What is simplified issue life insurance?

This insurance is for those with health issues or who want fast coverage

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Simplified issue life insurance is designed for adults in need of coverage quickly and people with health issues that may prevent them from obtaining other types of life insurance. Applicants must answer only a few general health questions, and there’s no medical exam required to be approved.

But premiums tend to be high relative to the amount of coverage that most simplified issue life insurance policies offer. Some people may find other kinds of life insurance, such as whole life, to be a better option.


Key insights

Simplified issue life insurance does not require a time-consuming medical exam.

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Applicants must still answer questions about their health, and acceptance is not guaranteed.

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Other forms of coverage, such as term life insurance, may be cheaper.

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Understanding simplified issue life insurance

Simplified issue life insurance is a form of life insurance coverage with fixed premiums and a guaranteed death benefit. It may be offered as term or whole life insurance, depending on the company.

Unlike other types of life insurance, applicants do not need to undergo a medical exam as part of the underwriting process. However, you will need to answer some questions about your general health and prescription medication usage.

“Simplified issue life insurance is great for people who may have common health problems …  who need a policy that accepts their preexisting health conditions at competitive rates,” said Randy VanderVaate, a licensed insurance agent in Dallas. “With no medical exams, these policies fit the bill for 50-70% of the population because they can get approved in days, not months.”

Because of this streamlined application process, approval typically takes a fraction of the time than it does for whole life and other kinds of insurance.

The maximum death benefit on a simplified life policy may be lower than for other types of insurance — $100,000, for instance, rather than $500,000 or more — and premiums may be higher than for other types of insurance relative to the benefits provided.

Simplified issue life vs. whole life insurance

Simplified issue life insurance is easier to qualify for than whole life because no medical exam is required. Older adults and people with health issues who have had trouble qualifying for other types of life insurance may have an easier time finding a simplified life policy because the application process is less strict.

Although term life and AD&D policies are the most common form of simplified issue life insurance, some insurers also offer a form of whole life insurance that contains a cash value component. However, these policies typically have lower coverage amounts than traditional life insurance may provide -- just $5,000 to $50,000, depending on the insurer -- and are intended for end-of-life expenses and the like, rather than for leaving your heirs a financial legacy.

Traditional whole life insurance has a stricter underwriting process that takes longer to complete and typically requires a medical exam. Policies contain a savings component that builds cash value at a fixed rate of return and may be available with greater coverage amounts than simplified whole life. Additionally, whole life insurance typically can be supplemented with policy riders or add-ons for additional coverage.

Ultimately, choosing between simplified and whole life insurance may come down to your needs and budget.

“Fully underwritten term life insurance can be less expensive (or) more expensive depending on how your medical lab test results come back from the carrier,” VanderVaate said. “You can potentially get lower rates, but some people may get declined for health concerns that they were unaware of prior to the life insurance medical testing.”

» MORE: Term vs. whole life insurance

How simplified issue life insurance works

Simplified issue life insurance works in much the same way a traditional policy does. In exchange for paying a premium on a regular basis, the insurer will pay a death benefit to your beneficiaries so long as you die while the policy is in effect.

Simplified life insurance policies may come with a graded death benefit, meaning that if you die within a certain probationary period (typically two or three years) after your policy is active, the full death benefit may not be paid out. The graded amount increases over the probation period until reaching the full amount.

How much does simplified issue insurance cost?

There are a number of factors that influence the cost of a life insurance policy, no matter what type of coverage you have. These include your age, gender, occupation, general health, family’s medical history and whether you use or have used tobacco products.

For example, Ethos offers a 20-year simplified issue term life insurance policy with $300,000 in coverage on its website. Here’s a sample monthly cost breakdown by age and gender for individuals in good health for that policy:

*

Bear in mind that these are merely sample rates from one company, but they do reflect some general truths about buying life insurance.

On average, women pay less than men for insurance, all other factors being equal. Also, premium costs increase with age. A 50-year-old will pay considerably more than a 30-year-old for the same amount of coverage.

» COMPARE: Best life insurance companies

Pros and cons of simplified issue life insurance

Simplified issue life insurance, as the name implies, makes the application process relatively brief compared to other kinds of life insurance. There’s no medical exam to schedule and no wait for results that can delay the underwriting process.

For people needing coverage on short notice or people who want to avoid a medical exam for whatever reason, simplified issue life insurance could be an option.

But premiums can be high relative to the coverage amounts available.

Pros

  • No in-person medical exam required
  • May be easier to obtain than other types of life insurance
  • Premiums are fixed

Cons

  • Must answer questions about your health as part of the application process
  • Premiums may be higher than for other forms of coverage
  • Coverage amounts tend to be lower than with other policy types

Alternatives to simplified issue life insurance

Depending on your age, health, budget and needs, you may find that simplified issue life insurance is not your only option.

Other types of life insurance worth considering include:

  • Guaranteed issue life insurance
  • Group life insurance
  • Final expense life insurance
  • Term life insurance
  • Whole life insurance

Be aware that traditional life insurance, such as whole life, often has a longer underwriting process, meaning you may have to wait up to 60 days to learn if your application has been approved.

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FAQ

Who should get simplified issue life insurance?

Simplified issue life insurance may be a good option for people who want to obtain coverage quickly without a mandatory medical exam.

Older people who may have trouble finding affordable life insurance because of their age and people with health issues that may limit their coverage options may also benefit from a simplified life insurance policy.

What is the simplest type of life insurance?

Term life insurance is the simplest type of life insurance. These kinds of policies have no savings component to build cash value, and they pay a death benefit only if the insured person dies during the period that the policy is in effect. Terms may range from one to 30 years, depending on the insurer and policy.

Is life insurance worth it?

Life insurance coverage isn’t mandatory the way car insurance is. But if you want to secure your finances and ensure your loved ones will be taken care of, buying a life insurance policy that fits your budget could be a good idea.

The death benefit from a term or permanent life insurance policy can be used by your beneficiaries to pay bills, provide care for dependents and secure future financial needs.

Bottom line

If you don’t qualify for a fully underwritten policy because of age or health, a simplified issue life policy could be an option. Likewise, if you need insurance quickly, this kind of policy is worth considering.

However, if you’re seeking a whole life insurance policy with a large amount of coverage (such as $1 million or more), simplified issue life insurance may not be ideal. Also, you may be able to find similar coverage for far less money by choosing a fully underwritten policy.


Article sources
ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. Insurance Information Institute, “Why should I buy life insurance?” Accessed March 28, 2024.
  2. Insurance Information Institute, “Life Insurance Basics.” Accessed March 28, 2024.
  3. Western & Southern Financial Group, “Understanding Simplified Issue Life Insurance.” Accessed March 28, 2024.
  4. Fidelity Life, “Simplified Issue Life Insurance.” Accessed March 28, 2024.
  5. Assurance, “Understanding the Basics of Simplified Issue Life Insurance.” Accessed March 28, 2024.
  6. Fidelity Life, “8 factors that affect life insurance premiums.” Accessed March 29, 2024.
  7. Ethos, “Simplified issue term life insurance.” Accessed March 29, 2024.
  8. Western & Southern Financial Group, “What Is Graded Life Insurance?” Accessed March 29, 2024.
  9. Assurance, “What is Fully Underwritten Life Insurance?” Accessed April 11, 2024.
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