The latest uptick in COVID cases has been dubbed the "pandemic of the unvaccinated," with the average number of new cases over the last seven days up nearly 70% and hospitalizations up 36%. Yet, while some of those represent breakthrough cases, the vast majority of Americans falling sick or dying in this latest wave are unvaccinated, Dr. Anthony Fauci said earlier this month.
With unvaccinated Americans at greater risk of contracting a deadly case of COVID, does that have any effect on consumers' ability to buy life insurance?
Although life insurers generally ask new policy applicants to share their health information or submit to a medical exam, some of the largest life insurance companies say they currently are not taking COVID vaccine status into account during the underwriting process, although a few are asking in select cases.
Lincoln Financial, New York Life, and Prudential, which collectively have over $33 billion in direct written premiums, all told Fortune that they do not ask customers to verify their vaccine status for new coverage.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is not a factor in the underwriting process,” Lincoln spokesman Jay Russo says.
Northwestern Mutual, another one of the largest life insurers, tells Fortune that while vaccination status is not a concern for the majority of its applicants, the company is asking for vaccine status from a “small number of people who have high risk conditions,” says spokeswoman Betsy Hoylman. That said, she adds that people can be unvaccinated and still qualify for the best rates.
MassMutual and MetLife did not confirm whether they take COVID vaccination status into consideration.
While life insurers may not take Americans’ vaccine status into account in most cases, whether or not you’ve had COVID can be a factor. Consumers should expect to disclose if they currently have COVID, or have recovered from COVID, as part of the general medical questionnaire or declaration of insurability, Russo says of those applying for life insurance through Lincoln Financial.
“Those who have/had COVID are still eligible to apply for life insurance coverage, though their application may be postponed until recovery,” he added.
Northwestern Mutual does not directly ask whether an applicant has had COVID, but if an applicant was recently hospitalized or received recent abnormal test results, Hoylman says that may trigger a follow up with more questions or requests for associated medical records. Hoylman again noted that people who have fully recovered from COVID will still qualify for the best rates.
It’s worth noting that whether or not someone has a COVID vaccine does not impact life insurance costs for coverage already in place, according to Jan Graeber, senior health actuary at the American Council of Life Insurers.
The ACLI previously noted life insurers do not consider whether or not a policyholder has received a COVID vaccine when deciding whether to pay a claim.
For all new coverage, Graeber says companies routinely consider health factors as information is available and in compliance with regulations that govern the industry.
Yet those regulations and information may shift as more becomes known about COVID. “There may be near- and long-term considerations based on experience with COVID-19, new strains, vaccines, and consumer behavior,” Graeber says.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com