The COVID vaccine and life insurance coverage
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected virtually every aspect of life. While widespread vaccination has done much to lessen the impact of the coronavirus, concerns remain – not just about the disease but about the vaccines themselves.
Many of these concerns sound reasonable. For example, some may ask, "Why do people who have had the vaccine still get infected?" But, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain, "no vaccine is 100% effective.” Furthermore, based on extensive evidence, the CDC states that, “COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective” and that vaccination “helps protect adults and children ages 6 months and older from getting severely ill with COVID-19, and helps protect those around them.”
While many vaccines have been proven safe and effective worldwide, some people have more specific concerns relating to COVID-19, vaccines, and life insurance. For example, some people believe that the vaccine is experimental, and may void a person's policy. However, the fact is that some vaccines have full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)1. And even vaccines being used under an emergency-use authorization aren't experimental – they just haven't completed the full regulatory review process yet.
Because misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines has created so much confusion among the public, the American Council of Life Insurers felt compelled to issue a statement to debunk the rampant vaccine myths. The organization’s senior Health Actuary has stated: “Policyholders should rest assured that nothing has changed in the claims-paying process as a result of COVID-19 vaccinations. Life insurance policies specifically outline what they provide and the circumstances that could lead to the denial of a claim. These exclusions simply don’t include a policyholder’s vaccination status”.2 Life insurance companies are paying benefits for policyholders who pass away due to the coronavirus and other causes, and vaccine status has no bearing on whether or not death benefits are paid out. Whether you have a term or whole life insurance policy, your beneficiaries won’t be penalized for your decision to get vaccinated.
Here are some answers to other questions people have about COVID-19, vaccines, and life insurance.
Can the COVID vaccine positively impact coverage?
No, the COVID vaccine won't positively impact a life insurance policy you currently have in place. Most insurance companies don't ask about your vaccine status when applying for a policy – whether for COVID-19 or any other vaccine you may get. That means vaccination status can't impact your eligibility for coverage or the rate you pay. However, getting COVID-19 could hurt your ability to get a new policy in the future, especially if you develop more severe long-haul symptoms from this illness. So if a vaccine helps you stay healthier – either by preventing you from getting COVID or limiting the severity of the infection and its long-term consequences – it could indirectly help you qualify for life insurance with better terms.
Can you apply for coverage while having COVID?
Although you could apply for life insurance while having COVID, many carriers will pause your application until you fully recover. The delay of the application review period can range from approximately two weeks to up to three months after recovery. For those who experience severe cases of COVID-19, the wait could extend up to six months, depending on the specific insurer's underwriting guidelines.
Can you apply for coverage after having COVID?
Yes, you can apply for a life insurance policy after having COVID. You can even apply if you experience long-haul complications. However, depending on the life insurance company, you may have to wait 30, 60, or even 90 days after the illness to initiate the life insurance application process.
How do long-term complications from COVID impact life insurance coverage?
If you already have a policy, long-term complications from COVID won't impact your life insurance benefits. For example, your policy will pay the full death benefit if you pass away.3 However, if you still need a policy, some insurers may eventually decide that a COVID diagnosis limits your eligibility options or rate classification. And while long-term COVID complications won't automatically prevent you from getting life insurance coverage, they may impact the types of life insurance policies you're eligible for and how much you'll pay for them.
Is a pandemic a good time to get coverage, or should I wait?
Unless you're currently sick, there may not be reasons to wait to get life insurance. For most people, it's typically best to get life insurance while they're younger – and most likely, healthier – because premium costs are heavily influenced by health and age. So the younger and healthier you are, the greater the likelihood you'll be able to buy life insurance at affordable rates.
Does life insurance cover pandemics in general?
Yes, life insurance generally covers pandemics. So, if an existing life insurance policyholder passes away from COVID-19 or a related illness, their beneficiaries will still be paid a death benefit. However, pandemics and other global health crises can impact the premiums you pay for a new policy because they may affect your health and medical history. Again, if you are currently healthy, it generally makes sense to purchase life insurance sooner rather than later -- when you will be older and potentially not as healthy.
Do you have to get the vaccine or a booster to get a new life insurance policy?
Most life insurance companies don’t require you to get a COVID-19 vaccine or booster to be eligible for a new life insurance policy. So, your coronavirus vaccine or booster status likely won’t impact your eligibility for new coverage or premium rates.
If you travel to a country with high rates of COVID, will your life insurance policy cover you?
If you plan on traveling to a country with high rates of covid, it won't affect coverage under a current policy. However, if you are applying for a new policy, your life insurance application may be impacted. Consider postponing your application until you return from travel. You also should reveal your intent to travel to a country with high rates of COVID-19 if asked about it on an insurance application. If you didn't disclose this information to the insurance company during the application process and subsequently pass away from COVID-19, your claim could be denied. In any case, to avoid issues, it's always best to be completely honest and forthright during the life insurance application process.
Have more questions?
If you still have concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine and how it may affect your ability to obtain life insurance or maintain coverage, talk to your agent about your concerns. If you don't have someone to discuss insurance with, Guardian can help you find a nearby financial representative who can answer your questions and guide you to the coverage that works best for your situation.