Disabilities and life insurance
What qualifies as a disability?
According to the United States Census Bureau, roughly 41 million Americans have a physical or mental disability. Employment forms and other types of applications frequently ask for disability status, but how do you know if you meet this definition?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law that was passed in 1990 to protect the civil rights of disabled people. According to the ADA, a disability is "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Major life activities include breathing, walking, seeing, communicating, hearing, learning, sleeping, and more.
Generally, there must be some documented record of your impairment, and other people must consider you impaired.
Does the Americans with Disabilities Act protect my right to life insurance?
The ADA does not guarantee a disabled person’s ability to secure life insurance. It only requires they receive equal access to life coverage.
This means that insurers must make their policy applications as well as their physical and electronic properties user-friendly for those with disabilities.
So, an insurer still has the ability to charge you higher life insurance premiums or reject your application based on factors tied to your disability if they would also affect your life expectancy. However, in many cases, a disability has little to no impact on your life expectancy. In these instances, a disabled person may likely be able to apply for any life insurance policy and get the same consideration they would get without their disability.
When does a disability impact your ability to get life insurance?
Your ability to get an average life insurance policy generally changes if the disability you have is connected to a condition that might affect how long you live—for example, if you are blind or unable to walk because of a serious health condition like diabetes, cancer, or traumatic injury. In this case, you might find that life insurers charge you higher premiums or even reject your application altogether.
Similarly, if you have a mental disability like major depression, insurers might be concerned that you could develop behaviors that are self-destructive. So, your access to life insurance or the cost of a policy might be affected.
How can I get life insurance with my disability?
Even if your disability has an impact on your life expectancy, there are a number of insurance companies that may cover you.
To find the best coverage, many experts recommend that you fill out a “presale application form” that explains your disability and entire medical history. You can then show this to multiple insurers to get a sense for who is willing to offer you coverage.
You might also consider doing this through an insurance broker who has strong knowledge of different companies and what type of people they insure. A broker with a good reputation can shop your pre-application form around to many more companies faster than you might be able to alone.
Depending on your situation, you might be offered a policy that meets your needs.
Tips for disabled people looking for life insurance
- Some companies offer life policies specifically for disabled people, so you might want to shop around.
- You may want to get quotes from several insurers.
- In some cases, there may be things you can do (such as diet, exercise, and medical treatments) that can improve your overall health, and might make you eligible for a policy or rate you can’t get currently.
- Be aware that if the life insurance company classifies you as a “serious” or “impaired” risk, you may have to pay up to three years of premiums before you can obtain full coverage.
- If your employer offers group life insurance, it may provide a way to get some life insurance protection at little or no charge to you.
Guaranteed acceptance life insurance and other options
If your disability prevents you from purchasing traditional term or whole life insurance, remember there are alternatives.
“Guaranteed acceptance life insurance” offers coverage regardless of your health condition but generally charges higher premiums.
“Burial” or “final expense” insurance usually covers your basic end-of-life expenses as long as you pay premiums.
It may also be possible to purchase a traditional “joint life insurance policy” with your spouse. Finally, if you are a disabled military veteran, you might want to look into continuing or even increasing the coverage offered by the government during your service.