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AARP Answers: Your Insurance Coverage and the Coronavirus

The latest on auto, home, life and health policies during the outbreak

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Will my life insurance policy cover COVID-19?

coronavirus a a r p answers

Yes. As long you have an active life insurance policy in good standing, your beneficiary or beneficiaries will get a death benefit should you die of coronavirus-related complications.

In addition, your insurer cannot change your premiums or your health classification. That holds even if you contract COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, or are at higher risk of exposure due to your job or recent travel to a virus hot spot.

What if I don't have life insurance? Can I get it during the pandemic?

Insurers are offering new whole life and term life policies during the pandemic, but getting covered could take longer and cost more than it did before the outbreak began, according to Jennifer Fitzgerald, CEO of the online insurance marketplace Policygenius.

"We've seen some life insurance carriers raise rates and we expect more to follow suit,” she says.

Insurers are likely to consider a number of coronavirus-related questions in weighing new life insurance policies and may delay applications if, for example, you've recently traveled to a coronavirus hot spot or had close contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Another wrinkle: Some life insurance policies require an in-person medical exam, so the process will be delayed if you live in a state where such visits are restricted by stay-at-home orders. You can shop for no-exam policies, but they tend to have higher premiums and lower benefits.

Age is a also considered a risk factor for COVID-19 — are life insurers taking that into account?

Some are. Several of the largest insurance companies have suspended sales of new life policies for older adults. For example:

  • Prudential, Lincoln National and Protective Life have temporarily suspended or delayed policy applications for people aged 80 and over. 
  • Securian is not accepting applications from consumers who are 71 and up until at least June 15. 
  • Mutual of Omaha has suspended sales of fully underwritten life policies (which require a medical exam) for those aged 70 and up. The company continues to sell non-underwritten whole-life policies regardless of age.

Guaridan Life, MassMutual, Nationwide and State Farm tell AARP they have not instituted any changes in application or approval procedures based on age. We have contacted several other major insurers and we will update this article as we receive new information.

Could the outbreak affect my long-term care (LTC) insurance?

According to Genworth, which issues LTC policies, premiums for existing policies can't be raised for specific customers due to individual circumstances. However, rates can be subject to periodic group increases based on an insurer's claims history, or actuarial projections for future claims.

For example, using claims or actuarial data, insurers can ask state regulators to let them increase LTC premiums for groups of similar policyholders in that state.

These changes “wouldn't happen immediately, as the insurers need time to do the proper research and analysis to verify necessary rate changes,” Fitzgerald says. “As of now, we have not seen any impact on [existing] long-term care policies because of coronavirus."

Are auto and home insurers offering policyholders any financial relief?

Many are. With most Americans sheltering in place and staying off the roads, more than two dozen auto insurers — among them Allstate, American Family, Farmers, Geico, The Hartford, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide, State Farm, Progressive, Travelers and USAA — are offering partial refunds on premiums. (The Hartford's products include AARP-branded auto policies.)

In most cases the paybacks range from 15 percent to 25 percent of a customer's premiums for April, May or both. Allstate and USAA have extended their payback periods through June. Other exceptions include American Family and Nationwide, which gave auto customers one-time, $50 refunds, and Geico, whose 15 percent credit covers six months of payments for semi-annual policies renewed or started through October 7.

Allstate is also allowing home and auto policyholders to defer premiums payments for two months, and several other major insurers, including CNA, Farmers, Geico, Progressive, Travelers and USAA, are suspending cancellations for nonpayment and waiving late fees, for periods ranging from a few weeks to a few months.

Other insurers have to yet to announce concrete steps but are recommending customers get in touch to discuss financial hardship and possible relief. Contact your provider to get details on its coronavirus response before skipping any payments.

Will it take longer for auto and home claims to get processed?

Possibly. Many insurance claims involve person-to-person contacts that are widely restricted or affected during the pandemic.

For example, insurers may not be able to send an adjuster to investigate a home or auto claim. Wait times to get an agent on the phone may be longer. Third parties that play a role in damage claims, such as contractors and car repair shops, may be closed or keeping limited hours.

"Because of this, one of the big things we're seeing changing is how consumers file claims, both for home and auto insurance,” Fitzgerald says. “Some insurers are transitioning to allowing their policyholders to file virtual claims."

My small business was shut down by the pandemic. Will insurance cover my losses?

It depends on the terms of your policy. Talk to your insurance company or broker, but be prepared for bad news: Even if your insurance includes “business interruption” coverage, it might not cover losses from the outbreak.

Business interruption coverage is typically tied to physical damage from a cause you are insured for, such as a fire or hurricane. Absent such damage, it can be difficult to press a claim, says Shannon O'Malley, a partner in the Dallas office of the national law firm Zelle LLP, who has written an in-depth analysis of the coronavirus and property insurance.

In addition, many business policies explicitly exclude claims arising from a virus or communicable disease, or don't address those causes, which can effectively mean the same thing.

Even if a policy includes “civil authority” provisions related to a government order to close, these typically require that the order arise from physical damage caused by a covered event, O'Malley says. Claims on this basis are complex and contingent on individual circumstances; consider consulting an attorney well versed in insurance law to discuss your situation.

Will my health insurer make me pay anything if I need coronavirus treatment?

It depends on your health plan. Most large insurers have temporarily waived cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing and treatment. If you are covered by one of those providers, you won't pay deductibles, coinsurance or copayments for coronavirus-related medical services through at least late May.

More information is available from specific insurer. If your provider is not listed, call your health plan's customer service number to find out about its coronavirus response.

Aetna: Out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus testing and inpatient hospitalization for COVID-19 treatment waived through June 1.

Anthem: No cost-sharing for testing, or for COVID-19 treatment from hospitals and health care providers in your plan's network, through May 31.

• Blue Cross/Blue Shield: No out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 testing and treatment through May 31.

Cigna: No cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing and treatment through May 31.

Health Care Services Corporation (HCSC): No cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing and treatment through May 31.

Humana: Out-of-pocket costs waived for testing and treatment. No end date has been set.

Kaiser Permanente: No cost-sharing for testing and treatment through May 31.

• United Healthcare: No cost-sharing for testing and treatment through May 31.

Is Medicare covering COVID-19 testing and treatment?

Medicare will pay all costs for COVID-19 testing ordered by a doctor or other health care provider, and for services related to testing, such as office and emergency room visits. Beneficiaries will pay nothing for testing.

People with original Medicare who are hospitalized for COVID-19 treatment will still have deductibles and copays. If you have a supplemental Medigap plan, it may cover these costs. If you have Medicare Advantage, out-of-pocket costs for hospital and outpatient treatment vary by plan. Contact your Advantage plan provider.

You'll find more information in our AARP Answers on Medicare and the coronavirus.

What about Affordable Care Act (ACA) health plans?

Plans purchased through the ACA marketplace are required to cover emergency services and hospitalization, and that would apply to such treatment for COVID-19. You may incur out-of-pocket costs, depending on your plan.

Some major providers of ACA plans, such as Centene and Molina Healthcare, have waived cost-sharing on coronavirus treatment for marketplace customers. Ask your plan provider about its coverage.

For more information, see the AARP Answers on ACA insurance and the coronavirus.

I don't have health insurance. Can I get covered?

You may be able to get Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for low-income people, or an ACA plan, depending on your finances, location or other factors.

Medicaid enrollment is open all year. Eligibility is based primarily on income and differs by state. Contact your state's Medicaid program for information.

ACA sign-up is typically limited to a set period each fall, but you can get a special enrollment period if you have a life-changing event, such as a loss of previous health coverage. In addition, several states that run their own ACA exchanges have temporarily reopened enrollment.

Some health insurers sell short-term policies with low premiums, but these offer limited benefits and, unlike with Medicaid and ACA plans, you can be turned down for a preexisting condition. Closely read and carefully consider a short-term plan's provisions before signing up.

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