Life Insurance Underwriting Amid a Pandemic

COVID-19 has changed the rules for insurance companies and consumers

The coronavirus pandemic has increased consumers' interest in life insurance. In a 2020 PwC survey, 15% of respondents said they were likely to buy life insurance as a result of COVID-19. At the same time, the pandemic has made the life insurance underwriting process, particularly in-person health exams, more challenging and changed the way that many consumers now go about purchasing a policy.

Key Takeaways

  • More people have expressed interest in buying life insurance as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • It is still possible to purchase life insurance during the pandemic, though it may mean going through a slightly different underwriting process, without an in-person health exam.
  • No-exam life insurance policies are an alternative to traditional life insurance but typically cost more.
  • When purchasing life insurance during a pandemic (or at any time), it's important to compare policies and insurers.

How Traditional Life Insurance Underwriting Works

Life insurance underwriting is a process through which an insurance company assesses a person's various risk factors to determine how much to charge them for coverage. That means an assessment of lifestyle risk factors (such as having a dangerous occupation or hazardous hobbies) as well as health risk factors.

When you apply for life insurance, whether you're considering a term life or permanent life policy, it's typical to have to go through a paramedical exam. This exam is designed to provide a snapshot of your overall health and often involves blood and urine samples as well as height and weight measurements.

You may also be asked to complete a health questionnaire to assess your risk level for serious health conditions that might develop later in life. The insurance company can also ask lifestyle-related questions.

All of this information is evaluated by the insurance company to determine how much you'll pay for your insurance. As a general rule, the younger and healthier you are and the fewer risk factors you have, the less you'll pay in life insurance premiums.


Consider using an online life insurance calculator to estimate how much life insurance you need and what you might pay based on your age, gender, and overall health.

Life Insurance Underwriting During a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the implementation of social distancing guidelines, encouraging people to maintain a minimum 6-foot distance between one another. For life insurance companies, those guidelines have presented a challenge to traditional underwriting, particularly with regard to in-person health exams.

As a result, two-thirds of life insurance providers have changed their underwriting policies to address the lack of access to health exams, according to a survey by LIMRA, an industry trade association. Rather than conduct in-person testing, insurers are increasingly relying on physician statements, phone interviews, or FaceTime screenings to assess the health status of their applicants.

The survey also found that among the life insurance companies that have changed their underwriting approach, two-thirds are increasing automated/accelerated underwriting limits to make larger policies available. All told, this means that people shopping for life insurance during the pandemic may find it easier and faster to obtain the coverage they want.


Life insurance policies that were in place prior to the pandemic may see no changes unless you have a term policy coming up for renewal that you'd like to convert to permanent life insurance.

No-Exam Life Insurance During a Pandemic

No-exam life insurance is a type of life insurance you can purchase without going through a health exam. These policies existed before the coronavirus pandemic, and they're an alternative to consider alongside traditional term or permanent life insurance.

With no-exam policies, you complete a health questionnaire. The life insurance company will review your answers, along with your medical history, to make a determination about your risk class and what to charge you for insurance.

The advantage of getting a no-exam life insurance policy during a pandemic is that you don't have to worry about the health exam or social distancing requirements at all. It's possible to apply for no-exam life insurance online and get a decision in just a few business days.

The downside of no-exam life insurance is that the premium costs may be higher compared with traditional coverage. Without a medical exam to assess factors like cholesterol levels or body mass index, the insurance company may be taking on more risk to insure you and charge more for coverage, as a result.

How to Buy Life Insurance During a Pandemic

If you're interested in purchasing life insurance during the pandemic, there are some important questions to ask initially. For example:

  • Is term life or permanent life insurance more appropriate for your needs?
  • How much coverage do you think you'll need?
  • Are you interested in no-exam coverage or would you prefer a traditional life insurance policy?
  • What type of premiums would be affordable for your budget?
  • Are you looking to add any riders or specialized coverage, such as a long-term care rider, to the policy?

Term life insurance is something you might consider if you only need coverage for a set term, say 20 or 30 years. Permanent life insurance can offer lifetime coverage, along with the potential for cash value accumulation. The catch is that permanent life insurance tends to carry considerably higher premiums compared with term life.

In terms of how much coverage you need, that will obviously vary from person to person, but you may want enough to pay for funeral expenses, settle any outstanding debts, and provide your dependents with sufficient income to cover their living expenses for a number of years after you're gone. As a general rule of thumb, many financial experts suggest having insurance equal to 10 to 15 times your annual salary.

Consider getting online quotes from the best life insurance companies as you look for a policy. This can be a simple way to compare costs side by side and find the most affordable coverage. Remember, however, that these are quotes, not final pricing. You'll still need to complete the insurance company's application and underwriting process, whether that involves a health exam or not, to determine what you'll actually pay for life insurance.

Article Sources
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  1. PricewaterhouseCoopers. "Covid-19, Coverage and Consumers: Survey Shows What Insurance Buyers Want Now."

  2. Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association. "Survey: Insurance Companies Making Changes to New Business in Light of COVID-19."