HIV and smoking: No longer barriers to life insurance cover

There are traditionally two main worries causing people to believe they are either ineligible for life insurance or it will be too expensive to be worthwhile. The first of these, smoking, affects many more people than the second, HIV.

Most policies will class you as a smoker if you have consumed any nicotine within the last 12 months. This could include cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, nicotine patches and chewing tobacco. Whether you smoke 20 a day, or you occasionally have a social cigarette at parties, you’ll still fall under the same classification. Insurers rarely take the actual amount you smoke into account. You are either a smoker or you aren’t.

If you have already declared yourself as a smoker to your insurance company, but you haven’t smoked for 12 months, you may be able to amend your policy. This could allow you to enjoy non-smoker rates. If you have stopped smoking and haven’t thought to notify your insurer, doing so could save you a lot of money.

You may have heard people say that if you take up smoking after buying life insurance, your premiums will never be affected. This is not strictly true, because the majority of policies require you to inform them of any changes to your circumstances that could affect your cover. If you withhold information from them, and they find out about it, they may deny your family a claim.

Knowingly lying on your application is classed as insurance fraud, which is taken very seriously. If your insurance company ever does find out, they could deny your family’s claim. This means you should consider whether lying is worth your family receiving nothing after you die. Battling with an insurance company is the last thing they will want to think about at such a distressing time.

Once upon a time it would have been impossible for someone living with HIV to get life insurance, but not anymore. About half of life insurers now offer policies to those living with the condition.

Since 2005, the insurance industry has had a statement of best practice on HIV and insurance brought in after previous practice included insurers asking about sexuality when cover was being applied for. Customers can still be asked if they have had a negative HIV test when applying for life cover but insurers will not ask questions about their sexuality.

Of course, just because these two groups can purchase life insurance does not mean that the standard rules do not apply. Do not rush into a decision based on the first purchase you see. Shop around to make sure you are getting the best possible deal and if in doubt always consult and independent financial adviser.

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