At least one major insurer has added Russia and Ukraine to the list of travel destinations that will result in an automatic denial of life insurance applications. Other insurers are expected to follow suit as the U.S. Department of State flagged both countries with a “Do Not Travel” advisory earlier this month.
When you apply for life insurance, you have to provide information about your age, height and weight, health history, and more as part of the underwriting process. Foreign travel is another factor that insurance companies consider, and traveling to "high-risk" countries could affect your ability to get coverage at all.
“When you apply for a life insurance policy, you will be asked about past and planned (usually within two years) foreign travel outside the U.S. and Canada. In addition to planned destinations, you'll likely be asked about the length of the trip, purpose of the trip, and how many times you will visit the destination,” says Scott Holeman, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute.
How do life insurance companies evaluate high risk travel?
Life insurance companies classify countries by level of risk. They update these classifications when world conditions change. Traveling to certain destinations may result in higher premiums and the insurer may deny your application completely if you plan to visit countries classified as the highest risk (except in states where it is illegal to take action based on lawful travel).
Health and safety are the two major concerns for applicants for life insurance during the underwriting process. Remember: The deal is, they pay out if you die, and this process is an attempt to calculate the risk of that happening. That’s why traveling to countries experiencing conflict, political turmoil, high rates of disease, or that lack access to health care will count against you.
“Any travel to a destination that is classified as medium-to-high risk could limit the amount of life insurance coverage you could purchase. Often the more dangerous the travel location is considered, the more restrictions would apply,” says Holeman.
As of March 1st, insurance company AIG reclassified Ukraine and Russia as travel destinations that will result in an automatic denial of a life insurance application in its underwriting guidelines, and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine could result in other insurers following suit. Previously, AIG allowed travel to Russia at a higher premium and would consider travel to Ukraine on a case-by-case basis.
AIG is also restricting sales to Russian foreign nationals (Ukrainian foreign nationals were already restricted), which means that Russian and Ukrainian citizens cannot get any type of coverage from AIG. AIG did not respond to requests for comment.
How life insurer country restrictions could affect you
If you plan to travel to Russia or Ukraine within the next two years, insurers may deny your life insurance application if they deem those countries too risky. While it may be tempting to leave your travel plans off your application, honesty is always the best policy. Intentionally withholding that information could result in your policy being canceled and, if you die, your death benefit getting denied or reduced, regardless of when or how you die.
If you’re a foreign citizen, an insurance company will only sell you coverage if you’re on an approved list of countries. If you are a U.S. citizen (regardless of home country), have permanent residency, or a green card, you can typically get coverage.
If you are a diplomat, embassy employee, or missionary traveling to a country with a high level of risk, you will likely be denied life insurance.
It’s important to remember that these policies apply to new applicants for life insurance. If you already have a life insurance policy, your foreign travel will not affect your coverage.
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