Is your antidepressant making you uninsurable?
Nancy Mann Jackson
About 10 percent of Americans take antidepressants, according to the National Institutes of Health. And an increasing number of Americans are taking them to cope with everyday stress. What they might not know, however, is that these drugs could make them seem riskier to insurance companies — and make it more difficult to get affordable insurance.
Robert Loss, owner and broker at the Amwell Agency in Hillsborough, N.J., says the risk you pose to insurers depends on the strength of your medication and the length of time you’ve been taking them. In some cases, he says, “your choices (for insurance) can be diminished or eliminated” if you have a history of taking antidepressants such as Cymbalta, Prozac and Zoloft.
|Insurance companies use a variety of factors to decide if they’re willing to cover you — including which medications you take.|
“Remember, an underwriter is looking at a case where the person could be unstable emotionally or medically, (so there are) higher odds that the condition could result in a claim,” Loss says.
Robert Reese, an insurance broker with RJ Reese Insurance Agency in Elkhart, Ind., says it’s not necessarily “standard or a foregone conclusion” that taking antidepressants will result in a high risk rating for insurance.
“It certainly does happen, but insurance underwriters review medical history on a per-case basis,” Reese says. “The underwriter will determine the reason for and extent of all treatment, then rate the case based on the total picture. The more comprehensive and expensive the treatment, the higher the insurance rating.”
How will your prescription affect your application?
How an antidepressant prescription affects your chances of being insured depends on which type of insurance you’re applying for, according to Reese.
- Disability insurance companies will try to gauge how likely it is that current and past treatment will leave you unable to work.
- Life insurance companies, meanwhile, will consider how drugs you’re taking could affect how long you’ll live.
- Health insurance companies will try to discern how likely you are to cost them money for prescription drugs and hospitalizations. Your history of using antidepressants won’t come into play if you have group coverage through an employer.
In all cases, the higher the risk you pose, the higher your cost likely will be.
Finding a policy that works for you
If you’re worried about your antidepressant prescription affecting your ability to obtain disability, life or health insurance — or your ability to get good rates — enlist the help of an experienced insurance adviser who can consult with several carriers.
“It doesn’t cost anything to let an agent do the legwork,” Loss says.
Also, don’t talk yourself out of applying for insurance simply because of your meds. And don’t assume that your prescriptions automatically will result in denial of coverage.
“You can go through the underwriting process to determine your insurability and rating with little or no premium up front,” Reese says. “And if the application is declined or the rating too high, you can simply withdraw your application and receive a full refund.”
An experienced adviser “will know which carriers will be the best option for possible coverage,” says Joan Antoniello, vice president for personal and corporate insurance planning at Weiser Capital Management. When she has a client who is taking antidepressants, Antoniello makes anonymous inquiries to various carriers to find out which ones are most receptive.
“Most carriers have questionnaires that can be completed before you apply,” Antoniello says. She sometimes will note in the application an explanation for her client’s use of antidepressants, such as a death in the family or a recent divorce.
Antoniello recommends that people review their medical records to see what’s included before applying for insurance. Also, if an applicant disagrees with an insurance company’s denial, he or she should appeal.
“You have the right to know why they made their decision,” Antoniello says, “and I would ask your doctor to respond if he or she thinks the information was incorrectly interpreted.”
You also might be able to negotiate with an insurer.
“Ask the insurance carrier if they would consider a more limited policy in the case of disability, or when they would reconsider if your condition improves or if you stop taking medication,” Antoniello says.
If you aren’t able to get the insurance you need at the premium you want, consider a policy that offers limited or “step-rated” benefits, Loss advises. For instance, a policy might pay one-third of total benefits if a claim occurs in the first year, two-thirds of benefits in the second year and full benefits in the third year or later. Other policies may include riders that exclude mental health claims for disability, Loss says.