HIV and AIDS patients found it nearly impossible to find life insurance in the very recent past. At the same time, if you’ve got HIV or AIDS, you know the importance of having life insurance to protect your loved ones in the event of your death.
But while it is still difficult for HIV patients or anyone with a chronic disease to get affordable life insurance, access to life insurance for HIV patients has improved in recent years, as many insurers recognize that a large portion of HIV-positive people have near normal life expectancy. Unfortunately, if you have HIV and you’re able to find life insurance, chances are it will cost significantly more than it would for someone without HIV.
If you’re living with HIV and want to purchase life insurance, it’s important to get help from a knowledgeable insurance professional. An independent insurance agent in your area won’t be tied to a single insurance company, so they may be able to find options that you could not find on your own.
HIV in the United States
Approximately 1.2 million people in the US are living with HIV today.
- In 2018, 37,968 people received an HIV diagnosis in the US—a decrease of 7% compared to 2014.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), annual infections in the US have decreased by more than two-thirds since the height of the epidemic in the mid-1980s.
- In 2018, there were 15,820 deaths among adults and adolescents diagnosed with HIV in the United States. These deaths may be due to any cause, and are not necessarily attributed to having HIV-related diseases or complications.
Why Is It Difficult for HIV Patients to Get Life Insurance?
Life insurance companies aren’t yet on board with the idea that HIV has become a manageable disease, and that many people with HIV have a long life expectancy. Remember, insurance is all about risk, or the likelihood of an adverse event happening (in this case, death). Those with HIV are simply considered riskier to insure than people without HIV.
In most cases, HIV is considered more serious than other preexisting conditions like diabetes or asthma. People with these conditions may have to work a little harder to find a policy or pay a little more for life insurance, but they can get coverage. People living with HIV are often simply considered to be uninsurable.
Insurance companies weigh the odds of having to pay out a claim using very sophisticated and complex statistical models. If statistics indicate that despite gains in life expectancy for HIV-positive patients, people with HIV are still more likely to get non-HIV-related illnesses than non-HIV people, then life insurance coverage is still highly problematic from the insurer’s point of view.
What’s more, there’s still a huge gap between HIV-positive patients who are able to achieve undetectable virus levels and those who have a much more stubborn infection. Much of an HIV-positive person’s prognosis and life expectancy is related to how compliant they are with their treatment. Because this is simply out of the insurance company’s control, offering life insurance coverage to HIV-positive persons remains a highly risky proposition.
HIV Life Insurance Options
The fact remains that there are fewer life insurance options for people living with HIV, no matter how healthy you are or how adherent you are to your treatment plan.
But that doesn’t mean you have nowhere to turn, either.
There are a few life insurance companies that have begun to offer term and permanent life insurance policies to some applicants with HIV, if they meet very stringent criteria.
There are a few other options where you might be able to get some coverage.
Final Expense Insurance
Final expense insurance policies, also called burial insurance policies, are life insurance policies for people who don't qualify for term life insurance because of their age or because of preexisting health conditions. Face values for these policies are typically low, with maximum benefits from $25,000 to $50,000. Premiums for final expense insurance can be high, but if you have no other options, it’s wise to at least do your homework and consider it.
Final expense insurance can come in a few forms:
- Guarantee issue life insurance: This is a policy available to everyone, regardless of health status, that provides limited life insurance coverage and generally does not involve any medical history questions. It comes with a higher price tag due to the higher risk pool involved, and benefits typically max out at $25,000.
- Simplified issue life insurance: Simplified issue policies usually don’t require a medical exam, but you might still have to answer medical questions on your application. Some may offer policies to HIV-positive persons, and some may not. These policies are typically quite costly with lower benefits.
- Critical illness life insurance: A number of insurers provide specialized life insurance for people with critical illnesses. Some insurers do require that you have a medical exam while others do not. Policy coverage options will vary from company to company.
Group Life Insurance
If your employer offers group life insurance, you’ll be eligible for coverage without a medical exam and regardless of your HIV status. This is a great option for people with HIV, since it is usually quite affordable. You might not be able to purchase as much coverage as you otherwise would like to, but it offers you an option for some coverage at an affordable price.
If you are HIV-positive and your employer offers group life insurance, it’s highly recommended that you take advantage of it.
Should I Tell the Life Insurance Company I Am HIV Positive?
The only reason to disclose your health status to an insurance company is if you are asked to release that information for coverage. If they do not ask you about HIV or other health-related issues, you are not required to share that information.
However, it is critical to be truthful about health-related questions you are asked during a medical exam for life insurance. Most life insurance policies have a contestability clause that extends two years after your policy is purchased. During this period, your insurer can cancel your policy or challenge a claim you make if you are found to have falsified information about your condition.
Remember, if you have a life insurance policy that you purchased before you were diagnosed with HIV, it is very important that you keep the policy in force and do not let it lapse. If you do let it lapse, it will be challenging, if not impossible, to get similar coverage in the future.
Does HIV Life Insurance Cost More?
HIV is still considered a serious health risk. If you’re HIV-positive and you’re able to obtain life insurance coverage through a high-risk carrier or some type of final expense insurance, you can typically expect to pay 3 to 5 times more than what a healthy individual will pay in life insurance premiums.
Buying a policy with a lower death benefit is one way to lower your premiums.
The Benefits of an Independent Insurance Agent
If you have been diagnosed with HIV and need life insurance, talk to an independent insurance agent. Your agent may be able to find a high-risk carrier or a final expense policy that suits your needs.