COVID-19 showing Ohioans how important life insurance can be for sudden tragedies

Posted at 12:32 PM, Jun 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-01 19:25:50-04

CLEVELAND — More than 100,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus, making many people think harder about their own mortality.

“It was a waking moment,” said Jaqueline Hardges, who recovered from coronavirus.

When she tested positive in April, Hardges had basic life insurance. It was enough to pay for final expenses, but not much else.

“[Recovering from the coronavirus] just really made me say, ‘If something really happens to me, I want [my family] to be able to more than just put me away and have a couple dollars,” said Hardges.

Once she recovered from the virus at home, she started searching for more health insurance.

The problem is that’s a market that Valmark Financial Group Chairman and CEO Larry Rybka says it getting tougher for some Americans.

“We can still get policies, it may cost much more than it did back in January, February,” said Rybka.

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The cost of the policies is going up at least partially because the economy went down.

When customers pay life insurance premiums, the insurance company invests that money in bonds or mortgages and brings in money off the interest rates. As the coronavirus devastated the U.S. economy, the Federal Reserve drastically cut interests rates trying to help the recovery. Lower interest rates make it harder for insurance companies to invest your life insurance premiums.

The result: “Higher costs, not only now but into the future, because those bond rates are likely to stay down,” said Rybka.

But just like everything else, the process to get life insurance is also more complicated.

“Many customers are being delayed because insurance companies need to get medical information to decide if they should issue a policy,” said Rybka.

Right now, many doctor’s offices and hospitals are overwhelmed, opening the door for innovation.

Rybka says some insurance companies are finding new ways to evaluate someone’s health either through a list of medications they take or by viewing medical information online.

“We have been able to issue some [policies] in as little as seven days from the time a person starts,” said Rybka. He added that process normally can take 30-40 days.

It’s an important conversation to have, even if it’s a little morbid.

“I’m guilty of it,” said Hardges. “Oh, I don’t need it, I’ll buy it when I need it.”

Hardges knows she was lucky to have a relatively mild case of the coronavirus. But with so many people dying, she doesn’t need to look far to find people grieving loved ones only to also be in financial straits.

“If people are being diagnosed with coronavirus and then weeks later passing away, their families are not prepared,” said Hardges.

Experts say if you’re looking for life insurance:

  • Know why you’re buying it and what you want to cover. That will help you figure out how much to buy and what kind of plan to get.
  • Research the company you buy from. You need to know the company won’t go under before the end of your policy.
  • Reach out to a financial professional to walk you through the complex insurance jargon.