Life (Insurance) in the Time of COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic has spread, we’ve been bombarded with reminders of our own mortality. It has reinforced the idea that illness and death can come at any time, and that has some people thinking seriously about life insurance.

If you’re wondering if you have enough life insurance, you may also be wondering what you can do about it. With physical distancing protocols in place for much of the nation, you may think your insurance agent’s office is closed, and you may be asking yourself if you can even get life insurance during the worst pandemic the U.S. has seen in at least a century. Read on for the answer to that question and more.

With my agent’s office closed, can I still get life insurance?

“The world keeps on turning,” says Mike Letorney, a Boston-based insurance agent with more than 35 years of experience in the life insurance industry. Letorney’s staff members have all been working remotely, but you wouldn’t know it by calling his office, as Letorney’s phone system forwards callers to the right team expert instantly.

So insurance agencies are still functioning. But can I get life insurance in this environment?

“Yes, you can still get coverage,” says Derek Hensley, a Springfield, Ill., insurance agent. “We are trying to minimize physical contact, but we have an application you can start over the phone and complete via email.”

Can I just apply online?

You can start the process online, says Henley. “But we recommend actually speaking with an agent so you can have a conversation about your options, budget and coverage.” Another Springfield agent, Joe Ludtke, has embraced technology in his approach. “We’ve had Zoom and FaceTime conferences in addition to talking on the phone,” he says. Ludtke, who’s been an agent for 20 years, uses the initial meeting to address a household’s needs, then sends a quote and an application via email.

Will I have to get a physical exam?

In many cases, no. Most insurance companies set a coverage amount – anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000 – that can be applied for without a physical exam. “For the most part, we have a streamlined underwriting process,” says Hensley. “If you’re younger than age 50 and in reasonably good health, you may only have to do a phone interview to answer questions about your medical history.”

However, if you apply for an amount of coverage higher than an insurance company’s predetermined limit, or something comes up in your interview that requires closer inspection, the company could require a simple medical exam that can either be completed in your home or in a testing facility. “Of course, they are taking every precaution to make sure people won’t be exposed to the virus (COVID-19),” Hensley adds.

I’m not sick, but could COVID-19 affect whether I can get life insurance?

While neither the application process nor the underwriting criteria has changed substantially during the pandemic, some companies have added another step. “We ask applicants to sign a statement of health, which basically attests that they do not have COVID-19,” Ludtke says.

If something on my application limits how much insurance I can get, or if I can’t afford the policy I really need, am I just out of luck?

“Having something is better than nothing!” says Hensley. “So getting a simple policy now, like a term policy, might be a good idea, because it gives you affordable coverage right away – which is awesome, because many peoples’ paychecks have been affected.” He adds many term policies can be converted to a more permanent, complete solution once conditions improve.

Contact your local insurance agent to learn more about your life insurance options. If you don’t have one, you can use the Life Happens online Agent Locator. Plus, here is information about finding the right agent. Getting life insurance now could give you one less thing to worry about at a time you have more than enough on your plate.

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