Clients are always surprised that their alcohol use can be an underwriting issue. Whether a person has been through alcohol treatment, has had a DUI, or just consumes higher than average amounts of alcohol, they present an underwriting challenge on more than one level.
Alcohol abuse carries with it both health and lifestyle issues that, without a doubt, have a mortality risk appropriately attached. When a life insurance underwriter is considering someone who has abused alcohol extensively enough to require treatment, they have to weigh the health issues such as liver damage and the life style issues such as alcohol induced depression and suicide, as well as the tendency toward DUI and the associated dangers inherent to that.
Heavy drinkers are often surprised when they are declined without ever having had a DUI, ever having been through treatment, or for that matter, ever admitting to the agent or the company that they even drink. What they didn’t expect was that, in general, if someone is drinking excessively, whether there is any serious damage or not to the liver, the liver function tests on their labs will likely be elevated to some extent. When liver functions are elevated that generally will trigger another test that is an alcohol marker. If that comes back positive, you are not an occasional drinker unless you consider life to be the occasion. With elevated liver functions and a positive alcohol marker, I can’t think of any insurance company out there that wants to participate in your insurance.
Generally, as long as a DUI appears to be more reflective of a bad decision than a lifestyle, a good independent agent can find a company that will insure you within a year at very fair rates. Like speeding tickets, the further out you get from a DUI, the better the rates get and when you get 5 years out we can generally get a number of companies that are willing to consider their best rate class. Two DUI’s will present a bigger challenge because it has then passed over into a probable lifestyle issue. Multiple DUI’s is a tough sell anywhere until a person has a track record or an established change in the life style.
As with DUI, the further you are from alcohol treatment, the better the rates. Most companies are very cautious on this as the recurrence of alcohol abuse after treatment is substantial. A good track record and 10 years of demonstrated sobriety is usually what it will take to get back to the best rates.
Bottom line. Don’t try to slide heavy drinking through by just not mentioning it. You are better off admitting your alcohol use and letting your agent shop it. Understand that from a life insurance standpoint, alcohol abuse is treated very seriously and for very good reason.
This post is somewhat dated. Life insurance underwriting is changing and evolving continually. For more updated information check out some of the key word links. If you have a specific question or topic you need information for do a search. If you don’t find the answers you need contact me and we’ll make sure you get the information that is important to you.