Life insurance frequently asked questions

Answers when you need them

Life insurance can be a difficult product to understand. Do you need just life insurance, or should you also consider income protection, or trauma cover? We'll explain everything you need to know about this product, so you can make the right purchasing decision for your family.

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Life insurance frequently asked questions

Am I covered if...?

I’m a cancer survivor, can I get life insurance?

Cancer survivors can apply for life insurance, but whether the application is accepted depends on the insurer’s underwriting policy. Like other pre-existing medical conditions, successfully taking out life insurance as a cancer survivor depends on a variety of circumstances and eligibility.

It’s imperative to disclose your pre-existing conditions, such as cancer, to your insurer or your paid benefit may be refused. When reviewing your application, it’s common for insurers to seek further information on your condition, such as whether you’re in remission or take any medications, to determine the nature and severity of your case.

Some funds may charge a higher premium on your life policy to cover your heightened level of risk, or they may place an exclusion on your policy for the cancer you have suffered from.

Can I cover my children under my life insurance?

Many life insurance policies include the option to add children. Children’s cover can pay a lump sum in the event of the insured child passing away, being diagnosed with a terminal illness or experiencing a serious injury; each policy varies in what the insurer covers as a specified illness or injury.

Children’s insurance can usually be taken out between the ages 2 and 18 and may cover the child until they reach their 21st birthday. Children’s life cover can insure your child for death due to accident or illness, terminal illness (e.g. with life expectancy less than 12 months) and a range of specified illnesses or injuries outlined in your child’s life cover policy.

Aside from children’s life insurance, most providers also offer trauma cover as an option for your child, which can be added to your own life policy. Depending on your insurer, policy and type of cover, these options pay benefits in the event that your child experiences an illness or injury specified in the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS), and can be purchased by parents, grandparents or a legal guardian.

Exclusions & pre-existing conditions

Can you get life insurance if you’ve tested positive for HIV?

Most insurance providers will require applicants to meet very specific criteria when processing an application where HIV is involved

Some insurers may offer cover if you’re HIV-positive, often under the condition that you pay a loading on top of your premium, or your policy excludes cover for your health condition. Your disclosure of HIV to your chosen life insurer is treated confidentially and is protected by relevant government legislation.

Are there any limits to who can buy life insurance?

Australian citizens and permanent residents have access to life insurance provided they satisfy the criteria of the provider. Most insurance providers will have a minimum and maximum age limit when you can apply for cover, which vary depending on your chosen fund.

Some non-Australian residents may be able to purchase life cover if they meet certain standards set by the insurer. Whether they can be insured may be based on factors like which country they’re from, how long they’ve lived in Australia, how long they intend to continue living here and their travel plans.

What are life insurance exclusions, pre-existing conditions and loadings?

Information disclosed in the application process may be deemed by an insurer as being ‘high risk’ due to a number of factors relating to your health and lifestyle. In such instances, your insurance fund may impose an exclusion clause or a loading on the policy as a result. In some cases, the insurer will decline to provide cover altogether if the risk is too high.

If an applicant has a pre-existing condition (e.g. they previously experienced a heart attack), the insurer may impose an exclusion or an increase in premium which will be applied to the policy due to their higher risk of death.

Loadings are usually scaled, starting at a certain percentage of the premium’s original cost and increasing thereafter, depending on your level of risk and if there’s a higher probability of you claiming in the future. The ratio of the applied loading will depend on the level of risk respective to your condition and is based on the information you provide to your insurer when you apply. You may also be required to provide evidence of your condition during the application process.

It may be tempting to omit certain details to save on your premium. However, it’s imperative that you disclose all pertinent information about your health and lifestyle when applying for life insurance. Failure to disclose could result in your claim being declined, or your policy being cancelled. Insurers can and do verify your information provided at application stage when you lodge a claim.

How it works

Can my life insurer cancel my policy?

Your life insurer may cancel your policy for several reasons, including:

  • If you have failed to pay your premiums.
  • If you’ve failed to disclose any relevant information regarding your health during the application process and if the insurer, had they known that information, wouldn’t have offered you cover.
  • If you made a fraudulent claim.
  • If you deliberately misrepresented your health condition or lifestyle during the application process and the insurer is disadvantaged by the misrepresentation.

How long does it take for life insurance to be paid out?

Your life insurance payout time frame will vary on a claim-to-claim basis. For example, you can typically receive a funeral benefit once the insurer has confirmed and received the death certificate, if this feature is included in your policy. A family member, or the beneficiary listed on the policy, will usually have to collaborate with an allocated case/claims manager from your life insurer during this process.

How do I cancel a life insurance policy?

Most life insurance funds will require your intentions in writing (with confirmation), which usually takes 24-48 hours to process. Depending on your insurance provider, you may be able to reinstate your policy within a period of time from the cancellation date, provided their terms and conditions are met. In some cases, though, reinstatement is subject to you answering some health and lifestyle questions and the insurer’s assessment, so it’s not automatic and guaranteed.

Before cancelling your life insurance, you should consider whether you wish to compare and switch to a new policy before cancelling your existing cover. Given that your circumstances may change over time, it’s always important to review your policy and premium regularly.

Do I already have life cover in my superannuation?

Most superannuation funds will have basic life insurance cover incorporated into your account. According to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), certain default super funds must have a minimum level of life insurance.

Life insurance through superannuation usually has a limited death benefit, which may leave many Australian families insufficiently covered in a difficult time. If you do have life insurance as part of your super, you may want to examine the pros and cons to the level of cover it provides.

The main advantages of life cover through superannuation are:

  • Easy to set up and manage
  • It may bundle multiple products such as life insurance and disability cover
  • Usually, no medical examinations are required to get cover.

The main disadvantages of life cover through superannuation are:

  • Risk of underinsurance is high
  • Payouts require assessment against superannuation legal requirements and this may impact the timing to assess a claim
  • Where premiums are paid via superannuation, this is paid out of your superannuation balance and therefore impacts your retirement balance
  • Trauma insurance is not available.

Can you have more than one life insurance policy?

In general, you can take out more than one life insurance policy. If you’re looking for additional coverage, then purchasing multiple life insurance policies may be worth considering, especially if you believe your current level of cover will not sufficiently cover your family’s debts and expenses.

Other common types of additional policies you can purchase include income protectiontotal and permanent disability (TPD) insurance and trauma insurance (only outside super) – all of which can be bought separately or on top of life cover.

In most cases, you should receive a payout from each purchased policy in a claim, provided you have met the provisions of each policy. It’s common for an insurer to require that you disclose other policies you hold with other providers, and whether you intend to keep those policies, before they decide whether they can offer you cover too.

Do I need a medical examination prior to my application?

In some cases, you may be required to have a medical examination or blood tests during your application process. This may depend on factors such as your current health status, if you’re a smoker, your age, the type of cover you choose and how much you opt for.

Common examinations include but are not limited to blood tests, physical measurements (body mass index), blood pressure assessments and urine tests.

Should you require a medical examination, the insurer will cover examination-related expenses in most cases.

The Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) may outline whether a medical examination may be required or not. You can check the PDS or contact the insurer or your adviser to ask.

How is the cost of my premium determined?

The premium you pay is determined by a range of factors that correlate to the relative risk of insuring you as well as the level of cover you choose. The factors that will likely impact the cost of your life insurance premium (loading) can include:

  • Current health status. For example, if you have any medical conditions like asthma or high blood pressure.
  • Height and weight. Both factors are used to determine your body mass index (BMI).
  • Age and gender. Depending on both factors, you may be more susceptible to certain healthcare conditions.
  • Alcohol consumption. Whether you regularly consume alcohol or not.
  • Smoking status. Smokers pay more in premiums as tobacco is deemed detrimental to your health.
  • Medical history. Your series of past illnesses and treatments.
  • Hobbies. If you engage in high-risk activities or sports, such as paragliding.
  • Occupation. The level of risk involved in carrying out your job.

What is indexation and does it apply to life insurance?

Indexation is a common economic technique used to adjust and keep your sum insured and payments in line with inflation typically as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in Australia (although the indexation terms depend on the policy).

The sum insured changes for inflation, meaning your premium is subject to change also.

Reviewing your options

What are the benefits of comparing life insurance?

The chief benefit of comparing and buying life insurance through our free and user-friendly service is that you’re in control.

So, if you’re in the market for some friendly and useful advice on the benefits of comparing life insurance products, then get in touch with one of our friendly consultants today.

Always ensure you’ve read and understood the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and checked the insurer’s Target Market Determination before settling on a particular policy. Alternatively, get in touch with one of our expert life insurance consultants on 1800 880 569, who will be happy to assist you with questions and tailor quotes around your requirements.

At Compare the Market, we’ve helped thousands of Australians find life cover. If you’re ready to review your options, head over to our online comparison tool.

What are the advantages of joint life insurance?

Otherwise known as ‘combined life insurance’, joint cover is a convenient option for you and your partner to be placed under the one policy, rather than two separate policies.

The primary drawcards for joint cover are single premium debits, single policy management, and the potential for discounts (provided your insurer offers them). Joint life insurance policies can be tailored around you and your spouse’s circumstances, and if one of you happens to pass away, will be paid out according to your level of cover.

For further information, refer to the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) of the policy you and your partner are considering.

How do I find the right life insurance?

You need to consider a few factors when searching for a policy that suits your needs. First and foremost, the ‘best’ life insurance policy may not necessarily be the one that’s cheapest, but rather the policy that includes the features that offer you the better protection; of course, you need to consider all factors such as premium and coverage.

Being mindful not to underinsure yourself is equally important. Taking out an appropriate amount of insurance that can cover the likely costs if the unfortunate were to happen – such as death, terminal illness or permanent disablement – is something you may consider in choosing your insurance needs.

Ensuring your family has sufficient finances to meet ongoing costs like mortgage repayments and day-to-day living expenses is a significant, relevant factor when choosing a policy.

Finally, compare various products to ensure you’re getting great features in the type of life insurance policy you seek.  At Compare the Market, we help you to compare a range of policies, so you’re in control when weighing up your options. This can give you the confidence to select the right life insurance product for you.

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