When we apply for life insurance, there are three primary factors that determine the rate classification: our age at the time of the application, our current and previous health status, and the amount of life insurance coverage we wish to purchase.
Certainly, the applicant’s health condition sits at the top of the underwriting concerns since we can’t change our age and the amount of life insurance is typically never a deal breaker for the underwriter or applicant (meaning it’s negotiable).
There is a lot of discussions today about hepatitis because a large part of the population doesn’t know they have it and because of innovative research and development, there are cures available. If you have some form of hepatitis, your life insurance rate will depend on the type of hepatitis you have or have had, the treatment you’ve received (if any), and your current prognosis from the physician who has been treating you. Today, hepatitis is a major concern for insurance underwriters and our intention in this article is to help insurance shoppers understand more about the relationship between the disease and insurance rates.
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Exactly what is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver. It is typically the result of a viral infection, however, alcohol, drugs, and other toxins may also be a contributing factor. Hepatitis can be either acute, viral or chronic but there are vaccines available depending on the type of hepatitis we are referring to.
Hepatitis generally presents several symptoms like fatigue, joint pain, muscle pain and loss of appetite. With some forms of hepatitis, symptoms may not be presented until years after the disease invades the liver and a lot of people do not realize they have the disease until it is revealed after a blood test for unrelated reasons. Currently, there are five forms of hepatitis that have been identified:
|Hepatitis A||Hepatitis A is the result of being infected with the hepatitis A virus and is typically transmitted by an uninfected person consuming food or water that’s been contaminated by an infected person.|
|Hepatitis B||Hepatitis B is caused by being infected with the Hepatitis B virus (HBV). It is typically transmitted when an uninfected person comes in contact with infected blood, semen, or vaginal secretions. Generally, the infection will be the result of unprotected sex or the sharing of needles or razors with an infected person.|
|Hepatitis C||Hepatitis C (HCV) is the most common type of hepatitis in the 21st century and is transmitted through contact with infected blood and bodily fluids. The CDC estimates that there are almost 4 million Americans that have a chronic form of Hepatitis C.|
|Hepatitis D||Hepatitis D (HDV) is a rare form of the disease that is only found in patients that also have hepatitis B and is uncommon in the U.S.|
|Hepatitis E||Hepatitis E (HEV) is considered a waterborne disease and is mainly found in contaminated water supplies in Africa, the Middle East, Central America, and Asia, and is rarely found in the U.S.|
For the purpose of this article, we’ll discuss the most prevalent type of hepatitis which is Hepatitis C. Hepatitis C is a very serious disease because of its impact on the infected person’s liver. Some refer to it as a silent killer because it can go undetected for 15 to 20 years and all the while to doing silent damage to the infected person’s liver. Most people infected with hepatitis C discover their infection through a routine blood test for an unrelated reason. Many times the blood test is required when a person is applying for life insurance.
Over time, untreated hepatitis C can exact damage on the unsuspecting person and then finally present symptom such as:
- An unusual level of fatigue
- Joint pain and sore muscles
- Mild to severe pain in the belly and liver area of the body
- Itchy skin
- Jaundice and dark urine
If any of these symptoms are presented, individuals should notify their physician and have the proper blood test. Once confirmed, your physician will likely order a liver biopsy, MRI, or ultrasound to determine the condition of your liver. If your liver hasn’t been damaged by the disease, you have the option of waiting before starting treatment or being prescribed the drugs that are now available to cure the disease.
How will Hepatitis C Impact my Life Insurance Rates?
When you apply for life insurance, there are several steps the underwriter will take to determine your risk to the company. When you disclose that you have hepatitis C, you will be asked several questions by the underwriter so a determination can be made if you are an acceptable risk:
- How long ago were you diagnosed with Hepatitis C?
- What tests have been done other than the blood test that revealed the disease?
- What stage were you diagnosed with?
- Are you taking any medications for the condition?
- What were the most recent results of your liver function enzymes test?
- How often do you see a physician for treatment?
- Do you drink alcohol and if so, how often?
- Do you smoke cigarettes, vape or chew tobacco?
- What other medical conditions if any, do you suffer from?
After reviewing this information and the results of your medical exam (if required), the underwriter will then determine your rate class if he or she decides to offer coverage. In most cases, if you have had hepatitis for several years and are not being treated or taking medication the insurer will likely offer a policy that has been table rated or simply decline the application.
What if I’ve Taken Medication and Have Been Cured?
There is good news. Several pharmaceutical companies have made major breakthroughs and are offering medications that offer a 95 – 99% cure rate for individuals who have the hepatitis C virus. Many of these drugs are effective for all genotypes but some are for only specific genotypes. Here are the most popular hepatitis C drugs being prescribed today:
|Drug Name||Length of Treatment|
|Mavyret||8 - 12 weeks|
|Zepatier||12 or 16 weeks|
It’s important to note that all of these drugs are very expensive and most patients experience side effects like headache and general fatigue.
The most important information that you can glean from this article is that if you had hepatitis C and taken medication that has cured your disease, many life insurance companies will offer a standard rating or even better. One of the companies that we have found to be “hepatitis friendly” for this situation is Lincoln National Life Insurance Company. Lincoln National Life is a highly-rated insurance company with competitive rates and outstanding customer service.
If you are looking for affordable life insurance and have been diagnosed with hepatitis C, it’s critical that you speak with an experienced and reputable independent insurance agent who can quote your individual case with multiple carriers and deliver the best insurance solution based on your circumstances.