Hereditary health issues and life insurance

How does my family history affect my life insurance?

When taking out life insurance, your family history will be taken into account. It depends on the exact situation, but family history can affect the cost of your cover in the same way your smoking status and individual health is considered.

Do I need to tell the truth?

It's smart to be honest on your application. That's because if you need to make a claim in the future and an insurer uncovers that you weren't truthful about family history, they could void your claim.

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Coverage is the amount of money that you will be paid in the event of a claim. An insurance consultant can help you determine an appropriate amount. Calculator
Provides a lump sum payment if you become totally and permanently disabled and are unable to return to work.
Provides a lump sum payment if you suffer a serious medical condition. Cover can be taken out for 40-60 medical conditions depending on the policy you choose.
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Common questions you'll be asked by an insurer

A hereditary disease questionnaire will ask questions about the presence of certain conditions in your family history. Common conditions can include diabetes, stroke, various forms of cancer, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis or muscular dystrophy. You will only need to provide information if it is a blood relative (father, mother, sister or brother).

  • Who is the direct family member and what is the specific condition?
  • What was the age of onset and the age of death?
  • Are you getting regular screenings for a hereditary condition?
  • If so, what type of screening is it and how often is it performed?
  • Are there any pending tests or investigations?
  • What are the results of past testing?

What Your Insurance Provider Need to Know

The underwriters don’t just want to know about your personal state of health. They would even want to know about your family’s medical history up to the littlest detail. If one of your family members, like your father or sister, has suffered a serious medical condition, there is likely a greater chance that you will have the same condition as well.

Your insurance provider doesn’t give nary a thought if your father broke his ankle playing football when he was 15: it is, on the other hand, looking out for inherited conditions such as coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. If a close member in your family has been afflicted by one of these conditions, they could bump up your premiums.

Insurance providers may look be misunderstood as heartless and cold. All they do is to calculate how long your life expectancy will be and charge you more if the risk of dying early is possible or probable. But that is how insurance works – just another day at work.

An ideal alternative would be to charge everybody the same amount of premium. However, this suggested practice would be very unfair on healthy people with long life expectancies. Moreover, it would also push up the cost of insurance for everybody, as people in poor health would have an incentive to take out large amounts of cover, and insurers would have to charge more to pay their claims.

Disclosing the Facts

When you apply for life insurance, it is a standard practice that a client will be asked to fill out a questionnaire which would ask you some pertinent questions. The questions might ask you to disclose details about any health issues. Most, if not all, insurance providers would ask your doctor about your personal medical history, especially if you are buying a large amount of cover. In some cases, it may also ask you to take a medical examination before you can be insured.

No matter what medical problems may be in your medical history, do not be tempted to hide it in order to get a cheaper premium, do not avoid answering the question or disclosing what it is. If these things pop up after you die, which is likely – insurers would like to take a look at things to assess whether you will be considered in breach of your policy conditions. If this happen you may be refused the payment.

Your Illness and Your Premium

How strong the impact is of your medical problems on your life insurance premiums will depend on the type of illness you have. If you have personally suffered from cancer, for example, you will need to be clear of its symptoms for at least five years before you will be offered protection. On the other hand, if you have Type I diabetes, you could pay two or three times as much for cover.

As far as your family’s medical history is concerned, your insurer’s attitude will depend on the condition - how many family members were affected, and how old they were at the time. If only one of your close relatives was affected, it may have little or no impact on your life insurance premiums. Each assessment of the situation would depend on provider.

Other things that your insurance provider would be looking for and asking you about will be for family illnesses that were diagnosed before age 60 or 65. If they were diagnosed after that, they will be disregarded.

If there is a history of a particular illness or illnesses in the family, your life insurance provider will either charge you more or may even exclude that particular condition from cover, while covering all other conditions in the usual way.

Different insurers have different underwriting rules, and some may ignore family history altogether. So it is well worth comparing quotes to find the best deal for your personal circumstances.

You may or may not have some kind of medical history concerning health issues, but it doesn’t mean that you have to skip or disregard getting life insurance cover for you. With all the unexpected things in life, it is still wise to have foresight and get the necessary cover for yourself.

Find insurance with cover for hereditary health conditions

Maurice Thach

An insurance researcher and writer for who loves finding an answer to the question "Am I covered for ________?" Maurice has also completed a Tier 1 Life Insurance and a Tier 2 General Insurance Certification under ASIC's Regulatory Guide 146. This means he can confidently provide general advice for life insurance and non-life insurance products.

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