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Genworth Redefines 'Healthy': Pre-existing Conditions Not Always Barrier To Life Insurance

RICHMOND, Va., Oct. 17, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Too many Americans have taken themselves out of the market for life insurance as a result of outdated assumptions about pre-existing conditions and insurability. That is one of the conclusions drawn by Genworth life insurance experts from a review of the 2012 Genworth LifeJacket SM Study data.

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"We need to redefine the word 'healthy' in the context of life insurance eligibility," said Janet Deskins, Genworth senior vice president for product development. "For adults with conditions such as anxiety, asthma, depression, high cholesterol and sleep apnea, life insurance can still be an affordable part of their overall financial plan, especially if they are actively taking steps to manage their condition."

Between 39% and 54% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 with common, self-reported pre-existing conditions hold no life insurance, with doubts over insurability leading many potential candidates to not even apply for coverage, according to the new study. However, medical advances and wellness programs have made it possible for many Americans to better manage chronic conditions, while the insurance industry has developed increasingly sophisticated underwriting practices to provide preferred rates to those that have well-managed conditions such as asthma, anxiety and high blood pressure.

"As part of Genworth's commitment to helping Americans live longer, healthier lives, we want to raise awareness of the connection between how they manage their health and their ability to protect and help their families achieve their dreams," said Dr. Marjorie Keymer, vice president, medical director at Genworth. "They need to know that by having well-controlled medical conditions, they may very well be eligible for preferred rates on life insurance."

Genworth's LifeJacket SM study found that many people with seven self-reported conditions – anxiety, asthma, depression, high cholesterol, hypertension, weight problems and sleep apnea – have no life insurance. Uninsured sufferers of anxiety, asthma and depression accounted for more than half of all those who reported the condition (53%, 54% and 53%, respectively), while 40% of individuals with hypertension, 44% of those with weight problems and 42% of those with sleep apnea responded that they owned no life insurance. A substantial portion of Americans living with high cholesterol (39%) also remains uninsured.

"For each of the conditions we studied, sizable populations reported that they hold no life insurance," added Pam Nelson, Genworth vice president for Customer Insights.  "As an industry, we need to do a better job of communicating that having a well managed health condition is not necessarily a barrier to obtaining life insurance. It is clear from this year's research that there is a potential population of American adults that could become life insurance consumers if they knew more about life insurance eligibility, understood the value of wellness programs and felt more comfortable about sharing their health information with their agents and advisors."

Total Number of Uninsured Rises

According to the study, more than 118 million adults in the United States age 18 and above don't have any life insurance coverage, more than half the adult population (52%). That compares with 2011, when 51% of U.S. adults were uninsured. 

"Overall, we are seeing the continuation of a trend we witnessed in 2011: fewer Americans with life insurance and lower coverage amounts for those who are purchasing policies," Deskins said. "In this environment, we need to redouble our efforts to close coverage gaps in what people actually need, and help consumers better understand their options."

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