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How your parents’ and siblings’ health history can affect your life insurance rates.
When you apply for life insurance, you’ll have to answer a lot of questions about your own health history and take a medical exam — but it might surprise you that you’ll have to answer questions about your family’s medical history as well, and that your answers to those questions may affect your rates.
Life insurance companies want to know whether your parents or siblings suffer or suffered from any genetic diseases (like cancer, heart disease, or diabetes). If any of your immediate family members have died, they’ll want to know at what age they died, and how.
Your rates can be negatively affected based on this info, and some life insurance companies are more forgiving of family history than others.
Some carriers are better than others if you have a family history of disease. You won’t be denied a policy based on a family history of disease, but you may be rated higher.
A life insurance agent can make the best recommendation for you based your specific family history, but in general, these are the rankings for companies based on how friendly their rates are for people with complicated family health history.
We pulled quotes for a $500,000, 20-year term policy for a 34-year-old woman with no health issues. Then we pulled quotes for the same woman if she had one parent who was diagnosed with heart disease at 55 and is still living and quotes for if that parent had died.
|Company||No family history||1 parent heart disease dx at 55 (living)||1 parent heart disease dx at 55 (not living)|
|Mutual of Omaha||$19.47||$19.97||$34.34|
** * Monthly rates for a 34-year-old healthy woman in Virginia** N/A = Quotes not available at this time
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There are two phases to the life insurance application: the initial application, which helps you and the insurance broker determine which carrier you should apply to, and the more thorough application that goes to the underwriters and sets your policy rates.
When you initially apply for life insurance, there is usually only one question about your family history that the life insurance providers will ask: “Have your parents or siblings have been diagnosed with, treated for, or died from heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, or diabetes?”
If your answer is yes, you’ll need to share at what age they were diagnosed or died from the disease. Some companies don’t penalize you if the cancers were diagnosed over a certain age — 60 or 70, depending on the carrier.
If you disclose a family history of cancer, the insurance company will want to know which type. Some insurance companies specify which cancers affect rates; ovarian, colon, lung, melanoma, breast, and prostate cancers are the most common ones taken into account. Additionally, some insurance companies disregard gender-specific cancers like breast, prostate, or ovarian for opposite-sex applicants.
If you’re an older applicant, family history may not affect your rates at all. Many insurance companies do not take family history into account for applications over a certain age — 60 or 70, depending on the carrier.
Once you submit a life insurance application to a carrier, you’ll undergo a medical exam and extended interview where you’ll have to answer even more questions about your family history.
Specific diseases you may be asked about include:
Again, a family history of disease won’t get you denied from any company, but it may change your life insurance classification and raise your premium.
It may be tempting to withhold sharing your family history, especially if you think the information could lead to higher rates.
But remember that when you go through underwriting, insurance companies may access your medical records. Most doctors take note of your family history on your chart, so if your family history is in your medical records, your rates will come back higher than your initial quotes.
It’s always better to disclose early during the application process, then you and your insurance broker can ensure that you’re applying to a carrier who is most generous to people in your exact situation and that you’re getting the best available rates for your personal and family health history.
Generally when applying for life insurance, if the company can’t verify a piece of information about your medical history, they assume the worst.
But if you’re adopted and don’t know your birth family medical history, insurance companies will not hold that against you, and your rates will be based on your health history only.
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