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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Because of the pandemic, more people than ever are seeking out life insurance — just as insurers seek ways to identify people who have had COVID-19, and in some cases deny them coverage.

Why it matters: If the coronavirus makes it harder for people to get life insurance — or to collect on existing policies — it could diminish access to an essential financial safety net.

Driving the news: Alarmed at clampdowns by underwriters in Europe, the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) just sent a letter to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners urging that U.S. insurance firms establish clear and transparent rules on life insurance eligibility and COVID-19.

  • In Europe, some insurers impose 30-day waiting periods on applicants who are former COVID patients and limit coverage by age, the CFA letter said, citing a Reuters article.
  • "Some are even imposing waiting periods on people who have not been diagnosed with COVID, based on previous symptoms alone," the CFA said.
  • "Our initial inquiries have not turned up such changes in America, but the possibility of similar actions by life insurers here in America is high."

What they want: The group says state insurance regulators "must issue a rule to protect consumers from arbitrary insurance practices."

  • "The rule should require that underwriting rules relating to COVID be made public before they are used and establish reasonable standards for what would trigger a delay or denial of coverage."

Where it stands: U.S. insurers are gingerly tweaking their underwriting rules.

  • In June, Bloomberg Law reports, insurers started filing requests with the Delaware Department of Insurance "to change their application forms to specifically ask applicants if they’d had COVID-19."
  • A lot were permitted to do this: A regulatory body known as the Insurance Compact "has approved 32 such requests since March."
  • “This is classic insurance reaction," Bob Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America and a former Texas insurance commissioner, told Bloomberg Law. "They did it after AIDS and SARS.”

According to the Insurance Compact's website, underwriters may ask life insurance applicants if they've been treated for COVID-19, but can't ask open-ended questions about symptoms and potential exposure.

Of note: The CFA says some people who have life insurance "may be considering dropping their coverage for a period to save some money to help the family get through the economic consequences of COVID."

  • "These policyholders need to know the possible danger of such action."

The big picture: A recent McKinsey report painted a rosy 10-year outlook for the life insurance industry, noting that "the COVID-19 pandemic has only reemphasized the need for mortality protection."

  • But S&P Global predicts 2021 will be tough: "Life insurers will continue to deal with investment portfolio stress, muted earnings, challenges to distribution, and elevated mortality claims."

The bottom line: "Some reasonable precautions by life insurers are understandable, but to burden COVID patients and their families a second time is unjust and unfair," the CFA said.

Go deeper

Food delivery "ghost kitchens" face major obstacles

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The growing popularity of food delivery has given rise to startups that open "ghost kitchens" — kitchens in warehouses or trailers that prepare food solely for delivery and have no option to dine in.

  • But they can come with a whole host of problems.

The big picture: The concept of "ghost kitchens" has been dubbed the next big thing in the future of services, with high profile backers like Uber founder Travis Kalanick. But these kitchens can be hard to run or unsafe.

3 hours ago - Health

Federal judge blocks Biden vaccine mandate for health workers

President Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant at the White House on Nov. 29. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers at federally funded facilities nationwide.

The big picture: The order comes one day after a federal judge in Missouri halted the mandate, which has a Jan. 4 deadline, in 10 states.

CNN suspends Chris Cuomo indefinitely

Chris Cuomo in 2019. Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for THR

CNN announced Tuesday evening that it has suspended anchor Chris Cuomo indefinitely following new revelations about his involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal.

Driving the news: New documents released Monday showed that Cuomo used his contacts to garner information about the women accusing his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, of sexual harassment, as well as of emerging media coverage relating to the scandal.