Alcohol consumption in America is a fairly common occurrence. For the majority of alcoholic beverage drinkers, there is little risk to their health or longevity. However, excess alcohol intake has a substantial impact on population mortality. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that nearly 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. You can then see why life insurance companies take alcohol usage seriously when underwriting.
When you apply for life insurance, underwriters review the complete application and all the records that go along with it. They then decide how much coverage and at what cost to offer the applicant, unless they decide to deny or post-pone the application. In regards to alcohol, the underwriter will use medical records (especially those related to treatment for substance abuse and psychiatric illness), social profile, motor vehicle reports, laboratory results, and physical findings in order to assess the risk associated with excessive alcohol consumption. A blood test, carbohydrate deficient transferring (CDT), can sometimes be used in underwriting to identify those consuming excess alcohol.
The following is a list of complications from excessive alcohol consumption that are significant to life insurance underwriting:
- Cardiac: Atrial fibrillation, cardiomyopathy, hypertension
- Nervous system: Blackouts, seizures, delirium tremens (DTs), peripheral neuropathy, tremors, brain damage, psychosis, balance and gait impairments
- Gastrointestinal: Fatty liver, hepatitis, cirrhosis, pancreatitis, gastrointestinal bleeding (sometimes massive) due to gastritis, varices, and esophagitis, cancer, diarrhea
- Bone marrow: Abnormal blood counts including anemia
- Psychiatric and social: Depression, anxiety, suicide, violent behavior, marital/occupational/familial problems, abuse of other drugs as well as alcohol
- Miscellaneous: Aspiration pneumonia, accidents and trauma. Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psycho-social, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease can be progressive and fatal. It is characterized by impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial. Each of these symptoms may be continuous or periodic.
Life insurance underwriters also negatively rate for binge drinking and risky drinking. “Binge drinking” is defined as heavy drinking to the point of intoxication on a periodic basis. “Risky drinking” is more than 14 drinks per week or more than 4 per occasion, for men, and more than 7 drinks per week or more than 3 per occasion, for women.
Besides the risks associated with excess alcohol intake, the underwriter also considers favorable historical items such as: active participation in Alcoholics Anonymous, voluntary initiation of treatment, single period of treatment or hospitalization, maintenance of stable family life, sustained employment, financial solvency, and good health without reports of violence or arrests. If the individual is able to successfully stop drinking alcohol without relapse, after seven to ten years, the mortality rate approaches that of the general population.
Besides the risks associated with excess alcohol intake, the underwriter also considers favorable historical items such as: active participation in Alcoholics Anonymous, voluntary initiation of treatment, single period of treatment or hospitalization, maintenance of stable family life, sustained employment, financial solvency, and good health without reports of violence or arrests.
If you have a history of excessive alcohol consumption, you may be table rated. The table rating system typically means that your pricing for life insurance will be the Standard price plus 25% for every step down the table you are, Tables A-J or 1-10 depending on which format the insurance company uses.
John Smith is a 40-year-old risky drinker but has no other issues such as social, legal, or health problems and has no history of alcohol treatment. He applies for a 20-year $250,000 term policy and the underwriters rate him Table C. The Standard premium of this policy is $36, but because he is table rated we calculate his monthly premium costs to be $63 (36 + 75%).
Table ratings depend on:
- Severity of the excess
- Severity of associated complications
- Evidence of alcohol dependence and/or withdrawal
- Legal problems related to alcohol such as DUIs
- Abuse of other drugs
- Number of relapses
- Current participation in groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous
Quotacy has years of experience getting clients life insurance coverage, including people with alcohol history. Our in-house underwriter has worked in many carrier home offices, knows how to navigate each individual’s health history, and knows which life insurance company would be the best option for your individual case. If you are ready to buy life insurance coverage, get a term life insurance quote now and let’s start the process.
If you have any questions regarding underwriting alcohol, feel free to contact us or jot us a message in the Comment section below. If you are looking to get an idea on the cost of life insurance if you have a history of excess alcohol usage, we will need the following information to provide you with an accurate quote.
- What was the date of initial treatment or diagnosis?
- Please list date(s) of any additional treatment.
- Have there been any relapses from sobriety/abstinence? If yes, please list the dates.
- Have there been any legal problems (such as DUI)? If yes, please give details including dates.
- Have you ever had or been made aware of any of the following?
a. elevated liver enzymes
b. positive alcohol marker
c. driving under the influence charge
d. family/friends’ concern over drinking habits
f. withdrawal seizures
g. medical complications related to alcohol (heart, etc.)
h. use of other substances such as marijuana or cocaine
- Please list current medications:
- What is your current level of alcohol consumption?
- Do you currently participate in a group such as Alcoholics Anonymous?
- Have you smoked cigarettes in the last 12 months?
- Do you have any other major health problems (ex: cancer, diabetes, ulcers, etc.)? If yes, please give details.
Give us a 2-3 business days to respond with some individualized and thorough information. Quotacy is here to help make the life insurance buying process easier for you.
Image credit to: ian dooley
About the writer
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.