Q

Does life insurance cover coronavirus?

A

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-related illness.

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Life insurance offers financial protection for your loved ones if you die unexpectedly. Because of the ongoing pandemic, you may start to consider the necessity of purchasing a policy or wonder how it might shape the policy you already have.

While some life insurance companies have changed their approach to applications in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, others are underwriting applicants with pre-pandemic guidelines. Policygenius’ independent agents will work with you for free to compare companies and find the insurer that will work with your individual circumstances. 

If you already have an active policy in place and die of a pandemic-related illness, your family would still receive the death benefit, even if you had traveled abroad. Life insurance covers pandemics, assuming you were truthful about your travel plans during the application process.

Key Takeaways

  • Active life insurance policies won’t change due to the COVID-19 pandemic

  • If you are applying for life insurance during a pandemic, you should be completely honest about any past or future travel plans, otherwise, your policy may be invalidated

  • Policyholders facing financial hardship due to the pandemic may be able to delay premium payments for up to 90 days

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

What is a pandemic?

According to the World Health Organization [99] , a pandemic is the global spread of a newly introduced disease, while an epidemic is when a disease is constrained to one region. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has infected millions of people across the globe [100] . Although vaccine rollout is underway, there is still a lot of uncertainty about the coronavirus pandemic and potential variants, and it’s important to set up a financial plan like life insurance.

How to prepare for a pandemic

No one could have anticipated that a life-altering pandemic would shock the world last year. But, a pandemic is just one of many emergencies that can alter the way we live our lives. Emergency preparedness is an important part of planning for your family’s future, and life insurance is just one of the necessary protections you should get for yourself and your family. 

During the coronavirus pandemic, you can protect your family by taking steps to prevent the spread of the virus and updating your family's emergency plans. And as instances of flooding, wildfires, hurricanes, and more disasters increase, preparing a comprehensive plan in advance can provide a lifeline in the event of the unexpected.

“Life brings us challenges, whether it's a storm, or a power outage, a fire, or, in this case, a pandemic, and it’s important to be prepared at home, by having an extra supply of your prescription medicines on hand, a little extra food and water in the house, flashlights, etc, which will help you no matter what. In the early days of the pandemic or other emergency when it is advised to stay home, having that extra supply will be very important, so you won’t run out of critical medications or food,” says Dr. Lisa M. Koonin, Founder of Health Preparedness Partners and formerly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Learn more about preparing for an emergency.

Does life insurance cover pandemics?

Because your health and medical history determine what type of life insurance premiums you pay, a global health crisis like the coronavirus may have some impact on your policy if you’re currently in the application process (or thinking of starting it).

Most people can still buy competitively priced coverage during the ongoing pandemic. However, some demographics may see some newly imposed application restrictions. 

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

Applying for life insurance during the coronavirus outbreak

Alongside other emergency preparedness methods, life insurance is an important risk management tool to consider. If the unthinkable happens during an emergency and you are no longer around to provide for your loved ones, a policy with enough coverage and a sufficient term length protects your family from financial suffering.

“Having life insurance is one way to build resiliency, this is how you empower yourself. This is what you do to be responsible and take control. While the pandemic has forced us to feel out of control in so many ways, this is one simple way to protect yourself,” says Koonin.

Barring any major changes, the coronavirus has 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 abroad, you’ll likely need to wait until after you 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 death benefit.”

Your life insurance application may be postponed or rejected depending on your travel plans, age, or if you have received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Where you are quarantining can also impact your state of residence on your application. However, these restrictions don’t apply to every life insurance company and some insurers have resumed operating as they were pre-pandemic. An insurance agent will work with you to find the right policy for your profile.

Travel restrictions 

Due to the current spread of the coronavirus, your life insurance application may be affected if you’re traveling internationally.

Some insurers will postpone application approval if you have returned from travel outside of the U.S. within the last 30 days or have plans to travel abroad. Additionally, they may postpone your application if a member of your household has recently returned from travel outside the U.S.

However, if you have plans to travel abroad to a country with a CDC level 1 or 2 advisory [101] , you may still be able to get coverage at a competitive price. If you travel, you’ll be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Each insurer has their own specifications on how they underwrite CDC travel advisories and what countries are approved to get a new life insurance policy. 

Contracting the coronavirus 

If you contract the coronavirus, each life insurance company will treat your application differently. Insurers may postpone your offer for up to 90 days or until you have made a full recovery. Depending on how severe your coronavirus symptoms were, some insurers may postpone your application for up to six months. 

If you have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you may also be required to postpone your application or provide a statement of good health for a new or pending life insurance application.

Age and health restrictions

If you are older or have certain medical conditions that could 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. You can make sure you get coverage by shopping around — working with an independent broker like Policygenius can help you find an insurer that will work with your specific background.

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 long-term side effects of getting ill can.

If you were to contract the coronavirus and it caused long-term health problems 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.

How quarantine could affect your application

If you are quarantining in a state that you don’t currently reside in, this could impact 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 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 with your application with your life insurance agent.

The life insurance medical exam

Given the ongoing spread of the coronavirus, 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. To protect against the spread of the coronavirus, medical examiners are wearing protective equipment such as gloves and masks that cover the nose and mouth and always washing their hands with soap and water. They’ve also modified their scheduling capacity to ensure the safety of their staff and each individual taking the medical exam.

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.

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No-medical exam life insurance

Brighthouse SimplySelect and Lincoln TermAccel offer contactless and cost-effective coverage almost immediately.

Brighthouse SimplySelect

Brighthouse SimplySelect is a no-medical exam term policy that offers coverage comparable to a traditional term life insurance policy almost immediately. You can get a term length of 10-, 20-, or 30-years and up to $2,000,000 in coverage. Coverage is not available to applicants above 50. 

The application process forgoes the medical exam but includes a phone interview and a review of the following information:

  • Previous physicals and labs

  • Pharmacy records

  • Prior diagnoses and procedures

  • Medical billing records

  • Credit history

  • Driving history

  • Relevant public information such as criminal history or bankruptcy

Your financial justification for a policy will also be reviewed — and the death benefit amount will depend on your age and income. Within 24 hours of your phone interview, you’ll know if your application has been accepted, rejected, or referred to the underwriter. If your application is accepted, you’ll sign off on the policy via DocuSign and your coverage will be active. If it’s referred to the underwriter, the insurance company needs to ask you some additional questions before they make a decision. If your application is rejected, you will have to undergo the traditional underwriting process to get life insurance coverage. 

How much does Brighthouse SimplySelect cost?

Check out the graphs below to get an idea of how much you might pay for a Brighthouse SimplySelect policy with a Preferred health classification. Your actual premiums will vary depending on your individual circumstances.

AGEGENDER$500,000$750,000$1,000,000$2,000,000
25Male$24.34$32.67$41.00$74.30
Female$19.22$24.98$30.75$53.81
30Male$25.20$33.95$42.70$77.72
Female$20.07$26.26$32.46$57.22
35Male$36.30$35.87$46.12$84.55
Female$22.64$30.11$37.58$67.47
40Male$36.30$50.60$64.05$120.42
Female$29.89$41.00$52.95$98.21
45Male$56.37$80.71$104.19$200.69
Female$43.56$61.49$80.28$152.87
50Male$95.65$139.63$171.66$335.63
Female$74.73$108.25$129.81$251.93

Methodology: Sample monthly premium rates based on 20-year term life insurance policy for non-smokers in Preferred health rating based in Columbus, Ohio; quotes based on policies offered by Policygenius in May 2021.

Lincoln TermAccel

Lincoln TermAccel is a competitive policy for individuals in good health — though if you have a more complicated medical history, it may be harder to get approved for coverage. Policies are available to individuals between the ages of 18-60, with some age restrictions for 30-year terms and smokers.

How does Lincoln TermAccel work?

Lincoln TermAccel offers all the perks of a term life insurance policy — without an in-person medical exam for individuals between the ages of 18-60. Instead, the insurer conducts a phone interview that is followed by a deep dive into your insurability via your prescription history, motor vehicle report, and medical history. Most of the time, this is enough information to warrant an application approval (or denial), but additional labs might be required if something in your background check is flagged as a risk.

The entire process takes about two to three days — compared to the usual wait time of five to six weeks for a traditional life insurance policy.

The policy is especially valuable to people who may not get an affordable no-medical exam policy elsewhere. Marijuana smokers who don’t work in the industry can get competitive rates and smokers have a better chance of getting coverage than they would with other accelerated life insurance policies.

Even though the application process for a Lincoln TermAccel policy usually doesn’t require a medical exam, the coverage is comparable. Term length offerings include 10-, 15-, 20-, or 30-year terms and the death benefit amount can be anywhere from $100,000 to $1 million.

How much does Lincoln TermAccel cost?

Lincoln TermAccel premiums are some of the lowest in the industry. According to Policygenius quoting data, here’s how much you can expect to pay with a Preferred health classification:

AGEGENDER$500,000$750,000$1,000,000
25Male$25.93$34.95$43.74
Female$20.28$26.48$33.30
30Male$26.14$35.27$43.74
Female$20.28$26.48$33.30
35Male$27.00$36.56$47.09
Female$23.07$30.67$39.22
40Male$37.13$51.76$66.33
Female$30.94$42.47$54.17
45Male$58.08$83.18$108.45
Female$44.39$62.64$82.15
50Male$87.63$127.51$166.87
Female$68.13$98.26$125.04
55Male$140.78$207.24$270.25
Female$100.52$146.85$192.41
60Male$241.93$358.96$462.74
Female$172.81$255.27$328.56

Methodology: Sample monthly premium rates based on 20-year term life insurance policy for non-smokers in Preferred health rating based in Columbus, Ohio; quotes based on policies offered by Policygenius in May 2021.

Other no-medical exam policy options

If you aren’t eligible for a Brighthouse SimplySelect or Lincoln TermAccel policy due to age or health restrictions, there are other no-medical exam policies available. The turnaround time for an application decision won’t be as fast and coverage amounts might be lower, but these companies can still offer you some protection during the coronavirus pandemic. Other no-exam policies are offered by:

  • Banner

  • Mutual of Omaha

  • Principal

  • Prudential

  • SBLI

  • Transamerica

It’s important to note that getting a no-medical exam life insurance policy 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 opt for accelerated underwriting. An accelerated application also doesn’t require a medical exam, but not everyone qualifies for this policy.

Accelerated underwriting

If you’re young and in good health, you may be eligible for an accelerated life insurance policy, but even young and healthy individuals get rejected by AU insurers. If that’s the case, you’re still eligible for other types of 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 healthy enough. The seemingly random rejection for an AU policy can happen because policy approval necessitates accumulating enough positive points on the insurer’s mortality table . 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 — 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.

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 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. 

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

  • Banner

  • Brighthouse

  • Lincoln Financial

  • Pacific Life

Temporary coverage has some limitations on coverage and availability, but you’d still have some life insurance protection during the pandemic. 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. 

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 — the highest being $40,000. 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 coverage as you would ideally have, it does ensure that your family is financially protected if you die prematurely.

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Active life insurance policies

The pandemic has hurt the financial health of many Americans [102] , making it more difficult to keep up with everyday bills and expenses. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities [103] , one in four adults cannot afford to pay for household costs due to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. 

While insurers aren’t completely forgoing premium payments, they are allowing for some flexibility in your payment schedule if the pandemic has negatively affected your financial health.

But if you already have a life insurance policy and you can pay your premiums, you shouldn’t see any major changes to your policy. Newly imposed restrictions on applicants don’t apply to people who already have an active policy. For example, if you’re traveling to a highly compromised area, life insurance companies can’t change your health classification or the rates you pay.

Likewise, if you die from a pandemic-related disease or travel abroad, 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.

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 60-90 days. 

While some life insurance companies are automatically granting these extensions, others require a phone call to opt in. 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 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 life insurance companies from charging late fees 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.

Traveling abroad with an active policy

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, 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 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 losing coverage.

However, if you were completely honest about any known travel plans, life insurance companies cannot deny your beneficiaries the death benefit payout.

While there are many unknowns regarding the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, getting a life insurance policy can provide the peace of mind that your family is financially protected in a worst-case scenario. Preparing for the unthinkable is never an easy conversation, but it is a necessary one in our ever-changing world.

As Koonin says: 

“It’s about building resilience. It means that from an individual perspective, you have as much capacity to weather the storm and bounce back from adversity as possible, to be okay when the world gives you the unexpected, as we’ve seen with COVID. It has taught us that life can throw curveballs, and it’s important to be prepared.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Does life insurance cover pandemics?

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 receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis during the application process, your application will be 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 postpone your life insurance application until 30 days after your return.

Each company has different policies regarding 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 affect your active policy. If you had a policy in place before the coronavirus outbreak and were honest on your application about any travel plans, life insurance companies cannot cancel your policy if you travel.

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

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

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

Life insurance coverage isn’t active until you have officially signed your application 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 life insurance money if you die unexpectedly.

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. Some insurers may postpone your application if you are traveling abroad, but others may not take your travel into account. If you have a policy in force, life insurance companies cannot penalize you for getting ill or traveling internationally.

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