There are hundreds of factors which might influence your eligibility for life insurance and what premiums you’ll receive.
The most common is your personal medical history. The diseases, injuries, and illnesses you’ve experienced and are currently experiencing play a huge role in whether you’ll qualify for coverage and how much you’ll pay.
Another important factor, although often overlooked, is your family health history. That’s right, life insurance companies will also look at your family’s health to judge your overall risk.
Underwriters at these companies particularly want to know about any hereditary diseases which might run in your family. This is why they’ll sometimes request medical information about your parents, siblings, and maybe even grandparents.
To prepare you for this step of the application process, we’ve put together our brief guide to how your life insurance rates may be impacted by family health history below.
Can Family Health History Affect Rates? In A Word — Yes.
First things first, let’s discuss the correlation between your family health history and the premiums you’ll end up paying.
The short answer is, yes, your family health history will affect your rates. If your siblings, parents, or (potentially) grandparents had certain diseases this can change the price you pay.
It’s important to note you don’t have to provide your family’s entire medical records. All the life insurance providers want to know about are specific to a few major health risks.
Here is how the question is usually asked on a life insurance application:
Among your immediate family (natural parents, brothers and sisters), does anyone have a history of diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, or stroke?
Now, this is just a sample question, and you may be asked more specifically about different diseases, but expect wording such as this.
You’ll be asked if anyone in your family has experienced these diseases, either currently or in the past. If so, you’ll be further quizzed about their severity, symptoms, and prognosis.
Further, if a family member has passed away due to any of these, you will need to know at what age.
Simply put, life insurance companies are trying to assess the risk you’ll develop a certain disease later on by seeing if anyone in your family has struggled with it.
Though genetic or hereditary diseases in your family health history won’t exactly disqualify you from traditional coverage, they’ll likely bump you down into a lower rating class, meaning you’ll lose the ability to qualify for discounted premiums.
Of course, your own personal health is still most important. Even a not-so-good family health history is largely offset if you yourself are in great current health, haven’t experienced any major health issues, and lead a healthy lifestyle.
Why Do Companies Care About Family Health History?
Life insurance companies take on a lot of risks when they insure a person they don’t know a whole lot about.
Who knows if this person will develop a disease in the near future, forcing them to take out their benefits earlier? Who knows if the person actually knew they were at a high risk for this disease?
This is exactly why life insurance companies employ underwriters.
The underwriters look at each individual applicant’s application, health history, and family health history to get an understanding of their overall risk.
If an applicant poses more of a risk due to some medical reason, the life insurance company must charge a slightly higher premium to offset some of the risk.
If the medical problem is serious, the life insurance company might be forced to deny them from coverage altogether.
Simply put, your family health history says a lot about you and your health in the future. Though it’s obviously not set in stone you’ll develop the same diseases, it’s certainly something to look out for.
This is especially true for genetic and hereditary disease which have a stronger likelihood of passing through a family from person to person.
What Factors Are Looked At?
As you probably know, life insurance companies look at numerous factors during the application process.
Chief among these are your medical history and lifestyle. These give the underwriter a good look at your personal health and overall risk.
Yet most underwriters dig deeper. They want to know about your family health history as well, especially:
This is why life insurance underwriters often ask questions about the history of close family members like brothers, sisters, and parents.
The health problems which concern underwriters the most are genetic and hereditary disease and illnesses. Of course, if you’re an adult applying for coverage and you’ve not been diagnosed early on in life, there’s usually a greater chance you’re in the clear.
Specific issues like cancers, tumors, and neurological diseases get the most weight. Basically, they’re concerned about any factors which might influence your own personal health in the future.
Note, life insurance underwriters don’t carry about things which can’t influence you.
For example, a relative who received a traumatic brain injury isn’t of concern to them. Such an injury can’t influence your own personal health in the future.
Questions You’ll Be Asked
The main step of the life insurance application is answering the questions presented in the application.
These are generally fairly straightforward regarding your own personal health. You’ll be asked about your overall lifestyle and any medical issues you might have.
Once you clear this section of the application, underwriters at most life insurance companies will then ask several questions about your family health history.
These include questions about any family history of heart disease, family history of cancer, and family history of stroke.
As mentioned above, the way the questions are asked tend to be open-ended. It’s not to trip you up, but rather to help them determine if there are any risks at all.
Has anyone in your immediate family been diagnosed with cancer?
If you respond “Yes” to this, you’ll then be asked which kind and for basic information like what stage of cancer, and if this person survived the condition.
The same type of situation would arise for other health conditions, too.
Once again, the goal of asking these questions is to get a clearer image of what your own personal health could look like in the future.
Note: these questions won’t be asked if you come from an adopted family.
The Application Process
We’ve already gone over the bulk of the life insurance application process above: filling out the application and clarifying the potential risks of your family.
The next step includes attaching a current medical exam. The medical exam is proof to underwriters you were honest on your application.
The final step is waiting. It takes the underwriters, at most companies, between 4 and 6 weeks to review your application. If you don’t have this long to wait, several companies allow you to skip the exam, but you’ll pay a slightly higher price.
You’ll receive an answer after this time. The answer will come with an approval or denial.
If you’re approved, you’ll be given your rating class (which dictates the premium you’ll pay).
How Family History Impacts Your Rate
Not everyone has a family with a great health history.
If your family has struggled with health problems, you might be wondering whether you’ll qualify for life insurance coverage at all, despite your own exceptional health.
Let’s first dispell the myth of getting denied due to family history. No amount of poor family history can get you denied.
However, if your family is particularly unhealthy, it might mean you are ineligible for discounted rates. Instead of getting offers for Preferred Best, Preferred, or even Standard Plus, you may only be able to get Standard, at best.
How to Find the Best Life Insurance Rates
The fact is, there are dozens of companies currently offering life insurance in the United States.
Some of these companies will offer you better rates than others. The key is doing your research first to see which are most likely to insure you despite your family health history.
They will be different!
Let us help you sift through those carriers since we work with them regularly. We know which ones are best.
At BestLifeRates.org, we get you the best rates, every time. Guaranteed.