Your insurance policy premiums are determined during the life insurance company’s underwriting process.  Insurance underwriters evaluate the risk to insure a person.  They decide if the client is insurable or not.  The financial underwriting also decides how much coverage the client can receive.  Your family history can play a role in determining coverage.

Underwriters determine their findings based off information calculated by actuaries.  Actuaries use mathematics (probability and statistics) to estimate mortality based on a number of factors.  Age, gender, and health are the main variables actuaries calculate.  However, not only do they calculate mortality based on your direct health, they also calculate it based on your family’s health history.

What do the underwriters look for?

Many disorders have now been recognized as occurring more frequently in some families than others.  If anyone in your immediate family (mother, father, siblings) has been diagnosed with any serious conditions such as coronary heart disease, cancer, or diabetes the insurance underwriters would take a closer look at it.  These inherited conditions may cause the life insurer to increase your premiums because there is a risk that you could also be diagnosed.

Disorders with a Significant Familial Involvement

  • alcoholism/drug dependency
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • blood disorders
  • bowel disorders
  • cancer
  • cardiovascular
  • cystic fibrosis
  • deafness
  • epilepsy
  • eye disorders
  • kidney disease
  • liver disease
  • motor neuron disease
  • musculoskeletal
  • neurological/psychiatric
  • PKU
  • respiratory
  • Tay-Sachs disease

The insurer takes into consideration how many family members were affected with the condition and their age when it was diagnosed.  If only one of your relatives was affected, it may have very little, if any, impact on your premiums.  If any of these conditions were diagnosed late in life (after age 60 or 65) most insurers would completely disregard them and it would have no impact on your premiums.  Another instance in which a diagnosed hereditary condition would not affect your life insurance is if the condition is sex-related.  For example, if there is a history of ovarian cancer in your family but you are male, underwriters would not consider this an issue.

While “calculating mortality” sounds grim and it may seem cruel to raise your life insurance premiums because of your family, this is the world of insurance.  If your father had heart disease, there is a higher risk associated with you.  You may consider this to be unfair, but, like any business, insurance companies need to price their products appropriately in order to survive.  They would lose money quickly if they gave a person with no family history of cancer the same premium as someone whose sibling was diagnosed with cancer.

Inherited conditions may cause the life insurer to increase your premiums because there is a risk that you could also be diagnosed.

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What if I am adopted?

If you are adopted and are not sure of your family history, you would just need to inform the insurance company on your application that you are adopted.  They will not penalize you for this.  They would underwrite your application based off of your health history alone.

What if I omit family health issues?

Do not attempt to falsify or purposely omit medical issues from your life insurance application in hopes of getting cheaper life insurance premiums.  The insurance companies have access to MIB (Medical Information Bureau) reports.  In these records from your health providers it is very likely the missing information from your life insurance application would turn up, including your family medical history.

When the insurance company discovers the information, they are just going to raise your premiums anyway.  In the extreme, they may decide to decline the application altogether if it’s revealed that your application has many missing disclosures.  If you do get away with lying on your application and it’s approved, keep in mind that the insurance company also investigates death benefit claims.  If it is discovered that you lied to get your policy, the insurance company can reduce or even completely deny any payout to your beneficiaries.  The best thing to do when applying for life insurance is to be honest.

Does underwriting family history vary by insurance carrier?

Yes, all insurance carriers follow a different set of underwriting guidelines.  For instance, some insurance carriers may only underwrite taking the parents’ history into consideration and your siblings’ medical issues won’t impact your premiums.  Some life insurance carriers will give you a Preferred Plus rating even if one of your parents had a serious medical condition but did not die from it before the age of 60, while another carrier may tell that same applicant that they only qualify for Standard.

These few examples are why it’s best to be completely honest on your application in all regards including your family’s medical history.  Your team at Quotacy will work with the life insurance carriers to get you the best life insurance coverage possible at an affordable price.  We will shop your case with our many life insurance carriers to ensure you get the best policy for your individual situation.  Get a free term life insurance quote and see how little it would cost you to protect the ones you love most.


Photo credit to becca.peterson26


About the writer

Headshot of Natasha Cornelius, a life insurance writer, for Quotacy, Inc.

Natasha Cornelius

Marketing Content and Social Media Manager

Natasha is a content manager and editor for Quotacy. She has worked in the life insurance industry since 2010, and making life insurance easier to understand with her writing since 2014. When not at work, you can find her throwing a tennis ball for her pit bull mix, Emmett, or curled up on her couch watching Netflix. If it’s football season, the Packers game will be on. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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