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Health insurance
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Hard to crack

Monthly guide on underwriting conditions of certain medical risks
Life underwriters do not see that many cases of drug abuse; most addicts use virtually every penny to finance their habit and would seldom think of life assurance.
However, some will apply. And of those who do, a good proportion will not disclose their history.
Usually, the underwriter will only find out through a routine medical report. This is generally because the drug abuse has been linked with a serious addiction, overdose, or illness (physical or mental).
Experimentation with cannabis and hallucinatory drugs only exceptionally comes out in the medical evidence.
Generally, it will be ignored for underwriting purposes if there is no continuing use or adverse side-effects. But those who are currently addicted or who have only recently given up are not insurable, as relapse into old habits is common. One needs to be satisfied that a reformed addict is resolute in his determination to stay off drugs.
So we are left with people who have had a major drug problem in the past.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) among intravenous drug abusers is, of course, another serious dimension.
Any underwriter contemplating an applicant with a history of drug abuse, even if there is no reference to intravenous injection, should ask for an HIV test. If this is negative, and at least three or four years have elapsed since abstinence, a fairly sizeable temporary extra premium should be imposed to cover the risk of relapse, which should diminish with the passage of time.
Drug dependence is not confined to social misfits. Many drugs prescribed by doctors can and do lead to dependence; and it is common to see middle-aged applicants who have been taking sedatives, barbiturates or anxiolytics for many years.
In such circumstances, it is not so much the drug use that concerns the underwriter, rather the underlying condition. The continuing use of drugs under proper control by a physician can be a better remedy than withdrawal.

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:20.7 1st August, 2007
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