Never Too Late: Life Coverage Available Despite the Pandemic

Never Too Late: Life Coverage Available Despite the Pandemic

Everyone hates a health exam, particularly one that probes them deeply.

I wonder if this isn’t a reason why people are so reluctant to apply for life insurance: a full checkup is an essential part of the drill.

Personally, I’m the ostrich type who loathes the needle-and-vial and avoids all who administer them; I simply would rather not know. Insurers and other professionals whose careers aren’t enhanced by fantasy – as opposed to blog writers, say – will have none of this nonsense. None of us can escape it forever.

“It looks like you dodged a bullet.” Those words I can tolerate from a doctor, particularly when I’m the one who’s been doing the shooting.

I heard this the last time my health was ruthlessly screened, during a medical exam to qualify for a Singapore employment permit – the coveted ‘EP’ that opens all doors and stuns obstructionist functionaries in Southeast Asia’s megacity state. The tests were extensive, with pointed, embarrassing queries, some distasteful sampling, and finally – a chest X-ray.

Dr. Chaoxiang – his name means “expecting fortune,” he unabashedly shared – pondered my manly chest’s x-innards with scrunched face and pursed lips. I hate that look; it prickles my nerves, particularly when I’m feeling guilty about something, like the estimated 181,000 cigarettes I’d puffed on over 25 years.

“How long did you smoke?” he asked, lofting the balloon. I told him the truth; lying to doctors or insurance examiners courts life and policy cancellation. Dr. Chaoxiang scowled deeper and considered those curious white splotches on my lungs.

“Well…”

Come on!

“It looks like you’ve dodged a bullet, my gray friend.”

The latter bit is an Oriental compliment. I took it and returned it.

‘May your honorable ancestors rain riches upon you with their prayers’, I said, quoting an inscription from a Confucian monastery in Shanghai. I remember the darndest things. Dr. Chaoxiang beamed like the equatorial sun, and like with the real thing, it made me dizzy. Intercultural exchanges are risky to impetuous dimwits like some fellows I know, but this time the ethnic hurdle was cleared and fortune bloomed friendship.

He grabbed my hand, pumped it vigorously, thanked me abundantly. When I saw the bill, I realized I’d fulfilled my own prophecy. True – good news is worth its cost, and whatever I ate to celebrate, I’m sure it involved two appetizers. No cigarettes, alas.

Discomfort can be worth the outcome. It works that way with life insurance: innumerable questions need honest answering, forms must be jotted, and in normal times, a visit from nurse or doctor is assured. Today, things are noticeably different, as insurers adapt to social distancing and their self-imposed determination not to recklessly spread a pandemic, for heaven’s sake.

True, no-exam life insurance has always been available and it still is, suited to a pandemic’s disruptions. It costs more than regular term or permanent life, but sadly I can’t tell you how much: all depends on age, current and historical health, family trends, the usual factors for determining risk profile and setting your premium. It’s a good option for the right cases and worth an online check for best price and conditions from providers.

You won’t be surprised to hear life insurance is in vogue today. Insurers are ever warning people of risk, but it took a microbe for many to listen.

Innumerable surveys show that the uninsured demand coverage, and policyholders often want increased death benefits. Policygenius tells us that while 54% of American adults have life insurance, 27% of them only have group coverage, usually parlous and nonportable.

Forty percent of US policyholders say they wished they’d bought those policies earlier in life. I’m suspect this is particularly true for those who hold permanent life, and others with minimum coverage. Experts agree that ten to fifteen times your annual salary is an appropriate death benefit, though depending on the number of dependents, more might be wise.

A pandemic is a heck of a time to find yourself vulnerable. Good news, for once: insurers are still open for business. The underwriting process is different now and, as noted, you probably won’t need a home health exam. You will be asked questions, and your doctor may need to certify your health history and overall condition. These exams can be conducted by phone, video app, online or a combination of methods – standard procedure for 21st-century citizens.

A gentle warning: don’t tell any fibs. I revealed my shameful cigarette consumption for a reason: if there are skeletons in your trunk, flip up the latch, let them leap up. Honesty may cost you a few dollars in premiums, but fraud – and that’s what it is – tends to incite policy cancellation. Ouch, baby.

I’d bet bottom premium dollar that once the pandemic is whipped, retrospective checks may hit the insurers’ agenda. This is no threat: I’m merely your paranoid pal.

Shopping around is one of the golden rules of buying insurance, and with the range of providers available, nearly all online, you have rich choice for coverage, service and cost. There’s more good news: two-thirds of life companies have streamlined their underwriting to make buying life policies easier and quicker, in particular for larger coverage sums. They want your business and see a pandemic as hardly an excuse to avoid their customers.

So jot down your list. Do you want term or permanent life? Use an online calculator – reputable insurers generally offer them – to estimate your needs and premiums. Then, talk to some human agents, who’ll be ready to help and tell you much more.

Riders to policies should be examined. I favor the waiver of premium rider: it keeps the policyholder insured if they’re debilitated by accident or illness. Long-term healthcare riders are popular today: the astounding cost of LT care, preferably administered at home, often in a nursing or other care facility, is on many minds. If you can afford this type of rider, I encourage it – it addresses the problem concretely and assuages a lot of worry.

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