If you drink often, or struggle with alcohol, there are many ways in which it can affect your life and plans for the future. If you have a life insurance policy, or are looking for one, you may be wondering whether your drinking patterns will affect your coverage.
The answer, unfortunately, is that it likely will—in a number of ways. Someone who uses alcohol only occasionally will have no trouble qualifying for life insurance. But if you abuse alcohol. and it’s causing problems in your life, a life insurance company will likely view you as high-risk. This may mean that you cannot get life insurance coverage.
Below, we’ll discuss how alcohol use can affect your life insurance policy and premiums, what happens if you don’t disclose your alcohol use, and what you can do to improve the situation. Overall, the best path forward is to be honest about your health and well-being, and take the best care of yourself possible.
Life Insurance Coverage for Alcoholics
When filling out a life insurance application or questionnaire, you’ll generally see some version of the question, “Do you use alcohol?” This tends to appear under a section titled “lifestyle choices,” and also under “medical history.”
If you use alcohol, you must answer yes to this question. If you lie, it’s possible your loved ones’ claims for death benefits will be denied in the future.
This isn’t the only question affecting your coverage, however. Most life insurance companies also ask:
- How often do you drink? (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.)
- How many drinks do you typically have at one time?
- Has your drinking caused problems at work or at home?
- Have you received counseling or inquired with your doctor about your alcohol use?
- Have you enrolled in or completed an in-patient or out-patient program to resolve your alcohol use?
- Do you have any medical problems, conditions, or diseases as a result of your alcohol use?
The insurer will also inquire into your driving records to see if there are any DUIs.
Based on these answers, and the rest of your application, the life insurance company will assess the risk that you’ll die within term. This will determine your premiums, and what amount of coverage you qualify for. If alcohol has caused or is causing a serious medical condition, you might not qualify for conventional life insurance coverage at all.
If you don’t qualify for coverage, there may still be other options. You might qualify for guaranteed life insurance, which has no medical questionnaire. However, the coverage offered by this kind of policy is often very small—generally the amount necessary to cover funeral expenses. In other words, the more severe your addiction to alcohol, and the impact it has on your health, the harder it will be to get adequate life-insurance coverage.
Why Would an Insurance Company Care about My Alcohol Use?
In essence, insurance companies only make money when they don’t have to pay death benefits. When you apply for coverage, they assess the risk that you will die during the term of the policy, and set the premiums based on this. This means that someone with no health issues will pay less in premiums than someone with a history of heart disease, and a person with a history of alcohol abuse will pay more than someone who does not.
Why is alcohol abuse such a big risk? It turns out that there are a number of serious illnesses linked to alcoholism, including:
- Liver disease
- Long-term heart damage
- Neurological disorders
- Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders
Drinking can also lead to risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence, violent behavior, and unprotected sex. Finally, a person with a tendency to binge drink has a higher likelihood of alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal.
If an insurance company sees any indication that you abuse alcohol, they’ll inquire further to determine whether you are insurable. The more you drink, the less likely it is that you’ll qualify for the plan you want.
What if I Lie about My Alcohol Use to the Insurance Company?
Lying on your application puts your loved ones at a significant risk of not getting any benefits from your policy.
If you die from a disease or condition commonly caused by alcohol abuse, the insurance company will look at your initial application to find out if you disclosed your alcohol use. If you didn’t, this is called “misrepresentation,” and it will void the policy. This means you will have paid premiums all those years, only to have your beneficiaries’ claims for death benefits denied.
That’s not all. If you die within two years of taking out the policy, the insurance company has the right to void the policy. This is true even if undisclosed alcohol use had nothing to do with the cause of death. Chad Boonswang, Esq., a busy life insurance beneficiary attorney in Philadelphia, reports that claim denials during the two-year “contestability” period are common among his clients. Failing to disclose alcohol use is one of the most-used rationales.
In summary, if you are going to take the trouble to provide for your loved ones financially by paying life insurance premiums, don’t let that money go to waste. Disclose all alcohol use, and any diseases or conditions your alcohol use has caused. Although you will pay more in premiums, you can at least feel sure your beneficiaries will receive the money you intended they receive.
If you or someone you love is concerned about their drinking habits, take this confidential alcohol use survey. If you’re struggling to control your drinking, there are now affordable online treatment options, including Ria Health. While this will mean being open about your alcohol abuse, the longer you are in recovery the more likely it is that a life insurance company will offer you coverage, or premiums you can afford.
About the Author
Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant living and working in the great city of Philadelphia. She frequently works with Chad Boonswang, Esq., a Philadelphia life insurance lawyer.