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How does my medical history affect my life insurance?

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Insurers take many factors into account when deciding your life insurance costs, including your medical record.

Therefore, having access to family medical histories gives insurers a unique insight into your health and the likelihood of you suffering certain conditions.

Here we take a look at what information insurers want to know, the impact it might have on your policy, and your rights on them this data.

A medical form with a family model on top of it


Insurance underwriters want to know as much about potential clients as possible. Their aim is to build up a picture of you and what could increase your risk of falling ill or dying.

Therefore, they consider factors such as your:

  • Age
  • Lifestyle
  • Health conditions
  • Occupation

This information also dictates how much you pay. Naturally, those deemed a higher risk are usually asked to pay more for the policy.

Since you’re asking them to give you money in a worst-case scenario, it’s only fair that you tell them what risk they’re taking.

When you compare life insurance quotes with us, the only things we ask you are related to:

  • Whether you are / used to be a smoker
  • How much alcohol you consume
  • Your height and weight

You should tell your chosen insurer about any relevant medical conditions before you commit to buy the policy. They should ask you about this. But if not, it's best to tell them anyway.

If you don't declare medical conditions and it's established that you were aware of them when you applied for the policy, but hadn’t mentioned them at the time, the insurer could refuse to pay anything.

The impact could be devastating. If your family was relying on this settlement to cover the mortgage or other bills, then it could leave them in financial problems.

Therefore, be 100% honest on the application form and you should be able to rest easy that your loved ones are looked after properly.

You shouldn't need to tell your insurance company about any changes in your medical records during the policy - unless you want to make changes to your life insurance.

Insurers are also interested in yours and your family's medical histories to establish the likelihood of you suffering in the future from inherited conditions.

Generally, they want to know the issues endured by close family members. These include your biological parents and siblings.

Each insurance company has its own list of conditions that it looks out for. Generally speaking, they want to know about a family history of:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attacks
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Various cancers
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Motor neurone disease
  • Huntington’s disease.

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list. The conditions of interest differ between insurers so you need to read the application form carefully and answer questions honestly.

If there’s something to which you don’t know the answer – then state that you don’t know. It’s then up to the insurance company to seek further clarification if it’s important.

The attitude towards certain medical histories varies between insurance providers. Each is likely to have a list of conditions they’re most concerned about.

Depending on the insurer and the specific condition, they may ask for more information via the medical history held by your GP.

This could result in your application being turned down. If this happens, don’t despair. You might just need to broaden your search and find an insurer that will accept you.

The second scenario is the insurer might increase your monthly payments.

Finally, the insurer might offer you cover but exclude certain conditions from the policy. In that case the insurance would only pay out if this condition wasn’t the cause of the death.

If an insurer requires further information, you might be asked to complete a consent form. This enables the insurer to access the relevant medical information from your GP.

This area is governed by the Access to Medical Reports Act 1988 (AMRA). This lays down the process that needs to be followed by everyone. It also states your rights.

For example, you have the right to view the medical report compiled by your GP before it’s sent off to the insurance company.

This enables you to check all the information they have on record about you is correct. It also allows you to highlight whether the information being handed over is relevant to the application. The results of predictive genetic tests, for example, are not.

The law also enables you to tell your GP not to send the report to your insurer. However, this might impact your application.

Finally, you’re also allowed access to view your report for up to 6 months after it’s been sent to the insurance company.

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