It is a common myth among smokers that the life or a health insurance policy will not be available to them. An even bigger a myth is even if a life or a health insurer issues them a policy, the premium will be quite steep and medical tests will be needed. While it is true to some extent, couple of health insurance companies are lenient when it comes to selling policies to smokers. If you declare that you are a smoker but have no lung disease, you may get a health policy at the same premium as a non-smoker without medical tests. However, most life insurance companies do load extra premium on term insurance products.
"As a lead health insurer, we want to be all inclusive. We ask customers if they are suffering from a lung disease or not. If they are not, then we give them insurance like any other person. In India, only those with a fear of disease or a genetic predisposition to it buy insurance. If you say no to them, health insurance penetration will not rise," says Prakash Subbarayan, managing director, Star Health Insurance.
ICICI Lombard also does not charge extra premium from smokers. In fact, both insurers have wellness benefits under which they encourage policyholders who smoke, to quit smoking. "Under the wellness program of our flagship product, we reward customers with wellness points for displaying a positive change in lifestyle by quitting smoking. The wellness points so rewarded can be redeemed against out-patient medical expenses such as consultation charges, medicine expenses and diagnostics etc," says Sanjay Datta, Chief - Underwriting and Claims at ICICI Lombard General Insurance.
Some insurance companies may have a pre-defined limit, for example, 20 cigarettes a day, beyond which if you smoke, they'll load extra premium. "If the pre-defined limit is 15-20 cigarettes and you smoke less than that, then it is not a problem. Otherwise there could be a loading of 10-20 per cent on the premium or rejection altogether," says Amit Chhabra, Head - Health Insurance, Policybazaar.com.
In the life segment, however, a smoker customer may have to pay up to 25-50 per cent higher than a non-smoker. Max Life Insurance has differential premiums for smokers and non-smokers. "Not all smokers require medical examination. We have fully established process of tele- and video-medical consultation which caters to 35-40 per cent applications. Instances where physical medical examinations are required, then they are carried out either through home and center visit by our panels of credited laboratories. All our labs follow strict protocol of social distancing, protection and safe sanitation to ensure utmost safety," says Manu Lavanya, Director & Chief Operations Officer, Max Life Insurance.
One term plan by ICICI Prudential under which you don't require a medical test is its Point of Sale (PoS) product, iProtect Smart. The insurer has recently dropped the prices by up to 30 per cent on it. The entry age is up to 46 years and the sum assured can go as high as Rs 1 crore.
"For a 35-year old salaried individual, the plan can be bought for a monthly premium as low as Rs 1,399 offering a cover up to the age of 65 years (maximum) with Rs 1 crore (maximum) sum assured. It is a simple non-medical term insurance product," says Santosh Agarwal, Chief Business Officer - Life insurance Policybazaar.
Honest declaration is must
Customers should be aware that declaration regarding pre-existing diseases, if any, and the extent of your smoking is a material information that you must share with the insurance company to avoid claims rejection. Some insurance firms may have started offering non-medical policies to reduce entry barrier, it is still to your advantage to be sure about your health status. If you have been a heavy smoker for a long time, even if you do not have a disease now, you should get a medical test done lest the insurance company rejects your claim due to non-disclosure of material information.
"Insurance companies define a smoker as a person who consumes nicotine in any form. Nicotine can be easily found via blood, urine saliva, and hair. The duration of nicotine in the body defines how regular you smoke and other related conditions. It is advisable for a smoker to get his/her medical tests done by the insurance company at the time of buying the policy itself to reduce the area for dispute at the time of claim," says Naval Goel, CEO & Founder, PolicyX.com.
If you have not smoked for last 6-12 months, you may declare that you are a non-smoker, but still it would make sense to go for a medical check-up before buying the life or a health insurance policy.
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