How HIPAA is used in life insurance

Life insurance companies evaluate your personal history to determine your eligibility for coverage. You have to sign a HIPAA waiver for insurers to access your information.

Headshot of Policygenius editor Nupur Gambhir


Nupur Gambhir

Nupur Gambhir

Senior Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir is a licensed life, health, and disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius. Her insurance expertise has been featured in Bloomberg News, Forbes Advisor, CNET, Fortune, Slate, Real Simple, Lifehacker, The Financial Gym, and the end-of-life planning service Cake.

Updated|3 min read

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To figure out how much you’ll pay for life insurance coverage, insurers take a holistic look at your personal history and medical background. This information is used to calculate your risk of dying, which determines the rates you’ll pay for your life insurance policy. 

But laws and regulations protect your data from being readily and publicly available, so in order for life insurance companies to access your complete medical history, you’ll need to sign a HIPAA waiver. Without disclosing your medical background to insurers, you will not be able to get life insurance coverage. 

By signing a HIPAA waiver, third parties that are not direct associates or partners of your insurance company will not have access to your personal history. By law, your personal information can only be used to determine your life insurance rates and cannot be used for any other purpose. 

Key takeaways

  • Signing a HIPAA release form allows life insurance companies to access your personal history.

  • Life insurance companies can only use your personal information to determine your eligibility and rates for a life insurance policy.

  • Insurers cannot sell or share your personal information.

  • Your personal history is assessed because life insurance companies need to determine the risk of insuring you before offering you coverage.

What is HIPAA?

HIPAA is short for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and was signed into federal law in 1996. It protects each individual’s privacy and ensures that your information isn’t disclosed without your consent. When you sign a HIPAA form and consent to someone accessing your personal information, HIPAA requires that they still keep your information confidential. 

Even when you sign a HIPAA waiver, life insurance companies must follow HIPAA laws and cannot share your information. 

How HIPAA is used by life insurance companies

When you’re authorizing the release of your records to a life insurance company, you are allowing them to access your previous records, including your medical history. They need this information to determine how much you’ll pay in policy premiums. Your health information cannot be used for any other purpose aside from determining your life insurance rates. 

Life insurance companies do this because of the amount of money they pay out when a policyholder dies — even small policies are in the $100,000 range. While a background check may feel invasive, it supplies companies with the information they need to gauge the risk of insuring you. 

Due to HIPAA compliance, life insurance companies cannot sell your information and your personal history will not be readily available to anyone other than the insurer. It can only be disclosed to another life insurance company if you are applying for a new policy and a red flag pops up, such as multiple policy denials. However, this is generally very rare. 

HIPAA forms are common across the insurance industry, and disclosing your personal history is the only way to get life insurance coverage. 

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What information life insurance companies access

After signing a HIPAA waiver, life insurers can ask your providers for the following information:

  • Health and medical history

  • Financial background

  • Driving records

  • Criminal records

Again, this information can only be used to determine your eligibility for a policy and how much you’ll pay in policy premiums. HIPAA waivers are only eligible for two years, so if you postpone your life insurance application, you may have to sign another waiver if you resume your application after 24 months. 

Signing a HIPAA waiver doesn’t mean that life insurance companies have free rein to do whatever they want with your personal data. Because of HIPAA compliance, life insurance companies can only use your information to decide what your life insurance premiums are. Your information cannot be sold or shared with third parties. However, you will not be able to get life insurance coverage without signing a HIPAA waiver. 

Frequently asked questions

Do life insurance companies look at your medical records?

Yes. Life insurance companies evaluate your medical background — alongside other factors — before offering you coverage. Your medical history, family background, and lifestyle choices all determine how much you pay for life insurance.

What type of insurance is not covered under HIPAA?

All life insurance companies require HIPAA authorization to provide you with coverage.

Should I release my medical records to a life insurance company?

Yes. In order to get affordable life insurance coverage, you should allow insurers to access your medical records. Without doing so, you may not be able to get coverage.