you can get from each life insurance company without taking a medical exam:

Banner LifeOffers up to $1,000,000 in coverage but not available on life insurance applications over this amount
Lincoln FinancialOffers up to $500,000 in coverage but not available on life insurance applications greater than $3,000,000 or for applicants over the age of 70
Pacific LifeOffers up to $1,000,000 in coverage but not available in NY or KS
To activate temporary coverage with either of these insurers, you’ll simply need to provide your payment information and sign the application for the broker.

You could see some limitations on your temporary coverage without taking a medical exam, but you’d still have some life insurance protection to protect your loved ones during the pandemic.

Accelerated underwriting

During the coronavirus outbreak, you may be considering an accelerated life insurance policy for its quick turnaround time or lack of medical exam requirements. If you’re young and in good health, you may be eligible to apply for an accelerated policy, but even young and healthy individuals get rejected from the accelerated underwriting process because of the numerous guidelines you have to meet to get approval. If that’s the case, you’re still eligible for other types of life insurance, such as no medical exam life insurance.

When working with a Policygenius advisor, they’ll let you know if you qualify for an accelerated policy during your initial phone interview. If your accelerated policy is later rejected by the insurer — which can happen at random — your Policygenius advisor will work with you to find another policy option that doesn’t require a medical exam.

If you’re not accepted for an accelerated underwriting life insurance policy, it’s important to note that this isn’t necessarily because you are not considered healthy enough. The underwriting process for an accelerated life insurance policy necessitates accumulating enough positive points on the insurer (or underwriter’s) mortality table for your policy to get approved, and sometimes there simply isn’t enough evidence for them to move forward with a policy.

Some of the factors taken into account for an accelerated underwriting application are:

  • Your motor vehicle records
  • Family health history
  • Financial history and stability
  • Prescription history
  • Miscellaneous factors that demonstrate stability — something as simple as having multiple addresses in the past few years could affect an accelerated underwriting decision

If you end up going through the traditional underwriting process or applying for a no medical exam life insurance policy, you can still make sure you’re covered in the interim with a temporary life insurance policy.

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Final expense insurance

If you’re not eligible for traditional life insurance during the coronavirus outbreak, there’s always final expense insurance. Final expense insurance is meant to cover end of life expenses and funeral costs, so it comes with a relatively low coverage amount. But on the upside, it’s guaranteed issue, which means anyone can get it as long as they can pay the policy premiums.

Like no medical exam life insurance, you can get a final expense policy without ever taking the medical exam. While it may not offer as much as coverage as you would ideally have, it does ensure that your family is financially protected if you die prematurely.

Check out the graph below to get an idea of the types of final expense insurance policies that are available to you at this time.

Mutual of OmahaLiving promise (level)Healthy individuals between 45-85$2,000-$40,000
Mutual of OmahaLiving promise (graded)Individuals with health conditions between 45-80$2,000-$20,000
AIGGuaranteed issue whole life insuranceIndividuals with serious health conditions (such as terminal illness) between 50-80$5,000-$25,000

What is a pandemic?

According to the World Health Organization, a pandemic is the global spread of a newly introduced disease, while an epidemic is when a disease is constrained to one region.

Pandemics of the past, such as the 1918 Spanish flu, have been famously deadly. But thanks to modern medicine and proper intervention, there are now many more tools for tracking and preventing pandemics. Regardless, pandemics tend to cause some uncertainty and it’s important to think about setting up a financial plan like life insurance.

How life insurance companies treat pandemics

Because your health and medical history are determining factors in what type of policy premiums you pay for life insurance, it’s reasonable to assume that a global health crisis like the coronavirus would have some impact on your policy if you’re currently in the application process (or thinking of starting it).

Coupled with the risk-averse nature of life insurance companies, anytime there’s a chance that an individual’s risk of mortality has increased, insurers are probably going to either hold off on insuring you or you are going to pay higher life insurance premiums on your policy.

However if you already have life insurance in place, you’re covered. In the rare event you were to die from a pandemic illness, your beneficiaries would still receive the policy’s death benefit.

What exactly should you expect?

Active life insurance policies

If you already have a life insurance policy and you pay your premiums, there’s no reason to sound the alarm. Whether you’re traveling to a highly compromised area or a pandemic has hit home, life insurance companies can’t change the health classification or rates you pay on a policy that is already in force.

Likewise, if you die from a pandemic disease or travel to a country with a CDC COVID-19 travel alert, life insurance companies can’t deny your family the death benefit.

While some life insurance policies have exclusions for specific causes of death — like if you were to die while doing a high-risk activity or in an act of war, there is no pandemic exclusion for life insurance.

However, if you are currently going through the life insurance application process or you recently purchased your life insurance policy, the outbreak of a pandemic can have an effect on your application and your policy.

Life insurance premiums during a pandemic

Similar to any other medical diagnosis, the severity of an illness can impact your life insurance rates when you’re applying for a policy. While simply getting a virus, such as the seasonal flu, won’t cause a price hike in your life insurance premiums, some of the ramifications of getting ill can.

If you were to contract the coronavirus and it caused long-term impact on your overall health before you applied for life insurance, you might end up receiving a lower health classification and a costlier life insurance policy.

For the most part, however, if you get ill, make a full recovery, and later apply for life insurance, you can expect that the price difference in life insurance premiums will be minimal. And, as we mentioned above, if your policy is already in force and you contract the coronavirus, there won't be any impact on your premiums.

Grace periods for premium payments

Due to an increase in unemployment and other consequences of the coronavirus, insurers are adjusting their policies for late-payments and grace periods. While the standard procedure is a 30 day grace period for a late premium payment before an insurer cancels your policy, at this time most insurers have extended the grace period to 90 days (and 60 days for some insurers).

While some life insuance companies are automatically granting these extensions, others will a phone call to opt in for the grace period. Because this varies across insurers, if you’re unable to make your premium payments on time, you should call your life insurance company to explain your situation. They can then tell you what they’ll need from you in order to provide an extended grace period for your policy premiums. For some insurers, a call may suffice, while others may ask for proof of financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus. Keep in mind that insurers likely won’t cancel your premiums altogether, but you may have up to 12 months to repay them to keep your policy in force.

Some states have also implemented regulations to prohibit insurers from charging late fee penalties or reporting late payments to a credit reporting or debt collection agency. Check with your insurer to see how they are handling late payments and repayment plans.

Recent life insurance applications

If you recently purchased a life insurance policy and did not disclose travel plans to an area affected by a pandemic like COVID-19 on your application, or lied about contracting the illness, then there is cause for concern.

Life insurance policies have something called the contestability period, usually the first two years after your policy goes in force, during which the life insurance company can revisit any information you may have misrepresented during the application process.

If you withhold information about your travel to a high-risk country, contract the disease in question, and pass away from it, the life insurance company can refuse to pay out the death benefit to your beneficiaries.

While the contestability period is the time when a life insurance company is most likely to investigate claims for any potential fraud, if your insurer finds out that you lied after this period they can still withhold the death benefit from your beneficiaries.

If you are applying for a life insurance policy and have travel plans to an affected area or have gotten sick, it’s important to be honest about this — and everything else — during the underwriting process so that you don’t risk the invalidation of your policy.

Should you get life insurance during a pandemic?

While the short and easy answer is yes, it shouldn’t take a global health crisis to instate necessary financial protection for you and your family.

Life insurance is a risk management tool, so anytime you have outstanding debts or people who depend on you for income, you should have a life insurance policy in place to protect your loved ones from financial suffering if you die unexpectedly and prematurely. A Policygenius advisor can work with you for free to make sure you're getting the right policy based on your specific needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will life insurance cover me if I get the coronavirus?

If you die due to the coronavirus, the life insurance company will still pay out the death benefit to your beneficiaries.

On the other hand, if you are applying for life insurance and are diagnosed with the coronavirus in the process, what happens to your in-process application will depend on the life insurance company. There is a chance that your application will be rejected or postponed, with the opportunity for reconsideration after you have recovered.

How does travel affect my life insurance application?

If you have recently traveled internationally, some life insurance companies may reject or postpone your life insurance application until 30 days after your return.

Each company has different policies in place about offering coverage for individuals who are traveling internationally, and it is important to check with the insurer to see what their travel guidelines are.

How does travel affect my current life insurance policy?

Any travel plans that were not misrepresented during your life insurance application process will not have an effect on your policy. If you had a policy in place before the coronavirus outbreak, were honest on your application about any travel plans you knew about at the time, and travel to a high-risk area now that your policy is in place, life insurance companies cannot cancel your policy or deny your beneficiaries the death benefit if you die.

Should I buy life insurance that doesn’t require a medical exam?

If you're unable to take the medical exam due to stay at home mandates, a no-exam life insurance policy can ensure that your loved ones are financially protected in the event that you die unexpectedly. You can explore your options with a Policygenius advisor for free to determine what works best for you.

An alternative option is beginning the life insurance application process, purchasing temporary coverage for now, and taking the medical exam to lock-in your actual policy once the outbreak is contained. Temporary coverage without a medical exam is limited, but there are a few life insurance companies that offer this option.

What happens if I die from the coronavirus during the application process?

Life insurance coverage isn’t active until you have officially signed for your policy and paid your first policy premium. If you pass away from the coronavirus during the life insurance application process, you do not have life insurance coverage and a death benefit will not be paid out to your beneficiaries unless you have temporary coverage in place.

You can purchase temporary coverage during the life insurance application process so that your beneficiaries receive some death benefit.

What happens if I contract the coronavirus during the application process?

If you contract the coronavirus during the application process, it is important to be honest about this with the underwriter. There is a chance that the life insurance company will postpone your application until after your recovery, but any dishonest or omitted information can lead to your ineligibility for a policy or your policy’s cancellation.

Would the death benefit be paid out if I have an active life insurance policy and pass away from the coronavirus?

There is no life insurance exclusion for the coronavirus and as long as you were honest during the application process, a life insurance company will not deny the death benefit to your beneficiaries if you die from the coronavirus.

If you misrepresented any travel, doctor visits, or other pertinent information during the life insurance application process and then later die from the coronavirus when your policy is active, insurers can then deny your beneficiaries the death benefit.

Are there any other changes to my life insurance policy I should know about?

Life insurance applicants are going to see the biggest impact. It's best to avoid traveling abroad at this time, or your application may be postponed. You will also want to disclose a coronavirus diagnosis during the underwriting process, or your policy may be canceled later on. If you have a policy in force, life insurance companies cannot penalize you for getting ill or traveling internationally.