Nick McGowan of online life insurance broker, lion.ie, gives his top tips for getting mortgage protection and insurance if you’re a person living with HIV
Earlier this year, news broke that a patient in London was cured of HIV, following a bone marrow transplant.
It comes more than a decade after Timothy Brown, the ‘Berlin patient’, made history as the first person to be ‘cured’ of the disease.
Both cases have been widely celebrated, as they represent great hope for the 37 million people living with HIV around the world.
For decades, the virus 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.ie, 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’m going to take a look at that very topic in this article.
Mortgage protection or life insurance if you have HIV
Two things to tick off first:
1. If you’re getting a mortgage, you don’t need life insurance. Don’t mind your bank if they tell you that you do – they’re just trying to sell you more products. You do have to have mortgage protection; there’s no getting around that one.
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.
2. While treatment has come a long way, some insurers can still be a bit wary when it comes to HIV. However, don’t think that having HIV means that no insurer will take you on – that’s not the case at all. It’s more about having the right insurer in your corner.
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, the majority of 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.
TL;DR If you’ve scanned this far: It’s absolutely possible to get life insurance or mortgage protection if you have HIV. Even if one insurer turns you down (the scoundrels) apply somewhere else, or get an experienced broker onboard to help out.
Will you pay more if you have HIV?
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 peace of mind if you’re buying a house, getting married, or starting a family, and you want to make sure you’re covered.
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 bull-fighting.
They also realllllly hate it if you smoke.
However, for people with HIV, they focus on:
· Initial and current CD4 count – the higher your CD4 count, the better your chances of getting insurance.
· Control/treatment – are you on medication, are you taking it, and going for regular check-ups?
· When you were diagnosed – if it’s a recent diagnosis (this applies for most conditions and insurance), the insurer might postpone you, which means they won’t cover you, but you can reapply in six months to a year.
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 with a high BMI, for example, while others are particularly good at offering fair prices for people who had cancer. The same goes for anyone living with HIV.
It’s all about finding the insurer who is most sympathetic.
How do you actually apply for mortgage protection or life insurance if you have HIV?
You’ve 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).
For life insurance, you can go direct to an insurer, a bank, or a broker.
You probably won’t have to do a full medical if you’re otherwise in good health, though the opposite obviously 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 all kinds of 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.
These are personal questions, of course, 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 you’re approved, 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.
If you’re declined, it could be down to the term you need, currently the insurers will offer cover to age 65, or some other issues not HIV-related. So you may need to make some big changes to your life, or you may need to take a policy that’s different to what you expected, e.g. less cover over a shorter term.
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.
-Nick McGowan, lion.ie
(All opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own)