Substance abuse treatment and life insurance underwriting are a delicate dance that if done correctly can be both successful in approval and reasonable rates. Having said that, like any impairment, there are parameters that have to be met.

Whether self admitted, medically or court ordered, treatment for alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription drugs is taken seriously by every life insurance company out there. Know right up front that you’re not going to walk out of treatment and into a life insurance contract without a little time between the two events. I believe the word is recidivism, or maybe that’s just in reference to crime, but the truth is that a lot of folks who enter, for instance, alcohol treatment don’t make it 2 years without hitting the bottle again.

In general there is going to be a three year waiting period after all abuse treatment with the exception of court ordered alcohol abuse classes or temporary AA attendance after a DUI. Most companies that will consider coverage at that point, and it’s not very many, want to see a squeaky clean record of no relapse and preferably continuous attendance to AA or NA along with a stable social history.

A recent case caused a bit of confusion. The client came to me after being declined by several companies due to prescription drug abuse and treatment that was completed just over three years ago. We got a rated trial offer, but in his mind a very fair offer compared to a decline. The application was shot down as soon as it came through the door because on the exam the client said that he had been treated for alcohol and prescription drug abuse, not just drugs. The company’s reaction was an immediate decline due to multiple addictions.

Since it had not come up in my initial conversation I called the client to determine where the alcohol came from. He said that the facility where he sought treatment insisted on treatment and abstinence, not just for in this case prescription drugs, but for any potentially addictive habit the client might partake in. In his case he used to drink wine in the evening with dinner but had never had any problems with alcohol. The facility insisted that he quit drinking completely and he was treated as if alcohol was also an issue.

Once I clarified this with the underwriter they withdrew their decline and agreed to review the medical records and, if the client’s description was accurate, stick to their original trial offer. Back on track.

Needless to say, companies would require an even longer waiting period if multiple addictions were involved. Based on my discussions with the underwriter it would probably have been at least a 5 year postpone from the end of treatment.

Bottom line. Each case is as individual as the people involved and the way to avoid declines and get approvals is to disclose everything accurately to your agent. It might mean you have to wait before you apply but you avoid a needless application and decline in the process.