Life insurance premiums and the coronavirus

What are my options if I can’t pay my life insurance premium because of the coronavirus?

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This page was last updated on March 31, 2020. We’ll update this page with resources and information as new details emerge in the world’s response to COVID-19.

Typically, life insurance policies expire if you don’t pay your premium within the grace period, which lasts about a month. But with the onset of the coronavirus, many state insurance departments are instructing insurers to extend the deadline or offer flexible payment plans to help policyholders.

What if I can’t pay my life insurance premium on time?

Your insurer is legally required to give you a grace period to make up a missed payment without penalty. The length of the grace period usually ranges from 28 to 31 days — though some insurers are more generous.

During the grace period, your policy stays in effect — which means your beneficiaries would get the death benefit if you passed away, even if your payment was a little late.

What happens if I don’t make a payment within the grace period?

In normal circumstances, your policy would lapse — leaving you without life insurance coverage.

However, life insurance companies are governed by state insurance departments. Many states have issued guidelines to help policyholders who are struggling to pay their premiums during the coronavirus outbreak.

This means that if you can’t make a payment within the grace period, your policy might stay in force.

How long does the grace period last?

Other ways to pay your premium

If you don’t have the cash on hand, here are some other ways to pay your premium:

    • Use a rider, if you purchased one with your policy. If you can’t work due to an injury or illness — like the coronavirus — a waiver of premium rider could step in to cover your premiums. And if you’re temporarily disabled, a disability rider might apply.
    • Withdraw from your permanent policy’s cash value. If your permanent policy has accumulated enough cash value, you may be able to dip into that to pay your premium.
    • Make the most of your dividends. Many mutual life insurance companies pay dividends to their permanent policyholders. If you’ve received dividends, consider using the money to cover your premium.

How to pay your life insurance premium

Guidance from state insurance departments about life insurance premiums

Finder contacted each state insurance department on March 20, 2020. The table below contains bulletins and directives from each state’s insurance commissioner. We’ll update it as we receive more replies, and as the guidance evolves.

StateDateDirectives about life insurance premiums
AlabamaNo guidance specific to life insurance yet.
AlaskaMarch 18“The Alaska Division of Insurance (DOI) prohibits carriers from terminating insurance contracts due to nonpayment. This effort will provide relief to affected policyholders by allowing continuing insurance coverage. In conjunction with this effort, the DOI will work with carriers to minimize the regulatory effects of such an extension, specifically financial review requirements.

The extension of the grace period does not eliminate the obligation to pay the premium, but limits policy cancellation for late payment. Carriers are encouraged to work with policyholders in the collection of premiums and to waive all late fees.

This bulletin remains in effect until June 1, 2020.”

ArizonaNo guidance specific to life insurance yet.
ArkansasMarch 20“To assist citizens who may struggle to overcome obstacles during this health emergency, the Department is hereby issuing a sixty (60) day moratorium on the cancellation/non-renewal of insurance policies for the non-payment of premiums for Arkansans diagnosed with/positively tested for COVID-19.

This moratorium shall apply to all insurance policies issued in this state.

This moratorium extension is not automatic. To be eligible for the 60-day moratorium, affected policyholders must request this extension from their insurance carriers. Insurance carriers may request evidence of diagnosis. The 60-day moratorium period, where requested by the policyholder, is effective starting from the date of issuance of Executive Order 20-03.

Policyholders are advised that this moratorium is not a waiver; it is only an extension or grace period in which to pay premiums. Insurers are directed to work with affected policyholders in paying the premiums that become due during the moratorium period by either allowing a payment plan or a further extension of the due date for the amount in full.”

CaliforniaMarch 18“Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara today issued a Notice requesting that all insurance companies provide their policyholders with at least a 60-day grace period to pay insurance premiums.

The Commissioner made the request to ensure policies are not cancelled for nonpayment of premium due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency.”

ConnecticutMarch 24“In Bulletin IC-40 released today, the Connecticut Insurance Department is requesting that all admitted and non-admitted insurance companies that offer any insurance coverage in Connecticut — including, life, health, auto, property, casualty and other types of insurance —immediately provide consumers with at least a 60-day grace period without interest or penalty to pay their insurance premiums.

Institutions that receive regular payments from insurance companies are encouraged to offer insurance companies the same forbearance those companies are offering their consumers.”

DelawareMarch 20“The disruption caused by COVID-19 and the resultant State of Emergency has caused financial hardships on individuals and businesses alike. Many Delaware residents, especially those that work in the hospitality field, have found themselves out of work and without the income necessary to support themselves and their families. It is during trying times like these that the Commissioner is encouraging carriers to accommodate its policyholders in an efficient and compassionate manner.

In that respect, the Commissioner hereby requests that all admitted and non-admitted carriers doing business in Delaware suspend cancellations and nonrenewals due to nonpayment of premium during the pendency of the Governor’s declared State of Emergency.

This request applies to all lines of insurance. Policyholders are encouraged to contact their carriers to discuss their options if they are suffering a hardship as a result of the COVID-19 related restrictions.”

District of ColumbiaNo guidance specific to life insurance yet.
FloridaNo guidance specific to life insurance yet.
KansasNo guidance specific to life insurance yet.
KentuckyNo guidance specific to life insurance yet.
LouisianaNo guidance specific to life insurance yet.
MarylandMarch 20“In light of these difficult circumstances, I encourage all Life/Health Carriers and Property and Casualty Insurers doing business in the State to make reasonable accommodations so that individuals and businesses do not lose coverage due to nonpayment of premium during this emergency.

Reasonable accommodations may include suspension of premiums due, extension of billing due dates and premium grace periods, and waiver of installment and late payment fees.

Insurers should take steps to encourage policyholders to use electronic payment technology on websites, apps and electronic bank transfers whenever possible.

This Bulletin applies to both personal and commercial lines of property and casualty insurance and all lines of life and health insurance.”

MassachusettsMarch 23“All carriers (whether issuing property and casualty, life and annuity, or health products) are advised to provide employers and individuals with as much flexibility as is reasonably possible during the period of the COVID-19 public health crisis to maintain their existing coverage, despite policyholders’ growing concerns about being able to send their premiums in on time.

Carriers should explore all possible ways to relax due dates for premium payments; to extend grace periods; waive late fees; non-sufficient funds fees; installments fees and penalties; allow payment plans for premium payments; assist affected policyholders to find ways that insurance policies do not lapse; and consider cancellation or nonrenewal of policies only after exhausting other efforts to work with policyholders to continue coverage.”

MichiganNo guidance specific to life insurance yet.
MississippiNo guidance specific to life insurance yet.
MissouriNo guidance specific to life insurance yet.
MontanaNo guidance specific to life insurance yet.
NebraskaNo guidance specific to life insurance yet.
NevadaEmail from March 26“As of today, the Division has not issued any guidelines to any carriers regarding premium payments. However, this health crisis is ever evolving and the Division is exploring all options available and is working with carriers to determine what is the best course of action to take to help consumers during this difficult time.​”
New Hampshire“As of today, the Division has not issued any guidelines to any carriers regarding premium payments. However, this health crisis is ever evolving and the Division is exploring all options available and is working with carriers to determine what is the best course of action to take to help consumers during this difficult time.​”
New JerseyMarch 20“As communities across the state have been negatively impacted in a variety of ways by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Banking and Insurance issued a bulletin encouraging entities regulated by the department to work with and assist customers who have been adversely affected by COVID-19-related issues.

Insurance Division Regulated Entities/Individuals: Consistent with prudent insurance practices, relaxing due dates for premium payments and insurance policy-based loan payments, extending grace periods, waiving late fees and penalties, allowing forbearance with regard to the cancellation/non-renewal of policies, allowing payment plans for premium payments, extending timeframes to complete property and automobile inspections or undergo medical exams, and exercising judicious efforts to assist affected policyholders and work with them to make sure that their insurance policies do not lapse.”

New MexicoMarch 20“In response to the disruption caused by the outbreak, I am requesting that all insurance companies refrain from cancelling or non-renewing policies of businesses and individuals negatively impacted by the disruption due to the nonpayment of premiums during this public health emergency, or at a minimum, provide extended grace periods for payment of premiums.

We encourage implementing these practices as soon as possible and consider extending them for a minimum of thirty (30) days after the emergency is declared over.

I also request that all insurance companies work with their insureds after the public health emergency is over to allow the insureds to catch up on past due premiums in installments without loss of coverage. “Balloon” payments are likely to be unaffordable. Economic distress and loss of income in these times are due to circumstances beyond the control of the insureds.”

North CarolinaMarch 24North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey has asked the state’s insurance companies to be economically flexible with consumers in light of the COVID-19 health emergency.

As a result, Commissioner Causey has asked the state’s insurance industry to consider the following actions:

  • Relax due dates for premiums payments.
  • Extend grace periods.
  • Waive late fees and penalties.
  • Allow payment plans for premiums payments to otherwise avoid a lapse in coverage.
  • Consider cancellation or non-renewal of policies only after exhausting other efforts to work with policyholders to continue coverage.”
North DakotaMarch 30“[The] North Dakota Insurance Department issues this Bulletin to urge all North Dakota insurers… to provide flexibility and possible relief from certain insurance requirements to those North Dakota consumers and businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The relief may include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Extension of premium payment deadlines
  • Extension of existing premium grace periods
  • Additional time before non-renewals or cancellations become effective
  • Waiver of fees, penalties or other charges relating to an insured’s temporary inability to submit premium payments or otherwise respond as a result of this public health crisis
  • Development of payment plan options for consumers and businesses who are facing financial hardship.”
OhioNo guidance specific to life insurance yet.
OklahomaMarch 17This bulletin also applies to life insurers:

“Health carriers shall not cancel the coverage of any person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is unable to return to work or maintain coverage under their current health carrier because of COVID -19 for the next ninety (90) days.

Health carriers should extend the traditional thirty (30) day grace period to a sixty (60) day grace period for nonpayment of premiums. Federal rules governing marketplace policies (ACA) will remain in effect with respect to grace periods.”

OregonMarch 25“The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services issued a temporary emergency order today in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. It requires all insurance companies to extend grace periods for premium payments, postpone policy cancellations and nonrenewals, and extend deadlines for reporting claims.

    Insurance companies must take steps immediately to do the following until the order is no longer in effect:

  • Institute a grace period for premium payments on all insurance policies issued in the state
  • Suspend all cancellations and nonrenewals for active insurance policies
  • Extend all deadlines for consumers to report claims and communicate about claims
  • Provide consumers the ability to make premium payments and report claims while maintaining safe social distancing standards
    The order is effective immediately, and will be in force through at least April 23. If necessary, the department may extend the duration of this temporary order.”
PennsylvaniaMarch 20“The notice was issued to department-regulated insurance companies to encourage flexibility for displaced Pennsylvanians who are no longer receiving regular salaries due to the outbreak mitigation efforts, thereby adversely affecting their ability to make timely payments for monetary obligations, including payments for insurance premiums.
Suggested assistance includes relaxing due dates for premiums payments, extending grace periods, waiving late fees and penalties, allowing payment plans for premiums payments, assisting affected policyholders to ensure that their insurance policies do not lapse, and a willingness to consider cancellation or non-renewal of policies only after exhausting other efforts to work with policyholders to continue coverage.”
Rhode IslandMarch 25The Rhode Island Insurance Division requests that insurers writing business in our state take the following steps to preserve access to insurance coverage during this emergency:

  • Provide as much flexibility as possible to allow insureds to maintain their existing coverage by implementing and extending grace periods for premium payments, allowing payment plans for premium payments and instituting whatever other measures necessary to assist insureds in avoiding or delaying cancellation or a lapse of insurance coverage.
  • Institute alternative methods of payment for those insureds whose normal method of payment is affected by this emergency. For example, insurers could provide for electronic premium payments as an alternative to in-person payments.
  • Insurers should institute additional flexibility in the form of waivers of late, insufficient funds and installment fees and penalties, extension of billing due dates and premium grace periods.
South DakotaNo guidance specific to life insurance yet.
TexasNo guidance specific to life insurance yet.
UtahNo guidance specific to life insurance yet.
VermontNo guidance specific to life insurance yet.
VirginiaEmail from March 20“The Bureau has confidence the industry will be responsive to policyholders’ concerns so long as the policyholder reaches out and discusses his or her particular situation resulting from this national health emergency.”
WashingtonNo guidance specific to life insurance yet.
WisconsinMarch 20“Insurers are encouraged to offer flexibility to insureds who are incurring economic hardship. This flexibility can include offering non-cancellation periods, deferred premium payments, premium holidays, and acceleration or waiver of underwriting requirements.”
WyomingEmail from March 24“At this time, Commissioner Rude will not mandate insurance companies to make policy or billing exceptions related to COVID-19. However, the Commissioner strongly encourages insurance companies to provide reasonable accommodations to policyholders that have been directly impacted by COVID-19.

If a Wyoming consumer is faced with losing insurance coverage as a result of being directly affected by COVID-19, they are encouraged to contact the Department so a formal investigation can be conducted.”

What should I do if my state hasn’t issued a directive?

Try to contact your life insurance company as soon as you know you can’t pay your premium. Many carriers — like State Farm, Allstate and USAA — are offering flexible payment plans and other concessions in response to the coronavirus. And to offset high call volumes, most insurers have set up dedicated pages explaining how customers can get payment help during the COVID-19 outbreak.

When you reach out to your insurer, explain your financial situation — including how much of the premium you can afford to pay, or when you’ll be able to restart payments.

The coronavirus is affecting the lives of millions of Americans, and your insurer may offer you a longer deadline or flexible payment plan based on your case.

Is there anything I can do if my policy lapses?

Most insurers will reinstate your policy within 30 days without the need for any additional paperwork.

Once you’re in a better financial situation, you can take these steps:

  1. Ask your insurer for a reinstatement application.
  2. Fill out the form, and be transparent about any changes in your health and lifestyle since your original application.
  3. Schedule a medical exam, if applicable.

If your insurer approves the reinstatement request, you’ll need to pay the premiums due from the end of the grace period, plus your new premium in full.

But if you wait more than 30 days, you’ll likely have to go through the underwriting process again to get reinstated, or apply for a new policy.

Bottom line

If you’re struggling to pay your life insurance premium, reach out to your insurer or look to your state insurance department — they may have guidelines in place to help you.

The news is evolving every day, so stay on top of changing information about the coronavirus.

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