Life Insurance and Alcohol Use

Life insurance is a product based on risk assumption, and because of this, anything that increases risk makes insuring someone more problematic. Alcohol consumption is a behavior that can increases the risk of early mortality both directly and indirectly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 79,000 binge-drinking related deaths each year; and many serious health issues are caused by alcohol consumption.

Life Insurance and Alcohol Use

The use of alcohol will not necessarily disqualify anyone from obtaining life insurance. It can, however, make things more difficult on the applicant. Generally, life insurance providers don’t screen for alcohol in the bloodstream during life insurance medical exams. Instead, what physicians are trained to look for is evidence of frequent, habitual use. They do this by screening for elevated liver enzymes.

• Elevated enzymes are a sign of abnormal liver function. This typically signals long-term patterns of heavy drinking, considered a health risk in itself.

• Abnormal liver function poses a risk no matter what the source, meaning that even if insurers don’t assume heavy drinking from such results, they can still regard it as a sign of ill health and higher insurance risk.

When applying for life insurance, applicants will be asked some variant of the following two questions: how much/ how often they drink, and whether they have ever been convicted of a DUI. Drinking alcohol doesn’t automatically disqualify anyone from being insured. But the frequency and amount as well as any harmful behavioral impacts alcohol use may have had on an applicant’s lifestyle are statistically significant.

Light Drinking vs. Excessive Drinking

An occasional glass of wine or beer typically is not considered an insurance risk. Light, infrequent drinkers with no other health issues normally have no problem getting approved for life insurance policies at standard or preferred rates. But heavy drinkers face much longer odds.

Again, this difference is based on the risk of health problems caused by heavy drinking. The CDC points to alcohol use as a contributing factor in many diseases and health issues, including:

• Heart disease
• Stroke
• Depression
• Liver disease
• Dementia
• Gastrointestinal problems

The likelihood of early mortality in heavy drinkers is higher because of all the direct and indirect risks that drinking poses. Higher rates of mortality and shorter life expectancy inevitably lead to higher premiums and trouble getting insured. But there are options for alcoholics, applicants with DUIs on their record and others for whom excessive alcohol use has impacted their ability to find coverage.

Guaranteed Insurability and other Considerations

For those who already have some type of life insurance policy, a provision known as “guaranteed insurability” is worth mentioning. This is a rider on life insurance policies giving policyholders the right to purchase additional coverage at their existing rate. For those without coverage, other choices include:

• Group insurance. Membership in a group policy usually doesn’t require a medical exam, and in most cases providers are obligated to cover every group member, regardless of their medical history or insurance profile.

• Impaired risk insurance. Also thought of as “high-risk insurance”, this is an option more providers specialize in as time goes by. Applicants with alcohol issues impacting their insurability can often obtain more affordable coverage with an impaired risk provider. CNA, Mutual of Omaha and Guarantee Trust Life Insurance are a few well-known companies offering these products.

Applicants can help their cause over time by avoiding additional DUIs, successfully completing alcohol addiction rehabilitation, abstaining from drinking and having that change noted in their medical records.

In the meantime, it is essential to look around and compare the best options for life insurance from companies willing to write these types of policies. No one should let alcohol issues prevent them from getting quality term or permanent life insurance.

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