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The Issues

HIV+ Life Insurance: Everything You Need to Know

By
Team Daylight
For decades, deemed too risky to insure, people living with HIV have found it difficult to find life insurance coverage because of the stigma, misunderstandings and lack of knowledge around the virus.

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.

 

Can you get life insurance 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.

 

Common life insurance plans

 

There are four types of insurance plans anyone can choose from:

 

  • Term life insurance: The most popular form of life insurance, which lasts for a set number of years (the term). This plan works well for people who need a large amount of life insurance or have a temporary need for protection, such as when your kids are young. Although many term policies come with no medical exam for most people, you should anticipate medical underwriting if you’re HIV positive.
  • Whole life insurance: Also known as permanent life insurance, this plan lasts your entire life while you make premium payments. This plan works best if you want permanent coverage, such as for a surviving spouse or beneficiary organization, or you’re interested in having access to the policy’s loan feature.
  • Group life insurance: This plan is typically offered through an employer or another entity and provides coverage to multiple individuals under one master contract. A group life insurance policy offered through a job for free will not discriminate against those living with HIV. These plans tend to have free or low-cost premiums for policyholders and relatively modest payouts. Coverage won’t always follow you if you part ways with your employer. This life insurance is ideal for anyone whose employer offers it, but people living with HIV might benefit from relatively less scrutiny in the underwriting process.
  • Guaranteed issue life insurance: This is a form of whole life insurance that’s guaranteed to be approved and doesn’t ask applicants health questions, but usually requires you to be at least 40 years old to qualify. It typically only comes with modest coverage — capping anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000 — and premiums are usually expensive. Evaluate whether you can be approved for term or regular whole life insurance first, and use this kind of policy only if you have no other options.

 

Do life insurance companies test for HIV?

 

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.

 

How does living with HIV affect monthly premiums?

 

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.

 

Application process for HIV positive applicants

 

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:


  • The date you were diagnosed with HIV.
  • The stage of the disease — whether you have an acute HIV infection, chronic HIV infection or AIDS.
  • Current CD4 count and viral load.
  • Other medical conditions in addition to HIV.
  • Medications you’re currently prescribed and the dosage of each.
  • Whether you are or ever were symptomatic.

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.

 

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted life insurance?

 

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.)

 

How to improve your chances of becoming insured 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:

 

  • Follow your treatment plan: Like other medical conditions, the better you can control your symptoms, the more likely you are to get insured. Go to the right doctor or specialist, construct a treatment plan and follow it.
  • Exercise regularly: Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise regimen, but regular exercise can improve your health and overall wellbeing, in turn increasing your chances of being approved for insurance.

6 life insurance companies that approve applicants living with HIV

These companies are known to approve applicants living with HIV.

1. Guardian Life

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:


  • Self-identify as a person living with HIV.
  • Be on a highly active antiretroviral therapy (ART) for at least two years and demonstrate favorable lab results.
  • Not have an AIDS-defining illness.
  • Be between the ages of 20 and 60.
  • Be under the care of a doctor specializing in HIV.
  • No illicit drug or substance abuse.
  • No history of hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

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.

 

2.     John Hancock

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:


  • Self-identify as a person living with HIV.
  • Monitored by a qualified physician.
  • CD4 count of 350 cells/mm^3 or higher for at least two years, including current CD4 count.
  • Be between the ages of 30 and 65.
  • Current and previous two-year viral loads must be undetectable.
  • No history of drug abuse or alcohol concerns.
  • No AIDs-defining illness.
  • No documented viral resistance to treatment.
  • No hepatitis B or hepatitis C history.
  • No psychiatric conditions (that are deemed rated).
  • Not underweight or losing weight.
  • No hypoalbuminemia.
  • No proteinuria.
  • No malignancies.

 

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.

 

3. American Amicable

Based out of Waco, Texas, American Amicable is an insurer that offers whole and term life insurance. Applicants must meet the following criteria:


  • Evidence of excellent compliance with ART for at least six months.
  • Excellent follow-up and compliance with physician(s).
  • Stable, undetectable viral load.
  • CD4 count of at least 500.
  • Between the ages of 20 and 60.
  • No AIDs-defining condition in the last five years.
  • No co-infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis C.
  • No ratable cardiovascular impairment.
  • No other impairment that exceeds a Table 4 (a.k.a. Table D) rating (a standard rating with life insurance companies).
  • No history of substance abuse or misuse.


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.

 

4. American National

Based out of Galveston, Texas, American National is an insurer that offers whole and term life insurance. Applicants must meet the following criteria:


  • Self-identify as a person living with HIV.
  • Monitored by a qualified physician.
  • Supply all medical records since HIV diagnosis (up to five years).
  • CD4 count is greater than 500.
  • Documentation of successful ART therapy for at least six months.
  • No illicit drug use.
  • No AIDs-defining illness in the past five years.
  • No hepatitis B or hepatitis C history.
  • No other serious health conditions.

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.

 

5. Prudential

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:


  • Between the ages of 30 and 60.
  • A resident of the U.S., not from Hawaii or Vermont.
  • More than one year since diagnosis.
  • If being treated, more than six months of ART therapy.
  • Stable medical regime for at least six months; minimum of two recorded.
  • Consistently compliant with physician’s recommendation for care; routine testing for CD4 counts and viral loads.
  • Acceptable viral load results (undetectable, less than 200 copies/ml) and stable.
  • CD4 count and viral load have been recorded within six months of application.
  • No history of AIDS-defining conditions.
  • No history of Tuberculosis (TB) or non-TB mycobacterial infection.
  • No hepatitis B or hepatitis C history.

 

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.

 

6. AIG

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).