Advisors Blog

Underwriting Hepatitis C for Life Insurance

Published on June 20, 2017



According to the World Health Organization, approximately 71 million people have chronic hepatitis C infection worldwide. Of those 71 million, around 339,000 people die yearly from hepatitis C related causes. People born between 1945 and 1965 are five times more likely to have hepatitis C. With treatment, hepatitis C can be manageable – newer pill treatments has achieved a cure rate of over 90%. With an effective and consistent treatment plan, individuals can live healthy lives, and secure life insurance even at preferred rates.  

What is Hepatitis C?

In very fundamental terms, hepatitis simply means inflammation of the liver. The “C” refers to a type of viral hepatitis infection primarily affecting the liver. It is one of five known types of viral hepatitis infections (A, B, C, D, and E).

Hepatitis C infection is most commonly conveyed by “blood to blood” transfers, or by gestational transmissions (occurs in less than 10% of pregnancies). Blood transmissions might be communicated by blood transfusions, organ transplantations, tattooing or piercing, and using unsterilized items previously used by others (needles, razors, toothbrushes, and manicuring/pedicuring tools).   

Most people infected with hepatitis C are not aware of the infection, because any symptoms associated with it are usually quite mild to imperceptible. Untreated chronic hepatitis C often leads to progressive liver dysfunction - from fatty liver, to varying stages of fibrosis, to cirrhosis, and possibly to cancer. Some ultrasound tests, such as Fibroscan, and imaging tests, such as an MRI, can provide some indications of the extent of liver damage. However, an invasive liver biopsy is considered to be the “gold standard” to more accurately evaluate more advanced stages of the disease. Because of the inflammation caused by Hepatitis C, liver damage, cirrhosis, or infection is a constant concern for carriers when considering an insurance applicant.

Is Hepatitis C Treatable?

Newer anti-viral hepatitis treatments are notably more effective than those from a few years ago. Older treatments were perhaps effective only half the time, and sometimes had to be repeated. Current therapies, often used in conjunction with prior ones, are reportedly curative about 90% or more of the time for some subtypes of the virus.

The hepatitis infection persists in most people (perhaps 75% to 85% of those infected), unless it is successfully treated. Fortunately, in non-persistent acute cases, the body’s immune system will subdue and deactivate the virus, halting its replication process. Any liver cells damaged by this transient infection are usually regenerated by the liver.

How is Hepatitis C Rated?

Cured hepatitis, without any residual damage from the infection, might be assessed in the Standard to Preferred range by some companies. Untreated hepatitis C might be assessed with a substandard rating, with perhaps many cases being in the Table 4 to Table 8 range (depending upon such variables as age, duration of the infection, elevations of liver enzymes, hepatic symptoms, et al). More adverse cases of hepatitis C (especially with more advanced stages of fibrosis, or with cirrhosis) are often declined.

The following information is helpful for a client reporting a history of hepatitis C:

  • Age at diagnosis (if known).
  • Any co-infection with another type of hepatitis (A, B, D, E).
  • Types and dates of any hepatitis treatment.
  • Post-treatment test results.
  • Any elevations of liver enzymes and results.
  • Dates of any liver biopsies and results.
  • Any indications of liver fibrosis or cirrhosis.
  • Any alcohol or drug usage.

They got tested for hepatitis C - Watch the video to find out why:



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