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Mental health and term life

How does it impact your eligibility

Most people think of the usual suspects when considering issues that might impact their ability to get term life insurance coverage.  Diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, you know.  The issues that many if not most older adult American are dealing with.  Mental health rarely comes up as a potential concern but unfortunately the term life carriers have a different opinion on this.  Let's take a look at how mental health issues can affect term life insurance qualification.

In many ways, health care's treatment of mental health issues is finally entering the new century.  Aside from stigma associated with mental health issues, the separation of mind and body goes all the way back to Descartes.  Anatomically, we're starting to realize that it's all one interconnected system.  Health care's treatment of mental illness has been treated separately and less well until recently with the advent of Mental Health Parity bills.  California's passage of Mental Health parity in 1999 was a big step towards eventual nationwide adoption soon to follow.  On one hand, the treatment of mental health issues has reached parity but unfortunately, underwriting and qualification were soon to follow.  Mental health and the resulting treatment and medication can be a factor in terms of qualifying for coverage.  This is true for term life insurance as well although the basis is different.

Health care is concerned more with the cost associated with mental health care treatment and also the relative popularity of the brand name medications typically used on a maintenance basis.  Term life insurance qualification is not so concerned with these costs since the term life carrier will not responsible for these costs.  So the real question is why would term life insurance carriers be concerned with mental health when establishing eligibility (and more importantly, cost) of a term life insurance policy?

There are a few concerns.  Obviously, the very serious mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and bi-polar can significantly impact a person's morbidity (health status) and mortality (chance of passing away at a certain age or earlier age).  The issue today however is that we see a pretty impact on the offered term life insurance rate for the much more common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression even when those conditions are fairly well treated and stable with maintenance medications.  So what's going on here?  Essentially, there are two issues.  One is the possibility or probability that a person will stop taking their medications and the underlying mental health issue will re-surface or that a mental health issue will just escalate over time or later in life.  You could apply the same argument to cholesterol and high blood pressure which are equally treated with maintenance medications.  Of course the medications themselves have side affects (have you seen the disclaimer on tv ads lately?) which can impact mortality directly (stroke, aneurysm, etc) but another driver is just the medical realization that the brain is unto an island from the body. 

Mental health is health just specific to a different organ.  If a mental health issues isn't treated (or sufficiently treated), there might be other health related issues that coincide with mental health issues such as tobacco, alcohol, or drug use.  Ultimately, the life insurance carriers look at risk and risk associations.  This is the downside.  Common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression can have a significant impact on the rates offered to a term life insurance applicant if approved.  We've seen offers which can be 2-3 times the original quote based on these conditions alone.  There may be better options or carriers for particular situations so make sure to let us know up front of any mental health issues so we can work to find the best fit and best term life rate for your situation.



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