Life Insurance and Medical History Facts That You Don’t Know

You know you need life insurance to financially protect your family and loved ones. But you’re worried about passing a physical exam or that your family’s medical history means you’ll have to pay too much for coverage.

Maybe your father and grandfather both died young from heart attacks? Or your mother and her mother both battled cancer? Could this history of family medical problems cause your policy rates to skyrocket?

In honor of national Life Insurance Day on May 2, insuranceQuotes wants to highlight the facts regarding your family medical history and applying for a life insurance policy so that you’ll be ready to sign up for coverage.

A spotty family medical history might have less impact than what you think on what you pay for life insurance. And a family history of cancer, high blood pressure, heart attacks and other medical conditions certainly doesn’t mean that you’ll struggle to find a solid life insurance policy.


What questions to expect at your physical exam

Family health history can be influential when it comes to life insurance premiums, but never lie or feel you need to keep quiet about something in your family’s past.

Your family’s medical history “won’t keep you from getting coverage, assuming you are relatively healthy,” says Scott Cody, a financial planner with Latitude Financial Group in Denver, Colorado.

“What it can do is keep you from getting perhaps the best or highest health rating.”

The bottom line? A lower health rating means that you might pay up to 20 percent more for your coverage, Cody says. But again, this assumes that you’d qualify for the highest health rating from your life insurer anyway, and that’s often not the case.

When you apply for what is known as a fully underwritten life insurance policy — one that requires you to take a physical, give a blood sample and provide a urine sample — you’ll also be asked a series of questions from your insurance provider. Some of these will cover your family’s health history.

Cody says that most insurance providers will ask whether any of your immediate relatives have had cancer or suffered heart attacks before they reached the age of 60 or 65.

It’s important to note, though, that insurance companies will only ask about your immediate blood relatives: father, mother and siblings.

Tammy Johnston, president and chief executive officer of The Financial Guides in Alberta, Canada, says insurers won’t focus on grandparents, cousins and great-grandparents.

What insurers definitely care about is when a health problem or death occurred.

“If your dad had a heart attack at 68, that would cause few problems with insurers,” Johnston says. “If he had it before 45, that would mean big problems. If both mom and dad had heart attacks, that would be bad. If only one parent had a heart attack, the impact might not be as severe.”

The same type of reasoning holds true for a family history of cancer. Insurers will look at how much a family history of cancer can be attributed to genetics and how much to lifestyle choices.

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