Could COVID-19 Bungle Your Life Insurance Application?

It’s always a good time to get your financial house in order. And now with the coronavirus (COVID-19) seeping into everyday life—and affecting job security—many people are looking at life insurance options.

For many life insurance shoppers, COVID-19 will not be an issue in their applications. Life insurers are still taking applications and processing them in a timely manner.

Future International Travel Will Cause Application Delays

Life insurance shoppers planning any travel outside the U.S. will likely face application delays. Life insurers have typically always asked about planned travel outside the U.S. when underwriting applicants. In the past their concerns centered mainly on travel to countries designated as “Level 4” risk (“do not travel”) by the Department of State, such as Afghanistan and Iran.

“What’s happening now is that carriers will postpone consideration of all submissions of life insurance applications with travel outside of the United States. And that’s a striking change from normal days,” says Chirag Pancholi, CEO and co-founder of Jenny Life, a mobile-first life insurance provider that focuses on financial security for families.

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Even before the state department put all international travel at Level 4 on March 19, 2020, life insurance companies were adjusting their guidelines for international travel.

That is, if anyone was still planning to travel. “Not with what is going on now,” say many applicants when asked about international travel, according to Bob Bland, CEO of LifeQuotes, a national online life insurance agency.

Recent Travel Will Also Cause Delays

In addition, “applicants returning from any international travel in the last 30 days, will have their applications postponed,” says Pancholi of Jenny Life.

That doesn’t mean insurers won’t sell them policies in the future, but insurers are building in time to have a better sense of the risk they’re taking on.

Being Healthy for the Life Insurance Medical Exam

The time needed to process an application will depend on how you buy life insurance, and your age and health. There are options for fast life insurance that can provide a policy in as little as 10 minutes with no medical exam, thanks to algorithms that instantly evaluate your personal data. People who are younger and healthier generally qualify for instant approval, if your provider offers it.

If you have any type of illness—such as the flu or a cold—it’s better to postpone the exam until you’re feeling better.

But many life insurance shoppers will need patience through a more traditional underwriting process, which can take a month or more. It often includes a life insurance medical exam, where your height and weight, blood pressure, and blood and urine sample are taken. The exam can be done at home.

“In light of the public health emergency surrounding COVID-19, the medical exam providers are now proactively asking applicants about fever or respiratory illnesses as well as recent travel to ensure the health of its examiners and life insurance customers,” says Mark Sayre, head of risk solutions at Haven Life, a life insurance provider.

If you have any type of illness—such as the flu or a cold—it’s better to postpone the exam until you’re feeling better.

“Being under the weather can skew the results of the medical exam, which would not present the underwriting team with an accurate depiction of health,” says Sayre.

Medical exam results that are skewed by temporary illness could affect your rates.

Health Changes During the Application Process

A person’s health can change between an application and approval—whether from a heart attack, stoke or even the COVID-19 virus. So expect to be asked to sign an “evidence of insurability” form just before the policy is issued. This is a life insurance company’s way to ask one last time if your health is the same as the health they evaluated from your application.

It’s crucial to be truthful on both a life insurance application and an “evidence of insurability” form. Not being truthful is a fraudulent act and could lead to your policy being void later.

“It’s important to be honest and forthcoming about medical history, medical treatment and travel when applying for life insurance, as payment of the life insurance benefits could be based on the truthfulness of information provided in the application process,” advises Sayre.

While issues surrounding COVID-19 might create some speed bumps in a life insurance application, if you aren’t planning international travel and you stay healthy through the application process, your experience should currently be no different than it would have been pre-coronavirus.