Life Insurance and Foreign Travel

Imagine you are completing an application for life insurance and a seemingly innocuous question regarding your future foreign travel plans appears.  Of course, you answer honestly and state you may visit relatives in Israel or Colombia at some point in the future.  Unbeknownst to you, you just raised a super-sized red flag for the insurance company and perhaps provided a reason for them to decline your application.

This practice of risk assessment as it relates to foreign travel has been used by life insurance companies for many years.  Only recently has the practice become an issue, and now a hot button for legislation at both the federal and state levels.

The battle began when U.S. Representative, Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-FL), was denied life insurance coverage by American General Life in March of 2005 for indicating on her application that she “may” travel to Israel at some future time, but had no immediate plans to do so at the time.  Her rejection letter from the insurance company stated, “We will be able to reconsider this decision once you have returned from Israel and there are no future plans to travel to any countries of concern.”

By the way, “countries of concern” can generally be found on the U.S. State Department’s Current Travel Warnings list.

“As an American you can lawfully travel pretty much anywhere in the world,” said the Congresswoman.  “You are asking Americans to choose between insuring their lives and legal travel.  The freedom to travel is a part of our way of life.”

Wasserman Shultz has since sponsored legislation called the Life Insurance Fairness for Travelers Act, or LIFT Act (H.R. 3639).  The Act was attached as an amendment to the Terrorism Risk Insurance Revision Act of 2005, and subsequently dropped as a result of meeting significant resistance in the Senate.

It appears the battle has now moved to the state level.  As of February 2006, five states (CA, CO, FL, MD, & WA) have enacted regulations that curtail the use of foreign travel plans in life insurance underwriting, with legislation pending in two others (GA & MA).  The legislation varies by state, but the basic premise is to prevent life insurance companies from taking any adverse action based solely on the proposed insured’s past or future lawful travel.  An insurance company would be required to provide sound actuarial data to support adverse decisions.

It will be very interesting to see how insurance companies interpret and respond to the new legislation.  Many companies have already begun to change or remove altogether their foreign travel related questions on their applications.  And, of course, other states will want to join the party.

I recently attended a conference hosted by a prominent life insurance company at which this issue was discussed.  The company (no name dropping) told the attendees they do not intend to change their underwriting practices, except in states such as Florida, where the law specifically says insurance companies cannot ask foreign travel related questions.  The company believes it can make a strong case for basing underwriting decisions partly on an applicant’s foreign travel plans by using worldwide travel, disease, health and crime statistics as supporting data.

The company may have a point …. check out The CIA World Fact Book for interesting (and scary) worldwide statistics before you make those foreign travel plans.

  • anonymous

    Your readers might also have trouble obtaining life insurance if they are not U.S. citizens. However, I have found one company that will consider writing a person holding a green card from http://www.termlifeamerica.com

  • anonymous

    Your readers might also have trouble obtaining life insurance if they are not U.S. citizens. However, I have found one company that will consider writing a person holding a green card from http://www.termlifeamerica.com

  • Tim B.

    Most life insurance companies treat Permanent Residents i.e. Green Card holders the same as U.S. citizens when applying for life insurance. Some companies require them to reside in the U.S. for six months or so before applying. Most companies will also issue policies to valid Visa holders, such as H1B, K1/K2 and V1/V2 to name a few. All companies offered by QuickQuote have similar guidelines to these.

  • Tim B.

    Most life insurance companies treat Permanent Residents i.e. Green Card holders the same as U.S. citizens when applying for life insurance. Some companies require them to reside in the U.S. for six months or so before applying. Most companies will also issue policies to valid Visa holders, such as H1B, K1/K2 and V1/V2 to name a few. All companies offered by QuickQuote have similar guidelines to these.

  • HinermanGroup

    Well, first of all lets address the question at hand instead of changing the subject as the first two comments did. The question is should a life insurance company be allowed to consider foreign travel in their underwriting? The answer is yes, of course they should. The changes in insurance regulations that prevent insurance companies from asking about travel, and especially about future foreign travel go too far.

    Your article statesThe legislation varies by state, but the basic premise is to prevent life insurance companies from taking any adverse action based solely on the proposed insureds past or future lawful travel. An insurance company would be required to provide sound actuarial data to support adverse decisions.

    If an insurance company is not allowed to ask about foreign travel then they wont have any information at all to which they can apply actuarial data. Kind of like not being able to ask about any future medical procedures planned. Dont you suppose people with upcoming surgery would love that approach?

    The emphasis for a life insurance purchaser should be finding an independent life insurance agent who knows the underwriting guidelines for all the major carriers. Not all companies treat foreign travel the same and that should be their option. Not all life insurance agents know how to find the best underwriting, and using a properly educated agent should be the consumers option.

  • HinermanGroup

    Well, first of all lets address the question at hand instead of changing the subject as the first two comments did. The question is should a life insurance company be allowed to consider foreign travel in their underwriting? The answer is yes, of course they should. The changes in insurance regulations that prevent insurance companies from asking about travel, and especially about future foreign travel go too far.

    Your article statesThe legislation varies by state, but the basic premise is to prevent life insurance companies from taking any adverse action based solely on the proposed insureds past or future lawful travel. An insurance company would be required to provide sound actuarial data to support adverse decisions.

    If an insurance company is not allowed to ask about foreign travel then they wont have any information at all to which they can apply actuarial data. Kind of like not being able to ask about any future medical procedures planned. Dont you suppose people with upcoming surgery would love that approach?

    The emphasis for a life insurance purchaser should be finding an independent life insurance agent who knows the underwriting guidelines for all the major carriers. Not all companies treat foreign travel the same and that should be their option. Not all life insurance agents know how to find the best underwriting, and using a properly educated agent should be the consumers option.

  • anonymous

    In regard to the post by HinermanGroup, these are points very well taken. Life insurance companies should be able to take foreign travel into consideration when underwriting a life insurance application. Provided the same questions are asked of every applicant, this would not be discriminatory. Obviously, there are other nations in the world with higher rates of mortality and infectious disease than the US.

    It is also true that life insurance companies operating in states with such legislation would have to provide sound actuarial data to support their adverse actions. However, don’t fool yourself. Insurance companies have been collecting this data for years. And in fact, only the state of Florida does not allow the insurance companies to ask questions about foreign travel on their applications. The other states with this type of legislation allow the questions to be asked, but disallow the answers to be used by underwriting. Further, all companies will eventually be able to collect some of this data through the death claim process.

  • anonymous

    In regard to the post by HinermanGroup, these are points very well taken. Life insurance companies should be able to take foreign travel into consideration when underwriting a life insurance application. Provided the same questions are asked of every applicant, this would not be discriminatory. Obviously, there are other nations in the world with higher rates of mortality and infectious disease than the US.

    It is also true that life insurance companies operating in states with such legislation would have to provide sound actuarial data to support their adverse actions. However, don’t fool yourself. Insurance companies have been collecting this data for years. And in fact, only the state of Florida does not allow the insurance companies to ask questions about foreign travel on their applications. The other states with this type of legislation allow the questions to be asked, but disallow the answers to be used by underwriting. Further, all companies will eventually be able to collect some of this data through the death claim process.

  • anonymous

    I suspect most individuals look at the situation from the perspective that insurance companies make lots of money and are discriminating against potential purchacers of their product.

    The fact is that insurance is a way of spreading risk and to provide financial support to those whom experience unexpected loss. The underwriting process allows the insurance company to question a potential client regarding their medical history as well as issues such as dangerous avocations, and yes, foreign travel. In this way, an insurer is able to ensure only applicants who are expected to have normal mortality are accepted into the “insurance pool”. The benefit to all is that if you are an individual with good health and a good risk profile, you pay a “low” proce for life insurance. If you are a high risk individual, you are not included in that pool and pay either a higher premium or go to an insurer that has policies priced to cover the particular mortality issue in your profile.

    Basically, it comes down to the fact that insurers want to provide their lowest rates to individuals who are at the lowest risk. With respect to foreign travel, is it fair for any government to dictate that an insurer must insure an individual at high risk, and make the balance of their clients pay for that particular individual’s increased risk profile.

    If you had a deal with your neighbor that you would take care of his/her expenses and that he/she would take care of your expenses if you died, whom would you prefer to have this deal with. Your neighbor on the right that is a health fanatic, and whose idea of excirement is going to the cottage on the weekend. Or, would you like this deal with your neighbor on the left, who has had two heart attacks, eats hamburgers and fries every second day, has 2 impaired driving charges, and is traveling to Afghanistan for 2 months.

    The underwriting of foreign travel not only takes into account mortality risks associated with terrorism, but also emdemic disease, standard of healthcare, safety of blood supply, road and air safety, atc. atc. atc. North American premium rates are based on North American mortality, which is largely influenced by these factors, which from a global perspective, are the best in the world.

    This is insurance underwriting in a nutshell. Let the insurers underwrite risk, and keep the insurance costs for the majority of us affordable.

  • anonymous

    I suspect most individuals look at the situation from the perspective that insurance companies make lots of money and are discriminating against potential purchacers of their product.

    The fact is that insurance is a way of spreading risk and to provide financial support to those whom experience unexpected loss. The underwriting process allows the insurance company to question a potential client regarding their medical history as well as issues such as dangerous avocations, and yes, foreign travel. In this way, an insurer is able to ensure only applicants who are expected to have normal mortality are accepted into the “insurance pool”. The benefit to all is that if you are an individual with good health and a good risk profile, you pay a “low” proce for life insurance. If you are a high risk individual, you are not included in that pool and pay either a higher premium or go to an insurer that has policies priced to cover the particular mortality issue in your profile.

    Basically, it comes down to the fact that insurers want to provide their lowest rates to individuals who are at the lowest risk. With respect to foreign travel, is it fair for any government to dictate that an insurer must insure an individual at high risk, and make the balance of their clients pay for that particular individual’s increased risk profile.

    If you had a deal with your neighbor that you would take care of his/her expenses and that he/she would take care of your expenses if you died, whom would you prefer to have this deal with. Your neighbor on the right that is a health fanatic, and whose idea of excirement is going to the cottage on the weekend. Or, would you like this deal with your neighbor on the left, who has had two heart attacks, eats hamburgers and fries every second day, has 2 impaired driving charges, and is traveling to Afghanistan for 2 months.

    The underwriting of foreign travel not only takes into account mortality risks associated with terrorism, but also emdemic disease, standard of healthcare, safety of blood supply, road and air safety, atc. atc. atc. North American premium rates are based on North American mortality, which is largely influenced by these factors, which from a global perspective, are the best in the world.

    This is insurance underwriting in a nutshell. Let the insurers underwrite risk, and keep the insurance costs for the majority of us affordable.

  • anonymous

    I’m a US citizen currently living overseas and am now looking for life insurance. I am in Japan, so I’m nowhere near the hotspots that the State Department lists. However, I also do not retain a permanent residence back in the States.

    I realize this is a different question than the blog entry tackles, but are there any problems for a non-resident U.S. citizen to buy insurance from American companies as opposed to dealing with the local insurance agents?

  • anonymous

    I’m a US citizen currently living overseas and am now looking for life insurance. I am in Japan, so I’m nowhere near the hotspots that the State Department lists. However, I also do not retain a permanent residence back in the States.

    I realize this is a different question than the blog entry tackles, but are there any problems for a non-resident U.S. citizen to buy insurance from American companies as opposed to dealing with the local insurance agents?

  • anonymous

    Good question. Generally you will have to be in the US to sign the application, complete the medical requirements, and take delivery of the policy. Other than that, Japan is a standard country from an underwriting perspective, so that should not pose a problem.

    There may also be tax related issues if you die overseas, but this is a complex issue, one best left to experts.

  • anonymous

    Good question. Generally you will have to be in the US to sign the application, complete the medical requirements, and take delivery of the policy. Other than that, Japan is a standard country from an underwriting perspective, so that should not pose a problem.

    There may also be tax related issues if you die overseas, but this is a complex issue, one best left to experts.

  • anonymous

    If insurance companies are allowed to take into account the risks of foreign travel, should they not then be allowed also to take into the account the risks of domestic travel? For example: Do you have any plans to pass through Camden, NJ or Newark, NJ in the next 2 years? How about New Orleans? South-Central Los Angeles? I’m a big believer in the statistics: Make them provide sound actuarial data.

  • anonymous

    If insurance companies are allowed to take into account the risks of foreign travel, should they not then be allowed also to take into the account the risks of domestic travel? For example: Do you have any plans to pass through Camden, NJ or Newark, NJ in the next 2 years? How about New Orleans? South-Central Los Angeles? I’m a big believer in the statistics: Make them provide sound actuarial data.

  • anonymous

    Do you have to be a resident in Florida or another state with similar legislation to buy life insurance in Florida et al?

  • anonymous

    Hi every one,
    The foreign travel has been used by life insurance companies for many years.Most life insurance companies treat Permanent Residents i.e. Green Card holders, the same as U.S. Citizens when applying for life insurance. I realize this is different question than the blog entry.

    ===================
    william
    http://lifeinsuranceworld.org

  • anonymous

    Hi every one,
    The foreign travel has been used by life insurance companies for many years.Most life insurance companies treat Permanent Residents i.e. Green Card holders, the same as U.S. Citizens when applying for life insurance. I realize this is different question than the blog entry.

    ===================
    william
    http://lifeinsuranceworld.org

  • anonymous

    Nice all blogs and some thing i also tell here,
    There is a lot of common points to recognise when you’re thinking of life insurance. When you’re trying to understand condition life insurance, you would like to be sure that you realize the basic principle of however these type of life insurance works. That way, you are able to be perfectly sure that you’ve decided the correct case of life insurance for you.
    Find the best quotes in the UK for life insurance and critical illness cover. We have years of experience and a wealth of adive available. Get a quote online today.

    http://www.jumplifeinsurance.co.uk

  • anonymous

    Nice all blogs and some thing i also tell here,
    There is a lot of common points to recognise when you’re thinking of life insurance. When you’re trying to understand condition life insurance, you would like to be sure that you realize the basic principle of however these type of life insurance works. That way, you are able to be perfectly sure that you’ve decided the correct case of life insurance for you.
    Find the best quotes in the UK for life insurance and critical illness cover. We have years of experience and a wealth of adive available. Get a quote online today.

    http://www.jumplifeinsurance.co.uk

  • anonymous

    Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiii
    Well, first of all lets address the question at hand instead of changing the subject as the first two comments did. The question is should a life insurance company be allowed to consider foreign travel in their underwriting? The answer is yes, of course they should. The changes in insurance regulations that prevent insurance companies from asking about travel, and especially about future foreign travel go too far.

    joseph
    a href=http//travelinsurancenews.org.uk rel=dofollowTravel Insurance News/a

  • anonymous

    Interesting article, I love to travel internationally but I didnt know that when and where I traveled to could affect things for me in America. I have always wanted to be an ex-pat so we will just see what happens in my life. http//www.maryloudobbs.com/