About 20 percent of American adults smoke. For these individuals, getting life insurance often is difficult. While you may get coverage from an employer group insurance, it’s another story when it comes to an individual underwritten policy.
Smoking is in the cross hairs of insurance companies when it comes to risk. Your alternative is a no medical life insurance policy.
More On Life Insurance and Smoking
Life insurance companies typically question potential applicants for smoking and other health-related issues as well as some lifestyle choices. It is part of their process for assessing their risk in offering you coverage. Insurers must weigh these costs carefully since it can directly impact their bottom line, and thus, their ratings with independent financial analysts. It’s simply business.
Their concerns are warranted. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), smoking costs the US economy over $300 billion annually. Over 55 percent of those monies or $170 million goes toward direct medical costs.
But it isn’t just smokers. The CDC estimates that $5.6 billion goes toward lost productivity from secondhand smoke. Therefore, the stakes are high.
So Much Information from One Question
An insurance company can learn a lot about your lifestyle, health risks, and life expectancy simply from knowing whether you smoke.
Smoking is a major risk factor for a host of respiratory conditions including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and tuberculosis. Its effects are not confined to this one system. It can affect your entire body.
Health Risks Associated with Smoking
It is also a risk factor for other chronic health conditions including several which are among the leading causes of death. When you smoke, you increase your chances of developing heart disease, certain eye diseases, and rheumatoid arthritis.
It can cause high blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms. Smoking can also decrease your HDL and raise your LDL.
Lifestyle Factors and Smoking
So, with lifestyle question, an underwriter can assess a great deal about your insurance risk. But underwriters also look at other factors when determining your insurability. Smoking can provide other information. Smokers may have other health risk factors including heavy drinking, risk taking, and failing to wear safety belts. These are not definitive, but a correlation exists.
Tests Related to Smoking
With no medical examination, you’ll be able to forgo tests regarding your smoking as well as other ones that may raise red flags about its impact on our health. We’ll point out some of the obvious tests and their ensuring risks as it may affect your insurability and premiums.
Nicotine-Cotinine Blood and Urine Tests
The nicotine-cotinine blood test detects the presence of these chemicals in your blood or serum. Nicotine or its metabolites, i.e., breakdown products, may be present if you smoke or have been exposed to secondhand smoke. A doctor may also order this test if he suspects nicotine poisoning. No special preparation or fasting are required for either the blood or urine test.
The test will return both qualitative and quantitative results. The qualitative measure shows if nicotine or cotinine are present. The quantitative figure gives a concentration. This number identifies active smokers versus those who have recently quit. It can also distinguish those exposed to secondhand smoke. It can detect tobacco use even if it has been a few weeks.
Several other medical tests can show the effects of smoking on your health indirectly. Most are routine parts of a standard medical examination. They include tests that measure your cardiovascular health including blood pressure screening and cholesterol blood tests. Both are risk factors for heart disease. Smoking increases the risk for hypertension and high cholesterol.
Smoking is also a risk factor for diabetes. Screening for this chronic health condition includes a fasting blood glucose test. It is a real-time measure of your blood sugar. An A1C blood test measures your average blood glucose over the past two to three months.
It is a more comprehensive indicator of your diabetes risk than a one time reading.
With problems like high blood pressure, you can have this condition without knowing it, hence, its moniker as the silent killer. Hypertension often has no symptoms. The same applies to diabetes to some degree, especially with pre-diabetes. When a medical examination is required, these tests and others are typically included as part of your health assessment.
No Medical Exam Life Insurance for Smokers
Before applying for no medical exam life insurance, there are a few caveats you need to know up front.
First, by applying for insurance, this information will be entered into the MIB information exchange by the insurance company. It is a database of applicant data that is searchable by member insurance companies. If you are denied coverage, that will also get into the MIB.
That information will stay in the MIB for at least seven years from the time you apply for insurance. You can request your own MIB record each year so that you can verify its contents. Second, you need to look at all the requirements for a no medical exam policy.
Just because there isn’t an exam, it doesn’t mean an underwriter may not request other records.
An underwriter may also ask for other information such as prescription history, motor vehicle records, and even your medical history from your primary care physician. More often than not, the question of your smoking may exist with one of these sources.
While the application process is straightforward, there are some subtle differences of a no medical exam insurance policy that you need to know upfront since it could affect your decision to pursue this insurance.
What to Expect with No Medical Exam Life Insurance
This insurance is often sold as term life. It’s the same insurance you’d receive without the medical examination requirement.
The difference may exist with the amount of coverage. Most insurance companies will limit the coverage amount, often less than $500,000. Depending on your situation that amount may suffice. However, you may want to consider adding riders.
The Application Process
Some insurance companies may have other requirements for a no medical exam policy. Some may require employment. Other may request a credit and background check as part of the process. While you won’t need a physical, an underwriter may still review your application along with the other requested history. That means you could still be denied life insurance coverage.
Playing It Safe
Just because your situation is difficult, it doesn’t mean you should skimp on doing the necessary research yourself on an insurance company. You should still look at the financial stability of an insurer by consulting independent financial analyst ratings from organizations like Standard and Poor’s, Fitch, and Moody’s. High ratings are a measure of the company’s continued viability.
Also, look at what the insurance company offers including any additional benefits or riders. Consider options such as terminal or chronic illness riders. As a smoker, it’s essential for you to be realistic about your health risks. Remember that life insurance is a way to protect your family from the loss of income and financial burdens if anything should happen to you.
No medical exam life insurance is an excellent choice for smokers who want to ensure the financial security of their spouse and family. Even with its limitations, it still offers the peace of mind that comes from planning for your family’s future. And there’s no reason why you can’t provide for them with a no medical exam policy.