You’ve taken the time to research the different types of life insurance. You pulled out the calculator and figured out how much coverage you’ll need. Finally, you contacted a life insurance agent and sent in your application and…you’ve been denied. What, how? Take a deep breath, it’s not as uncommon as you might think and it doesn’t mean you’re out of options. Let’s take a look at the application process and what steps you can take next.

Frustrated woman looking at her declined life insurance application.

Life Insurance Application Process

Underwriting

If your life insurance application is denied, you need to know what goes into the application process to better understand why. The practice of evaluating the various factors and insurability of an applicant is called “underwriting”. Your life insurance agent should guide you through the application process, but once the application arrives at the insurance company, it’s up to the underwriter to review your case and either accept or deny it.

The complex process of underwriting is different in every company, but the concept is generally the same. Basically, they review every aspect of your application and determine how easy and viable it is to offer you insurance. For the most part, a single aspect of an application won’t make or break it, but if a pattern of risky behavior or chronic health issues is found, it might lead to denial.

While application requirements certainly vary from company to company, there are likely differences between policy requirements within the same company. These differences are typically based on factors like the type of policy you’re applying for, the amount of coverage you’re seeking, and your age. Usually, the younger you are, the more coverage you can get without too many questions or hurdles to leap over. However, as the death benefit grows, so does the scrutiny of the application.

Medical History and Exams

An important part of the application process is a thorough check of your medical history. Major events in your medical records, or major illnesses in your family medical history, are all pieces of the underwriting puzzle that are considered as well. For many people, an additional medical exam is part of the process, which often involves some sort of physical assessment as well as lab work. The insurance company will typically arrange this for the applicant and most of the time they cover the costs.

While a medical history check is almost always part of the process, additional medical exams are not always required. If you’re younger and/or seeking a lower amount of coverage, you may be able to avoid further poking and prodding at the doctor’s office.

When applying for life insurance, the absolute worst thing you can do is omit or falsify information about yourself. Sometimes people feel that they can’t be honest because they think their medical condition will prevent them from getting coverage, but this can come back to haunt you and your family in the future. If you neglect to tell the insurance about something that they later discover when processing the claim, it could be disastrous. They may deny the claim, leaving your family without the help they need.

Determining Rates

The rates you receive are based on how healthy you are. The healthiest applicants get what’s called a preferred rate, but most people fall into the standard category. If your medical history includes major illnesses, you might still be able to get coverage at a substandard rate, which is a higher premium.

Top Reasons People Are Denied Life Insurance Coverage

Medical Conditions/Preexisting Conditions

Insuring people with chronic illnesses is tricky. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other serious medical conditions make it more difficult for life insurance companies to justify the potential cost of coverage. While it is possible to get life insurance with a preexisting condition, it greatly depends on what that condition is and the underwriting procedure at the company. Usually, a compromise can be found, either by adjusting premiums or the level of death benefit.

Lifestyle

The way you live your life has a large impact on your insurability. Life insurance companies have to take into consideration choices and behaviors that are risky or potentially unhealthy. Excessive drinking, substance abuse, poor diet, and other such factors may make it harder for them to justify coverage. If your favorite activities include explosives and parachutes, life insurance companies are probably going to consider you a high-risk applicant.

Driving Records (DUI/DWI)

Any sort of record that might suggest risky or hazardous behavior is also going to make it difficult to get coverage. That having been said, it is still possible to get a policy with a DWI/DUI. The underwriter will take into consideration how long ago the incident occurred and try to determine if it was an isolated incident or a pattern of behavior. Depending on that evaluation, you may miss out on preferred rates or have your application declined altogether. As with most things, every company will have its own policy.

Age

It’s usually much easier to get coverage when you’re younger. For example, if you apply for term life insurance when you’re 30, your rates and amount of coverage are likely to be much better than if you applied for the same level of coverage when you’re 60. While it isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, applicants in their later years might have difficulties getting coverage at a preferred rate, especially if there are other health-related issues involved.

My Life Insurance Application Was Declined – Now what?

Get the Details 

The insurance company may provide general reasoning in their denial letter, but you need specifics. Because of privacy laws, your agent will not likely have any lab results or the results of your medical exam. For this, it is best to contact the insurance company directly or reach out to the doctor who performed the tests. Even if the reason for denial isn’t medical related, contacting the company directly should provide specific details.

Speak With Your Doctor

If the reason for denial is medical, you need to speak with a doctor. Sometimes, the lab work involved in your medical exam reveals a condition you weren’t previously aware of.  Going to a doctor to figure out a plan for improving your health is essential. For example, if you have high blood pressure or cholesterol, a doctor can help you figure out a way to bring those down to a level that an insurance provider would find acceptable.

Double-check Your Records

People make mistakes. That’s why it’s important to request an explicit list of reasons why the company has denied you coverage. Look over it and make sure that there are no discrepancies between the record and what you know to be true. It’s not uncommon for medical and legal records to have inaccuracies, so be thorough in your review.

Try Another Company

Just because one company has declined your application doesn’t mean that all of them will. While many insurance companies keep records of applicants to share with other companies, this information can only be used for guidance. One company can’t deny your claim based on the assessment of another underwriter in a different company. That’s why you should never feel as though you are out of options if you’ve been denied. Life insurance companies vary in their products, underwriting guidelines, and levels of risk they are willing to assume. If you’ve been denied, talk to your agent about finding a company that might have a plan more in line with your needs.

Wait And Make Adjustments

Depending on the reason you were denied, sometimes the best idea is to simply wait. Some companies require certain amounts of time to have passed between the occurrence of an event and an application (like DUI/DWIs). If a medical condition has the possibility of improving, you can always apply when your health has improved. However, sometimes it is necessary to make adjustments to your lifestyle. For example, if you have been denied life insurance coverage because of your build (i.e. height and weight) or because of an unhealthy or risky habit, these barriers can be overcome if you’re willing to take the steps to do so.

 

 

And that’s life insurance in a nutshell! If you’ve read through all of our life insurance blogs this month, we hope you’ve found them insightful and helpful. We hope you use this information to make one of the most important decisions in your life: purchasing life insurance. It’s never easy to think about the worst-case scenario, but there is no substitute for the peace of mind you will give your family in the years to come.