Mental Health

When assessing you for insurance coverage, underwriters don’t just look at your physical health. Your mental health is every bit as important to determining your risk as an applicant.

Before you dive too deeply into this article, I wanted to take the time to let you know that there are plenty of resources out there if you or a loved one are dealing with mental illness. With all of the resources available, mental illness is undergoing an interesting revolution in how it is diagnosed, managed and talked about in the United States.

Mental health is incredibly important to your overall well-being, which is why its de-stigmatization has created innovative ways in which the life insurance industry looks at the subject.

The information in this article is not designed to diagnose, stigmatize or to devalue mental illness and those dealing with mental illness. This is simply a tool for those shopping for life insurance with a history of mental illness. Please visit the National Institute of Mental Health or for a list of treatment and counseling resources.

Life Insurance with Mental Health History: An Overview

The first thing to know when shopping for life insurance with mental illness is that you can find affordable rates no matter what your unique situation may be.

If you have had mild cases of anxiety or depression, you will be able to qualify for “Preferred” life insurance rates.

In some cases, depression and anxiety are triggered by major life events, such as deaths or divorces. In cases like these, your underwriter will want to know some of the details surrounding your depression or anxiety and how it is being managed or treated.

The treatment and management of mental health is the primary concern for underwriters, who will primarily look for three things:

  1.     The severity of the illness
  2.     The degree to which you have the illness under your control
  3.     How long you have been controlling the disease.

In addition to these three factors, underwriters will need more detail on the following:

  • When you were diagnosed. A long history of a well-managed mental illness can earn you the best rates possible. You should wait a few months after your diagnosis to apply for life insurance, because insurers will want to know how you are responding to treatment.
  • Who is treating you. Your underwriter will want to talk to your therapist to get a clear idea of how well your treatment is going and any relapses you may have experienced.
  • The type of treatment you are seeking, as well as how you have responded to treatment.
  • A list of medications you are currently taking or have taken to treat your mental illness. This is especially important, as your medications can cause serious side-effects that will increase your risk.
  • The presence of other mental illnesses.

One of the most important things you can provide on your application is a thorough history of your mental health. Underwriters traditionally look more favorably on a well-documented history than they do a sparse history with hints of mental illness.

This is because a well-documented case can give underwriters a clear picture of not only your mental health history, but how they can reasonably predict your future risk patterns to be. If you have a mild or moderate mental health issue, you will be able to earn decent rates with the above information.

Severe Mental Health Problems

Not all mental health problems are mild; however, and underwriters will have a different process for how they view the risk of a severe mental illness.

For example, if you have ever attempted suicide, it will be more difficult to obtain a life insurance policy. This makes sense, as it is the job of an underwriter to take on the most risk possible without compromising the company’s profitability.

This means that if your mortality risk is greater than the average person’s, you can reasonably expect financial consequences including a flat extra onto your premium or declines. In most cases, insurance policies include a clause that states a death benefit will not be paid out if the insured commits suicide within two years of taking out a life insurance policy. This same clause applies for someone renewing their policy, and it applies to almost all life insurance policies.

So, if you have a history of suicide attempts and are considering taking out a guaranteed issue policy for coverage, your beneficiaries will still be unprotected if you commit suicide during that two-year time period. Well-documented treatment and recovery evidence will be necessary in order for an underwriter to accurately assess your risk.

There are other cases of severe mental illness that don’t involve suicide. Certain strong medicines and a history of hospitalization are also viewed as a higher risk than other mental illness side effects. Your insurer will need the following information:

  • If there are any co-existing mental illnesses.
  • If you have a history of hospitalization due to mental illness.
  • Any physical illness you may experience, particularly if these cause chronic pain or restricts any regular activities.
  • If you have a history of job instability, financial difficulties or unemployment due to mental illness
  • Any drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Previous suicide attempts.

If you have attempted suicide before but can demonstrate successful treatment or recovery, you will generally be required to undergo a waiting period of one-to-two years before applying for a policy. After this time period, you will most likely have to pay a flat extra for an additional five or more years, depending on your risk.

There Is Help

If you are considering applying for life insurance with a history of mental illness, your best bet is to talk to a life insurance agent.

Your agent will be able to assess your risk preliminary, matching you with the best companies for your situation. Call me today to see how I can help you find life insurance with a history of mental illness.

If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.