Nearly 1 in 3 life insurers classify marijuana users as non-smokers

ATLANTA – Nearly one-third (29%) of life insurance companies with an underwriting policy in place for marijuana users classify those individuals as non-smokers, according to a survey by Munich American Reassurance Company, a unit of Munich Re.

The survey of life insurance underwriters was conducted at the Association of Home Office Underwriters (AHOU) 14th Annual Conference, held this spring in Washington, D.C.

Of the life insurance companies represented, one in five do not have an official underwriting policy in place for marijuana users. For those respondents whose company has not yet implemented a policy, 42% expect their respective employer to do so within 12-36 months. Further, 29% believe it will take less than 12 months to develop such a policy and 26% feel it will take more than 36 months.

“Despite a legalization movement across the country, scientific studies on the long term effects of marijuana use are mixed,” said Bill Moore, Vice President of Underwriting and Medical for Munich American Reassurance Company. “As a result, the life insurance industry is left with more questions than answers, making it crucial for companies to manage risk appropriately.”

Among the nearly 150 underwriters surveyed, 36% believe marijuana users are non-smokers despite growing concerns around respiratory issues. In fact, nearly half (49%) of the underwriters polled believe there is no difference in risk between underwriting a marijuana user who smokes the drug and a user who ingests it. Additionally, 43% felt smoking marijuana presented more risks than ingesting it, while only 8% viewed ingesting marijuana as more risky.

From an underwriting perspective, 43% of respondents believe frequency of use is the most important factor when underwriting marijuana users, followed by an individual’s medical history (37%), age (14%), and current state of health (6%).

“Historically, life insurance companies and their underwriters have erred on the side of caution with respect to marijuana use, given the uncertainty surrounding the drug,” added Mr. Moore. “However, as our survey results indicate, a significant number no longer jump to classify marijuana users as smokers. Instead, they are placing a strong emphasis on frequency of use and medical history to determine rates.”

Methodology: The survey was conducted on-site at the Association of Home Office Underwriters (AHOU) 14th Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. from April 26-29, 2015, and is intended to represent the views of 148 underwriter attendees, primarily from life insurance companies, who participated in the in-person interviews.

Munich American Reassurance Company, founded in 1959, is one of the largest reinsurers in the U.S. offering life and disability reinsurance to insurance companies throughout the United States. The company also writes group, credit and other reinsurance products. Headquartered in Atlanta, with an office in Chicago, Munich American is licensed, accredited or authorized in all 50 states; Washington, D.C.; Guam; and Puerto Rico.