Your Family's Medical History and How it Affects Your Life Insurance

Your Family's Medical History and How it Affects Your Life Insurance
Historial familiar y seguro de vida | Foto: GETTY IMAGES

If you are looking for life insurance, you already know the importance of the qualification or underwriting process. In this stage, there is some information that few people take into account, including their family medical history. For insurers, however, this is very interesting data because it helps to better calibrate the risk for possible hereditary diseases.

There is information in these histories that allows the insurer to know if certain ailments or diseases are recurrent in a family, or if, on the contrary, general good health has been prevalent.

In this article, we explain what a family medical history is and how it influences life insurance. Keep reading and find out everything you need to know to obtain life insurance at the best price possible without letting your family medical history get in the way.

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Family Medical History and Life Insurance

It is likely that when looking for life insurance, the insurance company will ask you about your medical history during the qualification, or underwriting, process. This is normal: they want to know about your health status to better assess the risk they would assume by granting you a policy. In addition, to the surprise of many people, it is very common for them ask you for information about your family’s health and medical background. This is called a family medical history.

This type of requirement is more common when taking out permanent life insurance. These are more expensive products with greater coverage, and therefore, insurers examine the applications in detail to determine whether or not to grant the policy. On the other, it is less typical to ask for family medical histories for temporary or term life insurance.

This information is composed of all of the information on serious illnesses suffered by the members of your family, especially your parents, grandparents and siblings. The insurer is not interested in knowing if one of your family members had an accident while playing sports, but is very interested in knowing if there is a background of serious health conditions, especially if these may be hereditary. They are interested because if your family members have suffered from a serious illness, there is a possibility that you may also suffer from the same one, which implies a risk that the company must then assume.

That is why, in addition to asking about your job-associated risks, your hobbies, your lifestyle, your financial solvency, and many other things, such as whether your smoke, drink, or consume drugs, the insurer will ask you about your health above all.

What Your Insurer Wants to Know about Your Medical History

So during the underwriting process, it is not atypical for an insurance company to ask you about certain medical conditions that may have affected your close family members. The most frequent are the following:

  • Breast, colon, or skin cancer. These types of tumors have a strong hereditary component. Their presence in a family can indicate that more than one member has inherited a disposition toward the genetic mutation that causes one of these cancers.
  • Diabetes. Diabetes is one of the most common family diseases. Nowadays it is a manageable illness, but it can significantly reduce the life expectancy of those who suffer from it.
  • Coronary heart disease. Cardiovascular and coronary heart disease can also have genetic origins and be inherited. In some cases, people are predisposed to suffer severe heart attacks.
  • Kidney disease. Similar to the case of heart problems, kidney disease can also be inherited.
  • Huntington’s. Huntington’s disease (HD), also known as Huntington’s chorea, is a degenerative genetic disorder that affects the nervous system.
  • Obesity. Obesity often has hereditary elements, apart from being associated with other problems, like heart disease.
  • Other genetic conditions. There are many other disorders that are caused by genetic inheritance, such as cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, some muscular dystrophies, and thalassemia, which affects proper function of the blood supply.

The insurer may ask uncomfortable questions about the severity of your relatives’ health conditions, how many suffered from a particular disease, the age at which they were diagnosed, or if someone has died from one of these ailments.

Keep in mind that diagnosis in a young person, which triggers alarm bells for insurers, is not the same as a diagnosis in someone who is already in their later years, which is much less concerning.

Our advice in this situation is always the same: as with any information required from you during the qualification process, it is important that you are honest at all times. Provide all data requested and do not hesitate to give them all of the information required of you.

Remember that lying during this process is one of the worst mistakes people make when taking out an insurance policy It is a mistake because if the insurer discovers that you have lied, they can withdraw your policy without a second thought and you will lose coverage.

Even so, it is possible that you may not have access to this family information, maybe because you are adopted or you have distanced yourself from your family members and do not know this information. In that case, indicate on your life insurance application that you do not know your family medical history.

How Family Medical History Affects Life Insurance Premiums

Using this medical information, the agents from the insurance company can better assess the risk of offering you a life insurance policy. If, for example, patterns of mortality are detected, you may even be denied access to insurance because the risk is qualified as too high.

However, it is more likely that the company will find a small risk of developing serious illnesses. In this case, insurance companies tend to increase the premiums instead of rejecting the application. Monthly premiums will go up depending on the disease and how likely it is that the applicant will suffer from it. For example, if you have type I diabetes, your premiums may be up to three times higher, so the existence of this disease in your family medical history will certainly increase the price of the policy.

But there are things you can do to prevent these medical reports from negatively affecting you. For example, you can undergo testing to demonstrate that you are not suffering from these diseases at the time of application. Or, you can provide follow-up reports and medical exams to prove that you take care of your health and are watching for the appearance of these ailments.

In addition, it is possible for the insurer to request an attending physician statement, or APS, that better explains your history and relationship to these family diseases. The doctor’s testimony may prove definitive in preventing the insurance company from assigning you higher premiums, so you should not hesitate to request his or her participation.

In any case, however you do this, you should keep in mind that all of these processes, tests, and exams will end up affecting the qualification process, and although they may not void your eligibility, they will certainly delay the date when the policy is signed.

Finally, in the event that you are denied life insurance due to your family medical history, you can always turn to products where this will not be a problem, such as guaranteed acceptance life insurance and other no medical exam life insurance.

To learn more about the importance of medical records, do not hesitate to consult an insurance agent. They will be able to give you all the details and adjust this information to your personal circumstances. Another way to “test the waters” is to ask for quotes through insurer websites. This way, you will have a good initial sense of your specific situation.

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