How some hereditary traits can affect the type of coverage you can buy.
We all have physical qualities that get passed down from our parents—anything from a glorious head of hair, to piercing eye color, and luminous skin tone. But it’s not just the good stuff like blue eyes or curly tresses that can be inherited from mom and dad. Unfortunately, some people are also predisposed to get lesser desired hereditary conditions from their family. Many people have even done DNA testing through genealogy companies to see if something comes up that they might not have been privy to through their family’s health history.
When trying to buy life insurance, the question of health is definitely a topic that will come up. But how much does your family’s medical history affect your ability to get coverage?
In This Article
What’s with all the medical questions?
You may have already heard of medical underwriting, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t rehash the definition again. Basically, when you want to buy a policy from an insurance company, they need to assess your level of risk as a potential customer. One of the primary ways they do this is by asking questions about your medical status, as well as your family history. Underwriting, along with other factors, can help determine how much coverage you’re eligible for as well as the monthly premium amount you’ll have to pay.
While many insurers still require a potential customer to get a physical, a lot of them are going digital and don’t require a medical exam—as long as they get truthful and transparent information on the online questionnaire. That’s more than enough to get the ball rolling—we’re truly living in the future folks.
Can your family history affect your insurance eligibility?
So we know your current medical status is part of how a company can decide if they are going to insure you and at what cost. The other possible reason for all the medical questions is for insurers to understand how your family’s past might affect you. No, we don’t mean the great board game argument of 2019, we’re talking about what has happened in their medical history, whether known or unknown, and how it affects your insurability. It’s important to note, if you’re adopted, there may be particular screenings that need to be done to determine family health that could be unfamiliar to you. Here are some medical histories that could be flagged.
- Genetic predisposition: According to the National Cancer Institute, genetic predisposition is defined as the “Increased likelihood or chance of developing a particular disease due to the presence of one or more gene mutations and/or a family history that indicates an increased risk of the disease.” The conditions vary, as it could be anything from heart disease to mental health issues.
- A relative passing away earlier in life: If a parent or sibling died from causes that could be deemed hereditary in nature, it could be a reason for concern regarding your eligibility and perhaps higher premium rates. The insurer might then recommend a health screening, even if they normally don’t require one.
- Red flag conditions: If someone in your family had cancer, diabetes, suffered from substance abuse, or other diseases, they could be isolated cases. However, the insurer may want to look further into your family history to see if there are any hereditary traits that may have caused these ailments.
- Smoking and tobacco use: There is no conclusive evidence that if your parents smoked, so will you. But according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, when testing patients for cardiac events, 81% of the patients had a family history of tobacco use. Even without tobacco being part of family history, being a smoker is not typically seen favorably among insurance companies. So put that cigarette down!
- COVID-19: According to Hopkins Medicine, there have been cases of pregnant women who have tested positive for COVID-19 and passed it onto their newborn, though these cases were very rare and, luckily, symptoms tend to be mild or non-existent. There is also no scientific or medical reason to believe that long COVID, meaning COVID-19 symptoms that last for an extended period of time, can be passed down to your offspring. This virus is still relatively new, and there is still a lot to learn on how it affects people at large, but there’s definitely been an uptick in people getting life insurance, as well as the methods the industry is using to handle the pandemic.
Diseases that insurers may deem unfavorable
Insurance companies usually have lists of conditions and diseases that are ranked on how potentially harmful or high-risk they are, depending on your family history. As you answer underwriting questions, the company may consider these variables as they try to determine your insurability and premium. While every company is different in how they choose what’s most risky or dangerous, some of the most common conditions are:
- Cancer (most commonly lung, breast, ovarian, prostate, and colon cancers)
- Heart disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Lynch Syndrome
- Heart or cardiovascular diseases
- Asthma or other respiratory conditions
- Mental illness and/or attempted suicide
- Sickle cell anemia
Why those with family medical history still need life insurance
While certain factors can shift your insurability and premium amount, it’s still important to have plans in place to protect the ones you love. Many life insurance companies offer different tiers in the policies they sell that are specifically designed for people whose family health history can be a factor in insurability.
If you have health complications due to family history, the best thing to do is talk to insurance agents and have them walk you through your coverage options. This way you’ll be able to get the best policy that works with your past, present, and future.