Today, the more than 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States have more options, but may face stricter requirements than their peers without the virus. This makes adequate coverage difficult to find, even after major advancements in treatment and medicine have brought the average life expectancy of a young person living with HIV in line with the general population.
Providers that have life insurance plans for those living with HIV tend to view the virus similarly to other chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and smoking. Here’s what you need to know to find a life insurance policy if you’re HIV positive.
The short and long answer to this is yes, you can get life insurance if you're HIV positive. But there’s no one-size-fits-all policy for all folks with HIV.
Your individual HIV status can have an impact on the type of plan you can buy, and providers have different requirements. Generally, you should expect to provide additional information during the application and qualification process and be prepared to pay a higher rate for your policy.
There are four types of insurance plans anyone can choose from:
Life insurance companies will most likely test applicants for HIV. For anyone applying for a fully-underwritten life insurance policy, a medical exam where blood is drawn is required. The blood sample from this exam will be tested for evidence of a variety of antigens, including HIV.
Age and health are always the two most important factors insurance companies use to determine whether you’re insurable — and at what cost.
A young person who’s physically fit is statistically less likely to die during a plan’s term, whether that’s a couple of years or decades, than someone who’s older and less healthy. Other factors including gender and lifestyle also impact premiums. For example, statistically risky habits and hobbies like smoking and sky diving can raise premiums, and women tend to pay lower premiums than men because they statistically live longer.
No life insurer expects every prospective applicant to be in peak health and without any pre-existing conditions, so what classifies as a risk for each insurer differs from company to company. So your HIV status might not be as big a hindrance as other health conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression or heart disease.
Regardless of your medical condition, the sooner your secure life insurance, the less you’ll pay in premiums. On average, life insurance premiums increase by 4.5% to 9% per year you delay purchasing, according to Policygenius.
The application process is different at every insurance company, but the underwriting process for applicants living with HIV is similar for all of them.
When you apply for life insurance and disclose that you’re HIV positive, the insurer will require additional materials for your application that hones the nature of the diagnosis and the treatment plan to manage the illness. This will lengthen the application process because medical records and physician statements will be ordered in addition to reports from any in-patient facilities where you’ve received treatment.
The typical information required in this medical underwriting can include, among other things:
If you want to purchase guaranteed life insurance or another plan that doesn’t require medical underwriting, the application process is reduced from weeks and months to a few days.
While the coronavirus pandemic has made insurance companies more cautious about who gets insured, it’s not stopping insurers from writing new policies for people living with HIV. Generally, the pandemic has slowed the application process for people living with HIV rather than denying access altogether, according to a report from the Roanoke Times.
More options for life insurance should be on the horizon, thanks to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a monthly injectable treatment for HIV, which would allow applicants to document the consistent treatment required to qualify for insurance.
Also, starting in 2023, California’s Equal Insurance HIV Act will prevent insurance companies from denying life insurance to an in-state applicant with a positive HIV test. (There is not yet proposed legislation that prevents insurance companies from charging higher premiums for people living with HIV.)
Even with having a pre-existing condition, people with HIV can do a couple of things to improve the likelihood of getting insured and getting a lower premium:
These companies are known to approve applicants living with HIV.
Based out of New York City, Guardian Life is an insurer that offers term and whole insurance to people who are HIV positive. Applicants must meet the following criteria:
Guardian Life offers whole life insurance with coverage between $25,000 and $2 million. For term life offered by Guardian, the minimum is $100,000 and the maximum is $2 million. This provider is excellent for people living with HIV who are in good health and have been receiving medical treatment for several years.
Based out of Boston, John Hancock is an insurer that offers fully-underwritten term and whole life insurance. Applicants living with HIV must meet the following criteria:
John Hancock offers whole life and term insurance with coverage between $250,000 and $2 million. This provider is excellent for people whose HIV is well controlled and who are in good health.
Based out of Waco, Texas, American Amicable is an insurer that offers whole and term life insurance. Applicants must meet the following criteria:
American Amicable offers whole and term life insurance with coverage between $250,000 and $500,000. This provider is excellent for people whose HIV is well controlled and who are in good health.
Based out of Galveston, Texas, American National is an insurer that offers whole and term life insurance. Applicants must meet the following criteria:
American National offers whole life and term insurance with coverage between $250,000 and $1 million. This provider is excellent for people whose HIV is well controlled, who are in good health and who have strong documentation of care.
Based out of Newark, New Jersey, Prudential offers term life insurance for those living with HIV. This plan is convertible to a whole life insurance policy. Applicants must meet the following criteria:
Prudential offers coverage between $100,000 and $2.5 million. This provider is excellent for people whose HIV is well controlled, who are in good health and who have strong documentation of their care.
Based out of New York City, AIG Guaranteed Issue is a go-to life insurance for people living with HIV. Insurance is guaranteed, so the only underwriting criteria is that you’re between age 50 and 85, and you’re a U.S. citizen.
AIG’s guaranteed issue typically has competitive rates and offers coverage between $5,000 and $25,000. This plan is excellent for people who are having difficulty finding a whole or term life insurance plan.
Nick Fiorellini is a freelance grant writer, copywriter and journalist living in the Philadelphia area. He’s a proud member of the National Association of LGBTQ Journalists (NLGJA).