I am a smoker. Should I declare when buying insurance?
Filling up the life insurance proposal form is like visiting your girlfriend’s family for the very first time. You have to face an incessant firing of intrusive questions while keeping a straight face.
“How old are you?
What are your height and weight?
Do you have any diseases that I should know about?”
It feels like you are marrying the mother instead of the daughter!
You can see from her body language how she is judging you based on each answer.
As you expertly navigate past a series of tricky questions that you have already prepared for, she asks the question that you dread the most.
“Do you smoke?”
Smoking costs a lot.
Whether it is right or not, it is a fact that smokers are discriminated against.
As a cigarette-toting citizen, you are prohibited from lighting one up at numerous public places.
Tobacco tax has just been raised on 19 Feb 2018.
And even the insurance companies are charging smokers more!
In case you have missed out our piece on how much additional premium that smokers pay, we do a quick recap.
1.21% more on Endowment Plan.
An additional 14.5% on your Whole Life Policy.
And a shocking 52% on Term Insurance!
Putting a Yes to the smoker declaration is tantamount to telling the insurance companies to raise the price of your policy.
Therefore the temptation to lie has become very real.
But I am a casual smoker
You may not be a regular smoker.
An occasional cigar every other week.
However, the definition of casual differs from person to person.
That is why insurance proposal forms are usually very specific.
The insurer will not only inquire whether you smoke but also the frequency and amount.
Hence, being a casual smoker does not entitle you to declare yourself as a non-smoker.
So what if I lie?
It is no big deal, right?
After all, I have been paying for my premium religiously so it is only right that the insurance companies honour their side of the deal.
Well, that is not entirely true.
Insurance policies are unique in a sense that they are arranged under the principle of utmost good faith.
That means you have the duty to disclose any material information that you ought to know.
In this case, utmost good faith imposes a duty on you to provide an honest declaration on your smoking status.
In the event that you are found lying on your proposal form, the insurers may disclaim liability.
Given that smoking is a conscious decision, it is difficult for you to find any argument to justify your lie.
It shall be deemed as a negligent or fraudulent misrepresentation and thus, the insurance companies are likely to succeed in denying your claim even the matter is litigated.
The worst part about lying is that the insurance companies will only discover the untruth at the point of claim.
For the insurers, it makes perfect sense to do so at that point because
1. They have to make a payment thus the cost of investigation can be justified.
2. If you are found fibbing earlier on, they will miss out on a few years of premium collection.
However, it is literally the worst time for you.
At the time when you need the claim compensation the most, you cannot have it.
All because you have ticked No instead of Yes.
But there is no way that insurance companies can find out right?
You may smoke discreetly.
You may not tell your family and friends that you like an occasional puff.
We even know of someone who will cease smoking after office hours to project himself as a role model for his kids.
Trust us when we tell you that the insurers can find out.
Because there is one person that you will usually disclose the truth.
He is none other than your doctor.
By now, you must have seen many doctors for the minor ailments such as common cold, throat infection, flu.
Without realising, you may have given away the truth for umpteenth times that you are an actual smoker.
Due to Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), your medical record is usually out of reach from the insurance companies.
However, it becomes accessible at one time and one time only.
It is no coincidence that it is when you submit a claim.
When you submit a claim, the insurance companies will ask for your medical report or your consent for them to purchase one.
That is when the truth emerges.
To really understand the extent of medical record keeping in Singapore, we turn to a recently concluded medical negligence suit.
The High Court Judge had made such an observation in her grounds of decision.
“Further, the plaintiff’s evidence as to her own smoking history has been inconsistent across the doctors she visited, lending little credence to her claims that she had not been asked for her smoking history and even if she been asked for her smoking history, she would have been truthful and accurate. Even in relation to the consultations beyond those with the defendants, (a) the A&E medical records in 2007 stated that she was a non-smoker; (b) Dr Wong’s notes in 2011 stated that she had been a smoker from age 14 to 30, and had given up two years earlier (ie, in 2009, after 2007); (c) the National Cancer Centre’s notes (where she was under the care of Dr Daniel Tan) stated that she was a “never-smoker”. Three separate doctors made three separate records of her smoking history, all different. I find it difficult to believe that she would have been upfront and accurate with her smoking history”
The doctors have recorded the Plaintiff’s (claimant) replies into the medical system on 3 separate occasions.
And these data are accessible.
You can draw your own conclusion from here on.
You can’t run from the question if you want to get a policy.
You can’t hide because the insurers are going to find out eventually.
The only option is to be honest about it.
Or you can quit smoking and enjoy a premium discount on your insurance.
www.ClearlySurely.com aims to eradicate the knowledge gap between consumers and Life Insurance. Our Vision is that one day, every Man, Woman, and Child will be properly insured.
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