For decades, HIV was a ruthless killer, savaging entire communities.
Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since, both in terms of treatment and response.
According to Sexualwellbeing, 6,000 people live with HIV in Ireland and are getting on with their lives as normal. You may be one of them – and if you are, you may be considering buying a house or getting life insurance because you’re at that time in your life.
Today, I will look at that very topic in this article.
Two things to tick off first:
So what’s the difference, I hear you ask. Well, mortgage protection is a type of life insurance where the amount of cover reduces over time; it’s the one you get when you’re buying a house as it pays off your mortgage should you shuffle off this mortal coil. And it’s cheaper than life insurance.
By the way, if you have HIV and you’ve already got life insurance or mortgage protection, it could be worth having a chat with your insurer. Insurers are cautious by default, and they’re not the most progressive. I know of old cases where the underwriters (the chaps who do all the maths on insurance from the depths of massive glass buildings) only offered short-term 5/10 year policies to people with HIV, which is a lot shorter than usual.
Insurance is all about risk, and underwriters would have been tougher when giving out policies to people with HIV even a decade ago.
Today, most insurers are likely to offer you an insurance policy if you are HIV positive, which means lower prices due to greater competition in the market. So it could seriously be worth your time shopping around, chatting to a broker, or calling your insurer.
Unfortunately, there’s no getting around this one: cover will cost more if you have HIV. It’s a medical condition that can affect life expectancy, so your risk is higher – which means the cost is higher too.
However, it’s not the end of the world, especially for the peace of mind if you’re buying a house, getting married, or starting a family and need protection.
The underwriters take lots of things into consideration when they’re giving you your price: your age, your general health, even your job – if you happen to do something dangerous like bomb disposal or bullfighting.
They also realllllly hate it if you smoke.
However, for people with HIV, they focus on:
Now, remember, just because one insurer turns you down or offers you a very high price, it doesn’t mean the others will. If the cost seems very high, shop around.
The insurers underwrite various health conditions differently. Some are great for someone overweight with a high BMI, for example, while others are particularly good at offering fair prices for people who have a history of cancer. The same goes for anyone living with HIV.
It’s all about finding the insurer who is most understanding.
You’ve got a couple of options here, and it also depends on whether you’re getting mortgage protection or life insurance.
As I said, you have to get mortgage protection if you’re buying a house, and you’ll usually start looking into it when you’re far enough on in the house-buying process. You can buy from your lender, but it likely won’t be the best deal you can get as the bank will only give you the price for the insurer they deal with, instead of giving you the best price from all the insurers.
I recommend going with a broker – and I’m not just saying that because I’m a broker! Run your info through a quote calculator, and you’ll fairly quickly see what I mean about how you could potentially save a wedge of cash by shopping around (but remember, the quotes you see online are for somebody with no health issues, your final premium will be higher)
You probably won’t have to do a full medical if you’re otherwise in good health, though the opposite is true too. You will have to fill in some details about your life – and, yes, some of them are personal, but it’s all part of the job. An experienced insurer or broker will have heard stories from all kinds of people, so honestly, don’t worry about it.
When people with HIV apply to me, I ask them for information on how much cover they’d like, their DOB, about their career, and their lifestyle (are you otherwise healthy?) and then about your treatment: your CD4 count, how long you’ve been in treatment, that kind of thing.
Of course, these are personal questions, but don’t worry: it’s in the strictest confidence and on a no-name basis.
From there, I’ll present your application to my panel of insurers, and their underwriters (the dudes in the dungeon, in case you’ve forgotten) will assess your case. If the insurer approves you, it’s all gravy, you’ll get a quote, and you can go on your merry way.
If you’re deferred (postponed), you can apply again down the line once you’ve been in treatment longer or your CD4 count improves.
Paying a higher premium because of HIV is not ideal, but it’s important to remember that, as a society, we’ve come a very long way in 50 years. We’re a kinder, gentler society – and slowly but surely, the insurers are catching up too.
It used to be impossible for someone who tested positive for HIV to get life insurance.
However, since around 2005, treatment and knowledge of HIV have improved, and so has the insurance industry’s attitude – slowly, I might add.
Generally, yes, but as with any medical condition, the answer is “it depends”.
Here are the main factors the underwriters look at
HIV damages your immune system by targeting CD4 cells. Effective antiretroviral therapy (ART) medications can stabilise or even increase your CD4 count.
In other words, the higher your CD4 count, the better.
If your CD4 count is below 350, you will struggle to get cover.
If it’s over 500, you should get cover.
Are you following medical advice closely, i.e. taking your medication for regular follow-ups as required?
The insurer will write to your GP for a medical report. If you take a haphazard approach to your condition, you’re unlikely to get life insurance.
If it’s a recent diagnosis, the insurer is likely to postpone you for 12 months so they can get a longer-term view of how you are reacting to treatment.
Viral load is the amount of HIV in the blood. To get cover, the viral load needs to be undetectable.
This one is self-explanatory.
You’ll need to have a clean bill of health other than HIV.
e.g.If you are HIV+ and have diabetes, the insurers won’t offer cover.
You’re unlikely to be called for a full life insurance medical exam. Instead, the insurer will write to your GP for your medical history.
As outlined above, the insurers are most interested in whether you are compliant with your treatment and attending regular follow-ups.
Control is key.
If all your numbers are good, but you haven’t seen your specialist in over 18 months, you will struggle to get cover.
This one is impossible to answer. I’m sorry.
All applications are underwritten and priced on a case by case basis according to their merits.
The premiums quoted vary from one insurer to the next.
You can get a life insurance quote here, but remember the insurer will add an extra premium on health grounds.
Please look at a recent application and the terms offered to my client.
The insurer we went with offered my client cover for €87 per month, that’s the normal price plus 150%.
The next best insurer would only offer a 25-year term at €121 per month!
As you can see, it pays to know which insurer is most understanding of HIV.
From experience, if you get a loading of +150%, you’re doing well.
If you have HIV and took out a life insurance or mortgage protection policy before 2013, you should review your cover for two reasons.
Research by a UK insurer into insurance coverage of HIV positive people has found that many received a term of between 5 and 10 years, much lower than the typical term given to people without HIV.
Life insurance underwriting rules in the UK are similar to underwriting rules in Ireland.
In the past, the insurers offered our clients short term cover whereas now they can get terms of up to 40 years.
As well as offering longer terms, the insurers are also offering more competitive rates.
You see, in the past, only one life insurance provider offered cover to people with HIV in Ireland, whereas now, the majority of the insurers will offer cover.
This competition between the insurers has sparked a price war in higher risk life insurance resulting in lower life insurance quotes for people with HIV.
The reinsurers issued new guidelines recently.
To get the normal price you have to meet very certain criteria around treatment, CD4’s etc but as a general rule, if you’re 40-59 and your HIV control is exemplary, we should be able to get you favourable terms.
Even other age brackets will have lower premiums than we would have been able to achieve previously. The reinsurers understand that you are so well monitored now and treatments have much improved. The fact that you are so closely followed up means that any risk on the HIV front can sometimes be countered by the lower risks you may have of other illnesses going un-noticed that might be the case in the general population.
Still very much case by case though.
If you have a short-term policy of say 5 to 10 years and took it out between 2009 and 2013, it will soon expire.
Best to lock in the longest policy term when you reapply, as this will protect you from a price increase if your health circumstances change in the future.
Remember the insurer fixes your premium when you take out your policy and cannot review it even if your health suffers.
When you take out a life insurance policy, your health is locked in on that date, so you don’t have to disclose any future health issues.
But rest assured, your cover continues.
Generally no; however, if you apply for substantial cover, the insurer will require blood tests, including HIV.
If you have recently visited a country with a high prevalence of HIV, you may need to do a test.
Should you need a test, the insurer will foot the bill.
This depends on your circumstances; if you complete the questionnaire linked below, I will find the most suitable insurer for you.
We’re the experts at getting clients covered with a health issue.
We understand you have privacy concerns, and we respect this.
Our discussions with the various underwriters will be on a strictly no-name basis. The insurers will not record your details.
If you’d like me to investigate whether cover is possible and get you an indicative quote before you apply, complete this HIV questionnaire, and I will speak with my underwriters in strict confidence.
If you’re happy with the indicative terms on offer, we can then help you arrange your cover.
Ok, that was a bit of a whopper if you got this far. Kudos!
Thanks for reading
PS: If you know someone who would find this article helpful, I’d be grateful if you could share it with them. Thank you!
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