BY ANDREW STEWART
If you or a family member is living with autism it might seem like the condition would make qualifying for life insurance impossible. This isn’t true. Many applicants with these mental conditions are still able to qualify for life insurance.
Whether someone can qualify depends on a number of factors including the severity of their mental condition. There are several questions an applicant will need to answer about the condition. What is the applicant’s official diagnosis for autism? Has the applicant been diagnosed with any psychiatric disorders or an intellectual disability? Does the applicant have physical impairments like Cerebral Palsy or a history of seizures? Does the applicant need assistance with activities of daily living (feeding, bathing, dressing, etc.)? They also consider an applicant’s age. Generally, it is better for someone to apply when they are fifteen or older.
A recent study from Sweden was groundbreaking – the first major research to determine that people with autism die at a much younger age than the general population. Loneliness, depression and other mental health problems are also common for autistic adults, who are often forced to live without support. Those who have a ”high-functioning” form of the condition and who can live and work autonomously despite their diagnosis are not excluded from these risks. Most people with autism take some sort of medication, either for mental health difficulties or to manage other symptoms or complications. Many of these treatments, especially when taken over the long term, have troubling and dangerous side effects that can lower life expectancy. Autism is not the kind of condition where someone is ”cured” at the age of eighteen.
Parents with a special needs child often insure themselves to provide for their child when they have died. When determining a life insurance amount there’s a formula that factors in a number of things such as, how long you want the coverage; how much money you contribute to the household now and how much money your spouse and family would need to live the same way if you died tomorrow. The question that gets missed is what are the additional costs of making sure a child would be cared for that may never be able to live independently or without a sibling at least, for the rest of her life if something happened.
A more complicated issue is whether the parents should consider purchasing life insurance on the life of their child to address the possibility that they will outlive their child or to protect the future insurability of the child. For some parents they will have to sacrifice their career development to provide care, this could have an adverse effect on their retirement savings and pension amounts. If the unthinkable were to happen, a life insurance policy is a way to help mediate that risk and replace lost wages and savings. Whole life insurance is for the lifetime of the child, it guarantees continued coverage if health conditions deteriorate and accumulates a value over time referred to as the cash surrender value that the child could use in adult years to supplement income.
The insurance company will most certainly rate applicants. Here is a general underwriting guideline to help you predict a rating.
Standard: Best possible rating for an applicant with autism. The applicant would need to be high-functioning and alert despite the condition and not have any other physical or mental issues as a result of this condition. The applicant should also be at least fifteen years old and be in otherwise decent health to get a standard rating. Substandard: Most likely rating for applicants with autism provided they don’t have Rett Syndrome or childhood disintegrative disorder. An applicant’s rating will depend on whether they have any other mental or physical conditions due to their autism, their overall mental function, and their overall physical health. Declines: Applicants that have Rett Syndrome or childhood disintegrative disorder are often denied coverage because these conditions typically lead to more serious problems. Also, applicants with serious mental or physical problems on top of their autism will also likely be denied coverage.
The mere fact that a person has a disability of any type may affects the premiums or terms of the life insurance policy, but is not necessarily a cause for denial. In addition, since there is no cost to applying for a policy, there is really nothing to lose in an attempt to obtain coverage. While qualifying for life insurance with autism is always a challenge, a good application can help.