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Life Insurance and HIV: The Impact on Your Policy & Premiums

Learn how HIV could affect the process of buying life insurance, especially when it comes to the impact on your premiums.

According to HIV.gov, 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV.

People living with HIV can still live long lives. Studies have shown people with a good initial response to HIV treatment can have a life expectancy ranging into their 80s.

No matter the improved life expectancy, chances are they want to protect their family financially should they pass away from the disease or any other cause.

Unfortunately, life insurance companies are in the business of making money. To make sure they make money, they have to make strategic decisions about who to insure and who not to insure.

You may be wondering if there are life insurance options for HIV-positive people.

Here’s what you need to know about HIV life insurance options.

How HIV Impacts Life Insurance

An HIV-positive diagnosis can have different impacts depending on where you are in your life insurance process.

Looking to buy life insurance

If you’re looking to buy life insurance and are HIV-positive, things get much more complex.

Technically, it isn’t impossible to get life insurance with an HIV diagnosis. It’s just much more difficult and costly.

Some types of life insurance will accept anyone. We’ll cover those below.

However, most life insurance requires the policy to be underwritten. This means the life insurance companies have you fill out life insurance applications.

You have to answer health questions and disclose information about yourself and your medical history. This includes any health conditions you have, such as HIV.

Many life insurance policies require you to undergo a medical exam, as well.

Part of this exam includes drawing blood. The blood is then tested for several things, including HIV.

Lying about your HIV status is a bad idea. Life insurance companies will likely find it during underwriting.

In rare cases, they may not.

However, they will invalidate your policy and deny your death benefit if they find out you lied about your HIV status on your application.

HIV does not rule out life insurance

Thankfully, some life insurance companies work with people with HIV.

For instance, Guardian states they offer term or whole life insurance for people living with HIV.

They state each case depends on your specific circumstances. To qualify for one of their policies, you must meet the following criteria at a minimum:

  • Self-identify as an HIV-positive individual
  • Take active anti-retroviral therapy for two or more years with favorable lab results
  • Not have or have had an AIDS-defining illness
  • Be between ages 20 and 60
  • Be under the care of a doctor specializing in HIV

Expect to see high rates if you find a life insurance company willing to write you a policy.

You may pay ten times the rates of a healthy individual without HIV.

Current events could also impact your approval chances.

COVID has recently resulted in many life insurance companies denying HIV-positive applicants due to the risk associated with HIV and COVID.

Already have life insurance

If you already have life insurance, there’s good news.

Contracting HIV should not have any impact on your current policy.

Life insurance contracts that are already in effect cannot generally change or be canceled after the fact for new medical conditions you get diagnosed with.

This can cause issues with some types of life insurance policies that you have to renew, though.

While nothing changes with your current policy, you may get denied when you try to get a new policy or renew it.

If you don’t get denied, chances are your renewal rates will increase drastically after being diagnosed with HIV.

Life Insurance Options for People With HIV

If you have HIV and you want to purchase life insurance, it may still be possible.

Here are the general types of life insurance, how they work, and what you should know.

Term life insurance

Term life insurance is one of the more common forms of life insurance.

This insurance lasts for a set period called the term. It may be 10, 20, 30, or some other number of years.

If you die during the term and the policy is active, the life insurance company pays the death benefit to your beneficiaries.

If you don’t die during the term, you receive nothing.

Due to the way this insurance is structured, it is often one of the cheapest forms of life insurance you can buy on your own.

Permanent life insurance

Permanent life insurance lasts your entire life.

This means life insurance companies will eventually pay out a death benefit if you keep your policy active.

Due to this, rates are much higher than term life insurance policies.

These policies may have a cash value benefit. Part of your premium may go toward the cash value.

In some policies, the cash value is held in cash. In others, you can invest it.

You can generally withdraw the cash value at any time for any reason.

If the cash value goes negative, though, the policy is terminated.

Salespeople often push this insurance because of the higher commissions it offers.

It is rarely the best choice for most individuals but can be a smart option in rare cases.

Instead, choosing a term life insurance policy and investing the difference in premiums may result in a better long-term outcome.

This assumes you’re a disciplined investor, though.

Whole Life vs. Term Life Insurance

Whole Life Term Life
Time frame Permanent Temporary, generally 5 to 30 years
Premium level Fixed for life of the policy Fixed for the term
Cash value Yes No
Interest-bearing Yes No
Loan provision Yes No
Cost High Roughly 10% of the cost of an equivalent amount of whole life insurance
Cannot be canceled except for nonpayment Yes Yes

Guaranteed issue life insurance

Anyone, including HIV-positive individuals, can purchase guaranteed issue life insurance.

Now:

This life insurance coverage is extremely expensive, though.

Insurance companies understand people buying this life insurance often have significant health conditions.

Due to this, they limit the death benefit. Often, you cannot purchase more than $25,000 of coverage.

Additionally, the death benefit won’t pay out if you die shortly after the policy goes into effect.

You have to live through a waiting period before the death benefit will pay out.

Often, this waiting period is about two years or so.

If you die during the waiting period, your beneficiaries will usually receive the premiums you paid back.

Unfortunately, the low coverage amounts and high costs make this type of life insurance less than ideal.

You can use it to cover your final expenses to avoid putting additional financial strain on your family, though.

Group life insurance

You may be able to buy group life insurance through your employer.

This coverage often allows anyone who qualifies as an employee to join.

Your employer may pay for the coverage or the premiums may be deducted from your paycheck.

The life insurance company allows anyone to get up to a certain amount of coverage with no medical exam.

The limit is often small, such as a small multiple of your salary or $50,000.

You may be able to purchase additional coverage, but the life insurance company usually requires you to submit to a medical exam to obtain it once it reaches a certain amount.

That means people with HIV will likely get denied for additional coverage.

This insurance is almost always very inexpensive.

The downside to these policies is they are only in effect while you work at your employer.

If you leave your job, you usually can’t continue the policy on your own.

This can tie you to your job.

If you get sick and can no longer work, you may lose the coverage when you need it most.

Consult an Expert

Getting life insurance as an applicant with HIV can be difficult or even impossible in some circumstances.

Rather than get frustrated and give up, you may want to consult an expert to see what options you have.

Life insurance brokers work with several life insurance companies to find the best policies for their customers.

These brokers get paid on commission, so you need to understand the basics of what type of life insurance is best for your situation.

Higher-cost policies generally pay brokers more.

They may try to sell you a more expensive variety of life insurance, such as whole life insurance, to earn more money.

As long as you know this, you can make an educated decision about what is best for you.

If you still need help determining what type of life insurance policy is best, consult a fee-only fiduciary financial advisor.

You have to pay them for advice, but they can’t accept commissions. They also must give you advice that’s the best fit for you.

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