Thanks to the fact that we live in the 21st century instead of the 12th, prescription drugs are a part of everyone’s medical history. Whether it’s taking a temporary course of antibiotics to get over strep throat, or a regular regimen of medication to manage a lifelong condition like asthma, you — like most people — have a prescription history. In the life insurance underwriting process, insurers review information about your lifestyle and health history to assess your overall health and accurately price your policy. For medically underwritten coverage (often the most affordable type), prescription history is reviewed. So how does the information in that prescription history affect how much you’ll pay for your life insurance?
The answer is: It depends on your individual circumstances. To help us demystify how prescription history is reviewed, we spoke to Ram Ballesteros, an underwriting product innovation lead at Haven Life. [FYI: all Haven Term policies are issued by Haven Life’s parent company MassMutual]
Myth #1: Certain medications automatically increase your rates
For starters, you can forget about any nagging worry in the back of your head that certain medications will automatically disqualify you from coverage or increase your rate.
“A prescription history is never black-and-white,” says Ram. “The same medication that could be prescribed for a certain medical condition in one person might also be prescribed for a totally different condition in another person, even in a different field of medicine. Applicants are reviewed on an individual basis to get a better understanding of their health situation.”
Myth #2: You can hide prescription history by not mentioning it
That said, you can also forget about omitting certain medications from your application in hopes of concealing them from an underwriter. Every major life insurance company utilizes large databases of prescription histories as a standard, common practice—and the information is aggregated from primary sources like health insurers, pharmacies, and medical service providers. That data is tightly regulated under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — “it’s not just ‘out there’ like your social media data might be,” says Ballesteros — but it is detailed.
So unless you’re in the habit of buying prescription drugs on the black market, any life insurer you apply to for coverage is going to get a pretty complete picture of the medications you take, simply by accessing these existing medical databases, which they can only do with your permission, of course.
Myth #3: Underwriters are looking for reasons to charge you more
Ballesteros says that “honesty is the best policy” when applying for life insurance coverage, and that applies to what you disclose about your prescription history too. But it’s not because the life insurance company is out to get you. “Underwriting is very complex, so we definitely want to give our customers the benefit of the doubt at all times,” Ballesteros explains. “That means giving them the opportunity to give us a sense of their medical history in their own words. Our goal at MassMutual and Haven Life is to get as many people as possible access to affordable life insurance coverage.”
A life insurance company will assume that the prescription history you provide in the application process is accurate, and use the information from medical databases as an additional source of verification, or to help fill in gaps in the applicant’s memory — not as a tool for playing “gotcha.” At Haven Life, once an application is submitted, this review process is done in real-time using innovative underwriting algorithms. If the machine needs a human’s review to verify information, a human underwriter will step in and ask some follow up questions.
“Third-party prescription history is mainly used to support what the customer has provided us,” Ballesteros says. “The underwriting models we use take a big-picture, holistic view of customers. Our No. 1 goal is to get the best, most accurate rate to every customer.”
Myth #4: Your prescription history is written in stone
Mistakes happen — and not always on the applicant’s side. If there’s an element in your prescription history that’s inaccurate or missing some vital context, you don’t have to just accept it. Once you realize that an underwriter is on the same side as you are, it’s easier to remember that you are free to point out mistakes — or just ask questions.
“We have a very friendly customer success team fielding phone calls every day, and if anyone has any questions about how their prescription history impacted their underwriting, the team is happy to walk them through it,” Ballesteros says. “And if they feel that something might not be accurate, we can connect them with someone that can help them address their records.”
The bottom line: An accurate prescription history helps you
In the end, your prescription history — conveyed with as much accuracy and detail as possible — is an asset, not an enemy, in securing your best life insurance rate. Sure, that history might be as long as your arm. But in the 21st century, whose isn’t?