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How Does Your Family Medical History Affect the Cost of Life Insurance?

Will my Family Medical History Affect My Mortgage Protection?

When will you die?

That’s the question life insurance providers want to answer more than any other.

If they nail this, they make money, if they get it wrong they lose money.

It’s that simple.

That’s why they employ nerds actuaries to sift through mortality rates and examine morbidity risks to determine the chances of you outliving your policy.

The actuaries look at factors such as:

  • your health
  • your age
  • your sex
  • whether you smoke

to estimate how long you’re going to live.

But they also look at your family history because some medical conditions are hereditary (a fancy way of saying you’re more likely to get it).

Read: Does Genetic Testing Affect The Cost of Life Insurance?

Will My Parent’s Health Affect My Life Insurance?

Let’s look at a sample “family history” question from a life insurance application form:

Have any of your parents, brothers or sisters ever had one or more of the following medical conditions before age 65:

  1. Breast or ovarian cancer?
  2. Multiple Sclerosis, Motor Neurone disease or Parkinson’s disease
  3. Bowel or colon cancer?
  4. Stroke or heart disease (for example, heart attack or angina)?
  5. Cardiomyopathy?
  6. Muscular dystrophy of any kind?
  7. Polycystic kidney disease?
  8. Huntington’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease?
  9. Any cancer that has occurred in the same site in two or more family members?
  10. Any disorder you know or suspect to be hereditary or for which you have received follow-up or screening?

Anything there that causes you to raise an eyebrow?

Will You Pay More Due to Family History?

If your family has a history of diseases or early deaths, it could mean you’re at a higher risk for similar health issues.

Many illnesses have a genetic link, but things like your environment and lifestyle also matter.

When applying for insurance, having a first-degree relative with any of the following conditions is important to mention:

  • Heart disease or heart attack
  • Cardiomyopathy (HOCM)
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Polycystic Kidney Disease
  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Motor neurone disease
  • Polycystic kidneys
  • Polyposis of the colon
  • Huntington’s disease

The possibility of coverage depends on the nature of the family history, your current age, sex, the number of first-degree relatives affected by the condition, the age at which your family member was diagnosed, and any other associated health issues you suffer.

The underwriters will make one of four decisions after reviewing your medical evidence.

1. Exclude a certain condition from your policy.

Family history of breast cancer

Let’s say you’re a 30-year-old female whose mother and sister got breast cancer in their 40s.

You’re applying for critical illness coverage.

The insurers will offer you serious illness coverage but will exclude breast cancer coverage from your policy on family history grounds.

Family history of MS

You’re a 35-year-old male whose father contracted MS in his 40s.

You have applied for income protection.

The insurers will offer you cover at the normal price but exclude MS as a reason for claiming on your policy.

Please note that for life insurance and mortgage protection, you either get full coverage or no coverage. There are no exclusions.

2. Increase your premium

Family history of Polycystic Kidney Disease

Your mum had a kidney transplant at age 55.

You’re 35 and need mortgage protection.

You have been tested for PKD, and your scans were normal.

You’ll get coverage, but the insurer will increase your premium due to the higher risk of you developing PKD compared to someone without a family history.

3. Postpone your application

Usually, a postponement only happens when you await screening for a certain illness.

Using the PKD example above, if you were awaiting a kidney scan, the insurer would postpone making a decision until the results were available.

4. Decline your application

Declines are rare.

However, a customer of ours with a high BMI who would normally have gotten coverage was declined due to a combination of their high BMI and his family history.

Sadly, there was a long history of cardiovascular disease in his immediate family, as both his parents and two of his brothers had suffered heart attacks before they reached their 50th birthdays.

Do all the Insurers Underwrite Family History Identically?

No, all the insurance providers follow slightly different underwriting guidelines.

For instance, some insurers are only interested in health issues that occurred to a family member before they turned 50; others look at family history right up to age 65.

This means if your mum got breast cancer at age 51, some insurers will ignore this fact.

Others may apply an exclusion to your policy.

Be careful which insurer you apply to.

Only apply to the one with the most sympathetic underwriting criteria for your family history.

Over to you…

If there’s a history of illness in your family and you’d like to give yourself the best chance of getting covered with the least amount of hassle, please get in touch.

Complete this form below or schedule a callback here

We’re the experts when it comes to arranging life insurance if your family medical history isn’t clean as a whistle.

It goes without saying that everything we discuss will be in the strictest confidence….but I’ll say it anyway, just to be sure like 😉

Thanks for reading


Editor’s Note: We first published this blog in 2020 and have updated it since.

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