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Guaranteed-issue or underwritten: What are the fundamental differences?

It’s a question that comes up frequently among dental students around the country. It’s important to know the differences between these two types of underwriting for life insurance policies, so you can make an informed decision about the process for obtaining this valuable protection.

What is underwriting?

When you apply for insurance, you are essentially asking the insurance company to take the risk of having to pay a claim in the future. Underwriting is how an insurance company can determine the level of risk involved with insuring you and how much insurance you may be qualified to purchase and at what cost. For life insurance, this determination is usually based on your health and age.

Medical underwriting typically follows these steps:

1. You fill out an insurance application to provide personal details, such as your health status. This will include information such as any health conditions, your family medical history, medications you’re taking and health-related information such as your height and weight.

2. After you submit your application, the insurance company will order a medical exam. The medical exam is standard; a nurse or paramedic will draw blood, measure your height and weight, take your blood pressure and ask some medical questions.

3. The insurance company will request your medical records from your primary care physician and review them along with the results from your medical exam. Getting your medical records from your healthcare provider can sometimes delay the approval process.

4. The insurance company may also look at other factors. They may review your driving record, occupation and hobbies.

5. Based on the review, the insurance company will make an “offer.” This offer will include the amount of insurance they are willing to provide and how much it will cost for you to purchase it.

The entire underwriting process typically takes four to ten weeks depending on how much information is needed.

Guaranteed-issue skips the medical underwriting process.

With guaranteed-issue insurance, you won’t have to go through a medical exam or answer any medical questions, and approval usually takes a fraction of the time of an underwritten policy. Keep in mind, the coverage may be subject to a pre-existing conditions limitation. This means benefits may not be payable for death resulting from a sickness or condition that existed or was treated prior to enrollment.

It’s understandable why this coverage is so appealing. After all, why go through a medical exam and answer personal medical questions if you don’t have to? Why wait ten weeks if you can receive an approval so much faster? The reason is simple: cost.

With most guaranteed-issue policies, you will generally pay more for the convenience of skipping the underwriting process. Likewise, there may be a limitation on your coverage amount (typically $50K–$100K depending on age).

So, it comes down to a choice between the speed and convenience of guaranteed-issue insurance or the higher coverage and typically lower cost of an underwritten policy.

A good choice: ADA student members insurance at no cost.

There is a guaranteed-issue life insurance policy available to ADA student members at no cost throughout dental school*. It’s a benefit of your ADA student membership. This coverage includes $50,000 of term life insurance and $50,000 of accidental death coverage — which doubles to $100,000 on July 1 of the year you graduate. And because it’s guaranteed-issue, you won’t have any medical exams or underwriting to worry about.

The no-cost coverage will remain in effect through December 31 of the year you graduate.

In December, you’ll receive an invoice to keep the coverage in place. This specific insurance offer was designed with you in mind to be guaranteed-issued without a cost markup and offered at a standard rate, giving you an easy way to stay protected during a typically busy time as you begin your career. Simply pay the invoice to continue the coverage trusted by generations of ADA members and dental students to help protect their families.

Visit insurance.ada.org/RegisterNow and follow the prompts to request activation — it will just take a few minutes. Once the insurance is activated, you can apply for additional coverage as your needs change, as well as coverage for a spouse, by completing an application and going through the normal underwriting process.

If you have questions about underwriting, guaranteed-issue, or the no-cost ADA student members insurance available to you, contact an Insurance Plan Specialist at 855.411.5198 or at planspecialist@greatwest.com

*Student coverage is issued regardless of your condition if you are under 45. Benefits are not payable, as defined by the respective policy, for death or disability resulting from a sickness, disorder, physical condition, or symptom that existed or was treated within 12 months prior to enrollment.
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Why Dental Students Need Insurance

Dentists: The information on this website is not a contract. Benefits are provided through a Group Policy Nos. (104TLP Term Life, 1105GDH-IPP Disability Income Protection, 1106GDH-OEP Office Overhead Expense Disability, 104GUL Universal Life, 104LTLP Level Term Life, 1117GH-HIP Hospital Indemnity, 1127GH-CIP Critical Illness, and 1107GH-MCP MedCASHSM) filed in the State of Illinois in accordance with and governed by Illinois law, issued to the American Dental Association by Great-West Financial®. The ADA is entitled to receive royalties from the ADA Members Insurance Plans. Coverage is available to all eligible ADA members in all fifty states and U.S. territories under the aforementioned group policy. Each Plan participant will receive a Certificate of Insurance explaining the terms and conditions of the policy. Level Term Life premiums are fixed based on the selected duration of 10 or 20 years. An insured must maintain ADA membership throughout selected term to remain eligible for insurance. Annually Renewable Term Life, Hospital Indemnity, Critical Illness, and MedCASH premiums increase annually based on age. Recommended premiums under the Term Plus® Universal Life plan consist of the cost of insurance (which may vary based on the member’s age and coverage amount), the amount chosen by the member for deposit into his/her Policy Value Account and a service charge. Premium deposits may fluctuate or remain level depending upon the amount maintained in the Policy Value Account. Disability Income Protection premiums increase every 5 years and Office Overhead Expense every 10 years based on age. Premium credit for Annually Renewable Term Life and Term Plus Universal Life is not guaranteed but reevaluated annually. Premium credit for Disability Income Protection, Office Overhead Expense, Hospital Indemnity, Critical Illness, and MedCASH is not guaranteed but reevaluated semi-annually.


Dental Students: The information on this website is not a contract. Student coverage is issued regardless of your condition if you are under 45. If you are 45 or older, you can apply for the no-cost coverage and all student program features by providing proof of good health. Coverage renews automatically each academic year. Individuals may convert coverage to the plans for practicing dentists after graduation by paying ADA member premiums and maintaining ADA membership. Benefits are not payable, as defined by the respective policy, for death or disability resulting from a sickness, disorder, physical condition, or symptom that existed or was treated within 12 months prior to enrollment. Benefits are provided through a group policy Nos. (104TLP Term Life and 1108GDH-SDP Student Disability) filed in the State of Illinois in accordance with and governed by Illinois law, issued to the American Dental Association by Great-West Financial®. Coverage is available to eligible ADA members in all fifty states and US territories under the aforementioned group policy. Each insured will receive a certificate of insurance explaining the terms and conditions of the policy.


ADA® is a registered trademark of the American Dental Association and Great-West Financial® is a registered trademark of GWL&A.


Effective June 1, 2019, Protective Life Insurance Company (for policies issued outside New York) and Protective Life and Annuity Insurance Company (for policies issued in New York) assumed administrative responsibilities for ADA Members Insurance Plans issued by Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company.


Great-West Financial® is a marketing name of Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company, Corporate Headquarters: Greenwood Village, CO; Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company of New York, Home Office: NY, NY, and their subsidiaries and affiliates. GWL&A is not licensed in New York, but eligible members residing in New York may apply for coverage under the aforementioned group policy. The trademarks, logos, service marks, and design elements used are owned by Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company. ©2020 Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company. All Rights Reserved. For website issues, contact the Webmaster at ADA_WebMaster@greatwest.com

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