life insurance
July 20, 2005 5:28 PM   Subscribe

What would happen, in theory, if someone were to fail a life insurance drug test?

Would coverage be denied immediately? Permanently? Would other insurers be notified, or would this information be available in some type of database? Would it be impossible or difficult to obtain term life insurance coverage in the future? Let's assume we're talking only about THC. Thanks for any help.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (9 answers total)
This happened to a friend of mine a couple of years ago. She was getting cheaper car insurance rates by signing up for a life insurance policy, but she didn't know/didn't care about the drug test. Failed it (for THC), and they sent a letter a few weeks later letting her know the policy was cancelled and her car insurance rates were going back up. I don't think it was that big of a deal. But - she also hasn't tried to get another policy, so I don't know what will happen next time.
posted by dual_action at 7:38 PM on July 20, 2005

I have a family member who has been a licensed life insurance agent for more than 10 years.

According to him, if someone fails a drug test taken at the request of an insurance company, the results will be recorded in the MIB database, which means that it will be very difficult for that person to obtain any type of insurance (from a carrier that uses the MIB) in the future.

Any provisional coverage you obtained by applying for the policy - some policies have an option to go into effect when you apply for the policy, pending the results of the health exam and review by underwriting - will be cancelled, and any prepaid premium will be refunded.

Anything that increases risk is a red flag for the underwriters, and a positive drug test means increased risk. You might find a company somewhere that doesn't require a health exam, but there aren't many of those.
posted by lambchop1 at 8:20 PM on July 20, 2005

Assuming you're in the US...

This might be covered under HIPAA as protected health information and you would have had to sign a release for that information to be accessible to other parties. (One release per party, not a general release) The problem is you may have signed one without being aware of it. If this insurance was related to your job at all, that would be the biggest concern.

All my google searches result in something similar to this...

Protected health information (PHI) includes information that relates to preventive, diagnostic, therapeutic, rehabilitative, maintenance, or palliative care, of the past, present, or future physical or mental health or condition of an individual. Some drug and alcohol test results, such as the results of pre-employment tests, arguably fail to meet this definition, as they are not designed to detect any medical condition. Tests conducted as part of a rehabilitation follow-up program, however, might qualify as PHI if they are prescribed as part of the care and treatment for an individual with a substance abuse problem. Reports generated by substance abuse professionals relating to an individual’s progress in combating addiction seem clearly to be health information entitled to protection. In other words, drug test results may be protected information depending upon the event that triggered the test, and other records related to an employer’s substance abuse program are likely to be considered PHI even if drug test results are ultimately found not to be included within HIPAA’s protections.

That's not a real answer to your question. If you want to take a shot at it the key to the search is "protected health information".

I had to take a drug test for a temp job once. They required my social security number, which I was very displeased about. I have no evidence to support this, but I can only assume that my SS# was required because the information was going into a database somewhere and they needed a unique identifier. However, everything I know about HIPAA would lead to believe that there are no general databases of medical information about individuals anywhere.

On preview...lambchop1's link to MIB has an faq that says this...

If I apply for life insurance, will information about me be reported to MIB?

No. The only time an insurance company would report information about you to MIB would be if a medical condition, test result or other information that would affect your health or longevity were found during the underwriting of your application. Most people do not have an MIB record. Out of every 100 insurance applications, only about 15-20 result in an MIB record.

MIB does maintain an insurance activity index that records the name of any member companies that request information about you and the date(s) of their inquiries. This activity information may be requested by a member company whenever an inquiry is submitted.
here looks like they are only concerned with fraud but until 30 seconds ago, I didn't even know MIB existed.
posted by 517 at 8:39 PM on July 20, 2005

You didn't fail to disclose on your application did you? Because if you did than I would say, yes your life insurance company reported this to MIB.
posted by 517 at 8:42 PM on July 20, 2005

When I answered, I assumed we're not talking about a random or other drug test taken for your employer, because that's not what the insurance company is interested in. They're interested in the results of their own test, for which they will send their own examiner and collect their own specimens.

When you applied for life insurance, the contract had a release for the company to find out all about your health, including MIB and other database information - but the tests taken during the course of employment aren't going to be reported to MIB. MIB is an insurance industry database, so your employer doesn't even know how to access it, and they don't have the right to do so anyway.

517 is right about failure to disclose. Don't mislead on a life insurance application - but don't use big words when simple ones will do. Sometimes (and this has happened in my family's practice) an applicant will put down some long name for a disease when they could have simply put 'arthritis.' Rather than looking up the big name, the underwriter will simply deny the application. Be truthful but concise.

However, a positive drug test falls under the 'test result or other information that would affect your health or longevity,' and that's why my husband said it would usually be reported to MIB.
posted by lambchop1 at 9:14 PM on July 20, 2005

Okay, a little off topic, but what the hell?! When did they start administering drug tests for life insurance and how is it that I've never had to take one? And is it just me or is this seriously screwed up?
posted by nanojath at 11:18 PM on July 20, 2005

nanojath, blood and urine samples are routinely required when applying for high coverage amounts of life insurance.

If you're only getting a couple hundred thousand of insurance, you will not be required to get these tests, but either way they will check your history in the MIB database.
posted by gfroese at 5:21 AM on July 21, 2005

Interesting. I've had underwriters in the life insurance industry tell me that the drug test portion of a life insurance application is, to a certain extent, an "honesty test." They compare the answers on your application dealing with what drugs you've used recently to what the drug screen actually shows, and see if you actually told the truth.

From what they've told me, street drug usage will affect your price for life insurance, depending on the drug. But what will REALLY get you is if you say that you don't take drugs but the drug screen shows that you do. I've had good friends who have honestly answered "yes" to marijuana use on a life insurance application, taken the blood and pee tests, and have gotten life insurance, probably at a bit of a premium.

I don't think that the life insurance companies really care, they just need to know whether to add the "weed" factor or the "coke" factor or the "heroin" factor to your rates, and the test is there to make sure that you are honest about it.

Now, testing for a job, that's another story...
posted by ensign_ricky at 1:32 PM on July 21, 2005

I'm told that some insurance companies, in addition to screening for drugs of abuse, test for antidepressants, antiepileptics, antipsychotics, antihypertensives, and other common drugs of not-abuse, to see if you have pre-existing conditions you're not disclosing.

A couple of years ago my life insurance agent actually flew to NYC from San Diego - "on business," so she said - but I think what she really wanted was a cheek swab, for which she hounded me mercilessly until one night she showed up at my door and I flatly told her, "No." She claimed it was for nicotine, but I know better - cheek swabs collect cells, and cells contain DNA.

I don't think that there are many useful tests a life insurer could do now with my DNA to determine actuarial risk - but there will be, and they have access to -70 C freezers.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:36 AM on July 22, 2005

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