If you have been diagnosed with hepatitis, you may wonder if you are eligible for life insurance. The good news is that most people with hepatitis are still eligible for life insurance, but the process can be tricky. This guide will walk you through getting life insurance with hepatitis and help you find the best policy for your needs. Let’s get started!
- Hepatitis A (HAV), Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (HCV)
- Seek a Doctor
- How To Increase Your Chances Of Getting Life Insurance With Hepatitis
- What Life Insurance Companies Look For Having Hepatitis B
- What Life Insurance Companies Look For Having Hepatitis C
- What If I’m Declined?
- Need Help Getting Life Insurance Coverage?
Hepatitis A (HAV), Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (HCV)
Hepatitis is a general term referring to inflammation of the liver. The usual cause is a viral infection. However, toxins and drugs may also induce liver inflammation.
Symptoms of acute hepatitis may include loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue, fever, vague abdominal discomfort, jaundice, muscle aches, and dark urine. Because the symptoms can be very mild, some people are not aware that they have had a bout of hepatitis.
In others, liver inflammation is completely silent, only to be discovered upon routine blood testing. Liver enzymes (especially AST/SGOT and ALT/SGPT) tend to rise significantly. Serum bilirubin level often (but not always) rises as well. This causes yellowing (jaundice) of the skin.
Viral forms of hepatitis include Hepatitis A (HAV), Hepatitis B (HBV), and Hepatitis C (HCV). There are additional forms of hepatitis, but they will not be discussed here.
Hepatitis A (HAV)
Hepatitis A is typically spread via contaminated food or water. It is contagious with an incubation period (time from exposure to actual illness) of 3 to 5 weeks.
Most cases of HAV are self-limited and resolve spontaneously. Therefore, HAV does not progress to chronic liver disease and would not be rated in underwriting upon full recovery.
Hepatitis B (HBV)
Hepatitis B is ubiquitous worldwide. However, in the United States, the prevalence of HBV is relatively low at 1 to 2 million cases. HBV is spread through blood transmission and sexual contact.
It can also be passed from mother to child during birth. Occasionally, acute HBV is a severe illness leading to death, but most often, people infected as adults tend to recover spontaneously and become immune.
Persons infected before five years of age are at great risk of persistent infection. However, with widespread vaccination against HBV, the incidence of new cases of HBV is falling.
Typical blood tests that detect HBV presence in the blood are HBsAg, HBeAg, and HBV DNA. HBsAb is an antibody test and, if positive, signals immunity through spontaneous recovery or vaccination.
Hepatitis C (HCV)
Hepatitis C affects 3 to 4 million people in the United States. Before developing tests in 1989, which could identify the virus, HCV was called non-A non-B hepatitis.
About 25% of HCV cases resolve spontaneously. The remainder has chronic hepatitis.
HCV infection is spread mainly by blood transmission. Many cases of HCV are due to intravenous drug use. Body piercing, tattooing, occupational needle sticks, hemodialysis, transfusion before 1992, and intranasal cocaine (a small amount of blood on coke straw) are other blood-borne risks.
Sexual and perinatal transmission have been documented. However, the route of transmission is often unknown or not admitted. Acute HCV can be a severe illness, but it is often a mild disease and clinically unrecognized.
The blood test to detect the presence of HCV in the blood is HCV RNA. Anti-HCV (the antibody to HCV) screens for exposure to HCV. Unlike HBV antibodies, anti-HCV does not signal immunity or recovery.
Seek a Doctor
HBV and HCV infection persisting more than six months is chronic hepatitis. Liver enzymes (ALT and AST) fluctuate over time in the same individual and within the normal range.
Imaging (MRI, CT, US) of the liver is commonly done to check the liver’s size and shape. It is important to screen for liver cancer. A liver biopsy is frequently done to examine liver cells for inflammation and scarring (fibrosis).
After decades of chronic infection, cirrhosis (end-stage liver disease) and liver cancer development in a small but substantial proportion. For these reasons, chronic HBV and HCV are frequently declined for life insurance. However, any alcohol intake increases the risk of progressive liver disease.
Recently developed antiviral drugs are available to cure HCV. However, a cure for HBV is unlikely, and antiviral therapy, if offered, is used to suppress viral replication.
How To Increase Your Chances Of Getting Life Insurance With Hepatitis
Life insurance companies want to see that people with hepatitis are getting treatment and following their doctor’s instructions. They also want to see that you have made necessary lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking and drinking.
To be considered for life insurance, an applicant must be:
- Recovered Spontaneously
- Cured by Antiviral therapy
- Have only a mild form of Hepatitis.
If you have chronic viral hepatitis plus another live impairment is not typically insurable. Any alcohol intake will be carefully reviewed.
Factors in the Decision Process
- Age of applicant
- Duration of the hepatitis
- Acute or chronic hepatitis
- Results of current blood test including liver function test and hepatitis panel
- If remission has been achieved and the virus is cleared
- Results of liver biopsy if completed
- Alcohol use
What Life Insurance Companies Look For Having Hepatitis B
- Acute hepatitis B can be considered for coverage after a full recovery.
- Chronic hepatitis B can be considered on an individual basis and can be declined depending on current liver function tests and hepatitis panel findings.
Underwriting Life Insurance With Hepatitis B
What Life Insurance Companies Look For Having Hepatitis C
- Some Hepatitis C applicants can be considered for life insurance coverage depending on their age, duration, and liver test results. In some cases, applicants will be denied.
- Applicants that are effectively treated and have undetectable HCV-RNA levels can be considered for coverage after 3 months from when the treatment ends.
- Applicants with both Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, cirrhosis, alcohol concerns, significantly high liver function tests, or an abnormal liver biopsy are typically declined.
What If I’m Declined?
Even if your life insurance application was declined by an insurer, you can still purchase life insurance through a guaranteed issue policy.
What Is A Guaranteed Issue Policy?
A guaranteed issue policy is life insurance that does not depend on your health. This means that you will be able to get life insurance even if you have had a stroke and have been declined before. However, there are a few drawbacks that you should consider before getting this type of policy.
Many insurers that offer guaranteed issue life insurance policies have a limit on the death benefit. This amount is usually between $25,000 and $30,000 depending on your age.
If you die from natural causes, your family will have to wait for two or three years before the company will pay the full death benefit. Most companies, however, will pay a benefit equal to the total premiums paid in plus 5 to 10 percent.
Since the insurer is not sure how healthy you are, they will charge you more for your life insurance policy than someone who is healthier.
Although there are some disadvantages to guaranteed issue life insurance, it is still a better option than asking your loved ones to pay your final expenses.
Need Help Getting Life Insurance Coverage?
If you have a preexisting medical condition and want to buy life insurance, you will need help from an expert. This person can help make sure that you get coverage so that you don’t get declined.
Warning: Applying for life insurance without a medical exam can be risky. If you are declined coverage, it could be at least two years before you are able to get any life insurance.