Obtaining life insurance with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. Depending on the level of severity and effectiveness of control methods, many customers can still qualify for a standard life insurance policy.
Worst-case scenario, you may only qualify for a guaranteed issue policy.
Because schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are two mental health conditions that are frequently misunderstood and misrepresented in our society, people with such diagnoses often feel intimidated by the prospect of applying for insurance. Life insurance, in particular, can be daunting, given the underwriting process and background checks required to get approved.
As with many types of mental illnesses, both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are broad terms that encompass many different experiences. Indeed, many people with such diagnoses lead perfectly normal lives and are not affected by their illness at all. Others may have to deal with the occasional episode or rely on medication to keep the symptoms under control. Clearly, these cases are very different from others in which the best form of care comes from trained professionals in a live-in treatment facility.
Given this variation in experiences, it’s important to know a few things before applying for a life insurance plan. When you can work closely with your underwriter to give a full view of your diagnosis, you’ll have more control over the coverage options available to you.
We want to help that process run as smoothly as possible. Here’s a detailed guide on what you can expect when applying for a life insurance plan.
Table of Contents
First, A Few Definitions
Presumably, you don’t need to be told the definition of your own condition. However, it can be helpful to learn more about how your life insurer may categorize your diagnosis. Make note, for instance, whether your symptoms align with or differ from the ones listed below, as it will help you navigate the discussion with your underwriter.
- Schizophrenia. Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia isn’t a “split” personality or multiple personalities. The word “schizophrenia” means “split mind,” but it refers to a disruption of the usual balance of emotions and thinking. Schizophrenia is a chronic condition, requiring lifelong treatment. In more detail, the most recent source for diagnosis of mental illness, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), characterizes schizophrenia as a condition with one or more possible symptoms. For example, the person may experience hallucinations, delusions, difficulties in thinking or speaking coherently, or other negative behaviors or emotional states. While this typically lasts for a month or longer, proper treatment can also significantly reduce the duration and severity of the symptoms.
- Bipolar Disorder. With bipolar disorder—sometimes called manic-depressive disorder—mood swings range from the lows of depression to the highs of mania. When someone with bipolar disorder becomes depressed, he or she may feel very sad or hopeless, and lose interest or pleasure in most activities. When the mood shifts in the other direction, he or she may feel euphoric and full of energy. These spikes and drops in emotional states can occur a few times a year or several times a day. In some cases, bipolar disorder causes symptoms of depression and mania at the same time. Although bipolar disorder is a disruptive, long-term condition, people with this condition can keep their moods in check by following a treatment plan. In most cases, bipolar disorder can be controlled with medications and psychological counseling.
Obviously, both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have the potential to bring a significant amount of disruption to a person’s life. Individuals with one of these diagnoses may have difficulty keeping a job, maintaining supportive relationships, or taking care of their physical health. Some people may be at higher risk for suicide or have high-risk coping behaviors. It is partly for these reasons that life insurance companies have a hard time offering coverage plans for these more severe cases.
Getting Life Insurance When You Have Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder
Despite what you might have heard, a fully underwritten life insurance policy for someone who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder is not impossible to obtain.
You will have to go through a few steps, though, to make sure the insurer knows everything relevant to your condition. If you haven’t yet received a diagnosis, for instance, you will be subject to a physical exam, complete with blood and urine tests, as well as a prescription history analysis, and a personal background check.
One of the challenges of this step is the insurer’s ability to access your health information. Most hospitals and mental health providers are very careful about releasing your records, and you may have to facilitate communication about your diagnosis.
In addition to releasing your documents, there are a few questions you can expect to be asked during the process, such as:
- Have you been hospitalized in the last year?
- How frequent do you experience symptoms?
- Have the symptoms affected your ability to perform daily tasks?
- Is there anything in your past that would show up on a criminal background check?
- Do you face any other physical health challenges?
- What is your treatment plan like?
- Are you following the parameters of your treatment?
All of these questions are designed to gather information about what your mental illness means in your life. For some, these questions may reveal that schizophrenia or bipolar disorder as not been much of a driving force. For others, they might elicit a story of recovery in which you’ve made significant gains in improving your overall health and well-being. That said, things may get a bit tricky if the answers to these questions suggest that you haven’t been able to control the symptoms well or your symptoms have created other issues.
It’s extremely important to be honest and clear in this assessment process, because it is pretty standard practice for your answers to be cross-referenced with other documentation. If there are discrepancies in your prescriptions and your verbal answers, for example, you may be at risk for being denied coverage.
|Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder||High: Recent problems or other health concerns||Graded death benefit, guaranteed issue with no questions asked||Highest|
|Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder||Mild: No recent problems or health concerns||Graded death benefit with some questions asked||Mid-level|
|Bipolar Disorder||Mild to low: No recent problems or other health concerns, mild medications, some psychological treatment||Table rated: universal, whole life, or term life||Lowest|
Overall, the review process can typically take anywhere from 1 month to several months, during which time the underwriter will consider all of the aspects of your condition, including severity and management.
Once you’ve been assessed and given a table rating, it’s time to chose your best plan. While this step may be giving you the most anxiety, you might be surprised by the options that are available to you. If you have a very mild case of mental illness, you may be offered a much better coverage plan than you ever thought possible. Even if your case is more severe, don’t worry. There are still plenty of options available to you.
Graded Death Benefit Whole Life Insurance
Graded death benefit whole life insurance is a type of specialty insurance usually offered to people who might have a hard time getting other types of life insurance. Individuals with severe schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, for example, should consider this option.
The policy usually pays out limited death benefits during the first few years, and typically requires premiums that are somewhat higher than standard life insurance policies.
With graded death benefit whole life insurance, there are two ways to go:
- Health Questions Asked: Though this option is more restrictive, many people opt for this one because of the lower cost. You won’t be asked to have a physical exam, but you will be asked to provide all relevant information about your condition.
- No Questions Asked, Guaranteed Issue: Guaranteed issue life insurance is typically a last resort for people who can’t qualify for life insurance because of their current or past health problems. The only requirement to receive a guaranteed issue life insurance policy is that you pay your premiums. The insuring company usually asks your age, but not any medical questions. If you’re between the ages of 45 and 85, guaranteed issue insurance can provide up to $20,000 in death benefits, with an affordable premium that never increases. The policy is available without having to take a physical exam or answer any health questions.
Getting Life Insurance with Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder
If you have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, you do have an opportunity to purchase life insurance, even if it seems like a complex process. Contact Insurist at 1-866-816-2100 to have a licensed Insurance Professional assist you with your insurance needs. We will ask you a series of questions and provide the legwork in detailing what options are available to you.
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