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COVID-19 has raised new questions about the purchase and payout of life insurance coverage during pandemics. If you have life insurance, you may be wondering whether your beneficiaries will be covered if you die of COVID-19 or a related complication. In this article you’ll discover the answer to common pandemic-related life insurance questions, including: does life insurance cover pandemics?

Does Life Insurance Cover Pandemics?

The answer largely depends on whether the life insurance in question is a preexisting plan or if you're looking to purchase a new policy. Although COVID-19 may cause insurance companies to reframe their terms and conditions going forward, your carrier cannot change the coverage terms for a preexisting policy because of a pandemic.  If your life insurance policy is active and in good standing, your insurer must pay out a death benefit if you die of a pandemic-related illness or complication.

If you purchased coverage recently and didn’t disclose requested information related to your risk of COVID exposure, you may have invalidated your coverage. If you think this may be the case, call your plan representative to find out the best way to proceed.

Can You Purchase Life Insurance During a Pandemic?

COVID-19 has made many people aware of the benefits of having life insurance, but whether or not you can purchase a policy during a pandemic may depend on your age. Although most insurance companies are still selling policies during the current global pandemic, many have temporarily suspended the sale of new policies to older adults, especially those aged 70 and up who are considered at higher risk for severe COVID-related illness or death.

Purchasing coverage during a pandemic can also be tricky, as the standard procedures for application may change. Below are several factors that you should consider before purchasing life insurance during a pandemic:

Higher Rates

Life insurance rates are based on risk factors, including age, gender and general health. A pandemic such as COVID-19 essentially increases that risk for everyone. Due to the heightened risk insurance companies are taking on during the pandemic, many carriers have raised rates. This increase can make the cost of a policy prohibitive.

Delayed Applications

With many regions experiencing periodic stay-at-home orders, applications may be delayed. The initiation of policies that require medical exams may be hindered by canceled or delayed appointments.

Additional Barriers

Some insurers are currently incorporating coronavirus-related questions into their application process, which may make it more difficult for some individuals to get approved for coverage. You may be required to answer some or all of the following questions regarding your risk of contracting COVID-19:

  • Have you tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 30 days?
  • Have you experienced any symptoms of COVID-19 recently?
  • Have you traveled to a COVID-19 hot spot recently?
  • Have you had contact with an individual who was diagnosed with or suspected to have COVID-19 recently?
  • Does your job put you at a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19?

Although the situations here reference the current COVID-19 pandemic, these precedents would likely hold true for any subsequent events.

At What Point Did COVID-19 Become a Pandemic?

COVID-19, which is sometimes referred to as SARS-CoV-2, was first seen in Wuhan, China. It was soon labeled an epidemic, which is defined as a disease that has spread rapidly within a small geographic area, such as a country.

Once the disease spread outside the borders of China, affecting a large number of people in several countries, it was reclassified as a pandemic. It received this classification from the World Health Organization in March 2020. COVID-19 is now considered a global pandemic due to its worldwide spread.

How Long Will the Covid-19 Pandemic Last?

A pandemic is typically considered to be over when rapid spread of the disease ceases and people return to normal activities. This usually happens when there are no longer enough hosts to effectively pass along the virus.

Unfortunately, nobody can accurately predict how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last. However, many experts agree that the following factors may influence the timeline of the pandemic and how soon it will end:

  • The advance of medical and scientific research
  • The rate of vaccination distribution
  • The efficacy of vaccines in preventing illness and spread
  • The emergence and spread of more transmissible or virulent variants of COVID-19
  • Overall compliance with CDC guidelines or other preventative measures that limit the spread of the disease

Although nobody can guarantee it, many experts are hoping to see a return to normalcy by the end of 2021.

Who Is Most at Risk During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

The symptoms and severity of COVID-19 can vary widely between individuals, and not everyone has the same level of risk. Severe cases of the disease may lead to intensive care or other hospitalization, the need for a ventilator to assist with breathing, or even death. According to the CDC, certain contributing factors may lead to an increased risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19.

Age

The chance of contracting a severe illness or complications from COVID-19 increases with age, with the greatest risk to those 85 or older

Underlying Medical Conditions

At any age, adults with certain medical conditions are at a higher risk for severe illness or complications from COVID-19. These underlying conditions may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Cancer
  • COPD
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Down Syndrome

For the full list, visit the CDC's COVID-19 resource center.

Other Considerations

Unfortunately, there is no simple way to know who is at the highest risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19 and complications related to the disease. Other groups of people who may want to take extra precautions due to a higher risk of contagion include the following:

  • Individuals with disabilities or developmental disorders
  • Adults and children who are homeless
  • Ethnic and racial minority groups
  • First responders and medical personnel
  • Essential workers such as gas station attendants, truck drivers, grocery clerks and childcare providers

Will Life Insurance Change in the Post-Pandemic World?

The changes wrought on the life insurance industry by COVID-19 remain to be seen. However, it’s likely that the cost of policies, plan terms and the overall buying process may see substantial changes going forward in the post-pandemic world.

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