When Pilots Apply for Life Insurance

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Whether flying is a vocation or avocation for you, it's a fact that your involvement in aviation can have an impact on the process of applying for life insurance, the coverage you can obtain and its cost. Seth Legatowicz, a Senior Associate with the Pilot Insurance Center, takes a look at this application process, including the factors that underwriters look at when considering your application, and offers some detailed tips for pilots. If you're in the market for life insurance, you need to read this.

  When completing an application for life insurance as a pilot, there are several tips you should know that can save you time, money, and frustration. Just as you would put a new airplane through a pre-buy inspection before buying it, insurance companies put you through their underwriting process to determine whether or not to offer you coverage. This underwriting process considers many factors such as your age, health and medical history, occupation, and hobbies. Like it or not, the fact that you are a pilot and actively involved with flying can dramatically affect your ability to gain affordable insurance. Here are some pointers to make your insurance underwriting process a smoother ride.

Work With An Aviation-experienced Insurance Agent

First and foremost, you should gain the assistance of an insurance agent that is experienced with both helping and participating in the aviation community and working with aviation-friendly insurance companies. In general, insurance companies still base their rates on outdated aviation safety statistics and effectively penalize pilots by charging unreasonable premiums for their coverage. It is particularly important to work with an aviation-experienced life insurance agent to ensure that your application will be completed correctly and precisely for the best aviation underwriting results.

Life insurance applications do not ask you if you ride motorcycles or snow ski on double black diamond runs, but they do ask if you are a pilot. Unfortunately, if you mark "YES" to that question, most insurance companies will not offer you a preferred rate. An agent devoted to the aviation community can assist you with your application and make a real difference in the premium you pay.

Complete The Aviation Supplement Form Correctly

Once you mark the form indicating that you are a pilot, the insurance company will require an aviation questionnaire to be completed with your application. Use your pilot-friendly insurance agent when completing this form to ensure that your information is listed correctly. For example, you will want to make sure that your additional ratings and experience will help and not hurt your premium rate. Quite simply, the way you state your information can sometimes be misinterpreted by the insurance underwriter due to their general lack of aviation knowledge. In turn, this can negatively affect your premium rate offer. Again, a pilot-focused agent can ensure that your answers will be stated in a way that insurance companies will understand. Think of your insurance agent as you would your attorney and the insurance company as the court. Your agent needs to be knowledgeable on your background and your case to best represent you to the insurer and give you the ultimate chance of securing a preferred rate.

Here is a short list highlighting some common mistakes our clients have made on the insurance aviation questionnaire:

  • If you have a flight instructor certificate but do not instruct, make sure that is known to the insurance company since flight instructors typically do not qualify for the same rate class as other pilots.
  • If you instruct certified pilots (refreshers, biennial flight reviews, checkrides, etc.) but do not instruct primary students, you can qualify for a much better rate class.
  • If asked if you perform aerobatics do not mark "YES" if you only engage in unusual-attitude training. The premium difference can be huge.

The bottom line is that by working with an aviation-experienced agent you have a much better chance of having your case stated correctly to the insurer.

Tips For A Better Medical Exam

Here are some steps to take before your next insurance medical exam:

Certain health conditions simply cannot be masked, but to obtain the best possible results, here are some recommendations.

  • Get a good night's rest the night before your exam.
  • Don't drink for at least eight hours before the exam.
  • Don't smoke or chew tobacco for at least one hour before the exam.
  • Avoid coffee, tea, or other caffeinated drinks like cola for at least one hour prior to the exam.
  • Limit salt intake and high-cholesterol food 24 hours before your exam.
  • Don't engage in strenuous physical activities 24 hours before the exam.

Source: Exam & Profile Services, Beaver Dam, Wis.

As you may or may not know, insurance companies generally require a medical exam on any policy with face amounts of $100,000 or greater. Most exams consist of a blood draw, urine specimen and a series of medical history questions. An EKG could also be required on larger policies or if you are applying at an older age.

The exam should be paid for by the insurance company and most will send a nurse out to your home or office to complete the exam.

The sidebar to the right includes some tips to help you prepare for a life insurance-related medical exam.

Disclose Your Complete Medical History To The Insurance Company

In order to save precious time during the underwriting process, make sure that you provide complete records of your medical history. Don't bother with trying to cover up your medical history in order to qualify for a better insurance rate. Insurance companies can easily track down your medical records through the results of your insurance medical exam or through the Medical Information Bureau (MIB), a clearinghouse of medical information that insurers share. As a matter of fact, each time you apply for life insurance and take a medical exam, your results and records are sent to the MIB.

If you have any medical history, it is best to provide your doctor's contact information so that the insurer can request your records from the doctor's office if need be. Many times, the insurance company will require an attending physician statement from a doctor who has treated you in the past if you have had any significant medical history. If you are one of the lucky ones and have been fortunate to have no medical history, simply do not list a doctor on the application — just state "None." In other words, do not list a doctor just to list one. Otherwise, you could waste time getting your application approved by triggering the insurance company to hunt down your medical history from the physician you listed when you do not have any such records.

Conclusion

The key to applying for life insurance as a pilot is to have an agent that is experienced with assisting pilots. Remember that your agent is the link between you and the insurer. The more knowledgeable your agent is with aviation underwriting, the more likely you are to receive a preferable premium rate. In addition, take the necessary precautions  regarding your medical exam. This is how the insurance company judges your current health condition, so you want to give them the best results possible. The insurer will also want any and all information on your medical history. By providing them with this information and any medical records you can shorten the underwriting process by weeks.

Good luck with your application and fly safely!

Editor's Note:

Most people don't realize PIC Life's only business is to write life insurance policies for pilots. Several AVweb staffers, including Executive Editor Joseph E. (Jeb) Burnside, Director of Sales Larry Pius and Marketing Manager Ann Devers are satisfied customers. You should be too.