Alpha, delta and lambda are all Greek letters, and if you throw them together in a particular order you might have the name of a fraternity or sorority. They are also variant strains of COVID-19. This virus continues to mutate and spread globally, and while the number of cases in the U.S. has dropped dramatically in the past six months, we still have not eradicated it. My opening statement is a bit tongue in cheek, but the impact of the virus on individuals’ long-term health and their future insurability can be serious.
Many people who have had COVID-19 suffered minor or no symptoms, while others’ symptoms were severe and some people died. A growing minority who had the virus are now referred to as COVID-19 long-haulers, meaning their symptoms have extended well beyond two weeks, and may not ever disappear. In fact, many long-haulers had few or no symptoms when they contracted COVID-19, but symptoms surfaced weeks or even months after the virus infected the patient. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a report that estimated as many as 10% of those infected with COVID-19 have become long-haulers.
Some of these long-haulers have recovered, some have not. We are still learning about the long-term effects of the virus on human health and the potentially effects of COVID-19 on the ability to acquire life insurance.
I’m certain that purchasing life insurance was not the highest priority of many COVID-19 sufferers. The low rate of insurance ownership among adult Americans is fairly conclusive evidence of this. But just as we all want great insurance as soon as we’re sick, or if we have an auto accident, or when a hailstorm damages our roof, today there are many who are interested in life insurance because of COVID-19. For some, it may already be too late as many life insurance companies are postponing decisions on long-haulers for health reasons. It may ultimately turn out that some long-haulers have become uninsurable. Those who wish to purchase life insurance do not have the luxury of waiting until illness strikes in order to obtain coverage.
Given the heightened awareness of the need for life insurance, term insurance should be flying off the shelves (figuratively speaking) right now. Term insurance has always been an effective means of placing a put on the life insurance company should an insured’s health change after coverage is placed in force. With term, the insurer not only provides coverage for a relatively low price, but in many cases is obliged to continue to provide permanent coverage at the same health class if the policy owner decides to convert. As we navigate the second half of 2021, and confront the delta and lambda variants of COVID-19, protecting our ongoing ability to be insured is as important as it has ever been. The good news is that prices on term life insurance remain lower than they’ve ever been before – for those in good health. It’s an excellent match for today’s needs.
While many will approach purchasing term insurance based on price, it should not be considered a pure commodity product. It’s important that the term policy should offer the right to convert to a high-quality permanent policy. Given current concerns regarding long-term care costs, many prospects would be interested in the ability to add a chronic illness rider to a permanent policy upon conversion. There are other benefits that could be considered important, such as conversion credits or a waiver of premium rider that converts to the permanent policy, even when the insured is on claim. Speaking to a prospect about what’s important to them will help everyone get to the best policy for the customer.
COVID-19 has been a global challenge and will remain so for an unknown period of time. The impact of the virus has been felt in waves as it surges through populations. Protecting ourselves and managing risk are an important part of facing the spread of the virus. The impact of the virus can quickly spread from our physical health to our financial health. Insuring your clients’ future insurability and financial health through a convertible term life insurance policy is a smart approach to any other planning they are doing today.
Karl Kreunen, is vice president, product marketing, at Ohio National Financial Services. He can be reached at [email protected].