Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for one in every four deaths. Hearing this, you might think it's next to impossible to find health insurance.
But heart disease is also the most common chronic health condition in America. Most people can find life insurance. However, rates will probably be considerably higher when compared to someone without heart disease.
To better understand how customers with heart disease can get insured, we talked to several life insurance agents. They shared their insights on the best coverage you should buy, thoughts about the cost of insurance for people with heart disease, and what you can do to get the best rate.
Q: Why is it so much harder and more expensive to get a life insurance policy if you have heart disease?
Chris Huntley, President of Huntley Wealth & Insurance Services:
The first thing to keep in mind is that the severity of heart disease may vary. The main reason why it can be challenging and costly to get approval for life insurance is that a person with heart disease is considered to potentially have reduced life expectancy.
Insurers base your rating on your age and medical exam/reports. Some people with milder forms of heart disease have a good prognosis and may qualify for a "standard" rating, while others will receive a below standard rate class complicating their search for affordable insurance.
Q: How much more could someone with heart disease expect to pay for life insurance than someone without heart disease, all other things being equal?
Roy E. Taylor III, Chief Executive Officer of Taylor Insurance Services:
If someone has had a "cardiac episode" within the last five years, she can expect that the insurance carrier will be prepared to issue her a policy based on a table rating, if at all.
All risks are priced on a standard platform and then assigned discounting or surcharges based on health.
There are typically three to five standard class ratings—from Preferred Premium where the discount can be as much as 25 percent, to Smoker where the surcharge can be up to 50 percent. After that rating is established, other health and mental risks are assessed and issued on table ratings A-G (with most carriers).
Each table rating typically is a 1x increase on premium, depending on the underlying life insurance product being purchased. Keep in mind that each insurance carrier is different in this regard and the state insurance departments have a say in what they allowed to be priced and sold.
It ultimately depends on the rate class received by the person in question. The increase from rate class to rate class is approximately 25 percent.
For example, if the person in question was rated "Preferred Best" he or she would pay 25 percent less than if they were rated "Preferred." This 25 percent increase continues as you drop in rate class.
Q: What are the options that are available for someone with heart disease to find life insurance? Of these, which option makes the most sense for most people?
Forty-seven percent of Americans demonstrate at least one Significant Risk Factor for heart disease. If insurers didn't issue coverage to those people, they'd be out of business. So while people might find it more difficult to purchase life insurance after a diagnosis or medical history of a cardiac risk factor, it doesn't mean it's impossible.
The first and easiest way to get life insurance is to obtain it on a guaranteed-issue basis through an employer's group life insurance plan. These limits are usually low compared to overall need—some groups offer as little as $10,000 in coverage—but some offer one to three times annual salary. This is not enough for a properly funded retirement and estate plan, but it's better than nothing. Typically, this coverage cancels if you leave employment although most plans offer conversion and portability benefits now.
Second, many voluntary insurers are offering guaranteed-issue plans through work. These plans are owned by the employee and typically issue up to $250,000 in face amount, but are significantly more expensive. There are niche carriers in the private market that offer cardiac plans but again typically lower limits with higher premiums. Oftentimes these carriers use Associations such as the AARP to sell to their members.
Finally, there are end-of-life carriers who offer smallish policies—max of $50,000—for people who cannot qualify elsewhere. These policies say we'll offer the coverage but if you die within the first three years of the policy, we will refund your beneficiary the premiums paid plus reasonable interest, but will not pay out the higher claim.
Michael Kuhn, President of GLG America:
Many employers offer guaranteed issue permanent life insurance that employees can get without medical questions. This is a great option for those employees to pick up life insurance they can always keep and at the same rate as all other employees. It might have to be picked up the first time it's offered to the employee to get medical questions waived.
If you have a medical problem like heart disease, you'll probably want some life insurance that you can always keep. A permanent life insurance option offered at work on a guaranteed issue basis is a great option for that.
Steven Schwartz, Vice President and Practice Leader of the Executive Benefits Division at HUB International Northeast:
There are many options available, ranging from term life, universal life, and whole life insurance policies. A good insurance broker should shop the market to get the best rates and take advantage of table shaving programs.
Insurance carriers rate risk factors differently. This is why getting quotes from several different life insurance companies can be one of the best ways to find the lowest rates.
Q: What is the biggest misconception about getting life insurance if you have heart disease?
The biggest misconception is that the premium will cost too much money to provide the coverage that you need. The largest expense someone pays for life insurance is when the family doesn’t receive the death benefit that they needed.
Most clients tell us that they can't get covered because they've had a heart issue. This is simply not true; we can always find coverage.
Insurers are in the business of selling risk-sharing. The problem is affordability. Most clients will look at life insurance as a luxury item and not spend the extra money to obtain coverage despite the glaring need for it.
Q: Can insurers deny someone life insurance if they have heart disease? Is it common?
Mike Raines, Owner of Raines Insurance Group:
Yes, you can be denied life insurance if you have heart disease. Each individual is different. I would say it is more common with the large more well-known carriers than with the specialty niche carriers that we use.
This is not the market for the well-known large insurance companies. Many times the large well-known companies will even deny coverage, whereas we can sometimes get the same person insured at standard rates.
Q: What questions should you be prepared to answer for insurers about your heart disease?
- What is the diagnosis of your heart condition?
- What is date of diagnosis?
- Did it require bypass surgery, angioplasty, or any other cardiovascular procedure? If yes, we would need dates of when completed
- Have you had any symptoms since your last procedure (such as chest pain, shortness of breath)?
- What medications are you currently taking and the dosage?
- Have you had any follow-up cardiac tests such as EKG's, stress tests, echocardiograms, angiography, other tests?
- Do you have a regular exercise program?
- Any other ongoing medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, family history could also come into play
Q: What factors influence your insurance rate (related to heart disease)?
Some of the factors that can affect your insurance rate include:
- Whether you smoke
- Amount of alcohol consumption
- Marital status
- Health history/Family health history
- Hobbies (i.e., high risk hobbies such as skydiving, scuba diving, etc.)
Insurance is priced by unit of coverage, for life insurance its usually $1,000. The base price is then modified by age and gender. Tobacco use is then factored in, and then other health questions are taken into consideration.
So, if $1,000 of coverage is $100 per year, then its $400 because you’re 50, its $800 if you smoke.
If the guidelines say that you can't have had a heart attack in the last five years and you have had one, you can't get it no matter what the price. If its outside of five years, your rate doesn't change at all.
Q: Are certain heart diseases harder to insure than others? What if you've had multiple heart attacks?
All heart conditions are different so it just depends on the severity of the condition that the individual has. Some conditions such as congenital cardiac abnormalities can be mild, moderate, or severe. In regards to multiple heart attacks, yes that definitely will make finding coverage tougher.
Applicants with a history of heart disease will typically pay two to three times the rate of an individual with no history of heart disease and may be declined coverage depending on the age the condition began, the severity, and other health variables. For example, if an applicant had a heart attack at age 50, had bypass surgery and his or her heart function appears to be good thereafter, they may qualify for coverage. If the same individual is overweight and smokes, he or she will likely be declined.
Multiple heart attacks will almost always lead to a declined application for a traditionally underwritten case. However accidental death benefit policies are still available regardless of health, and there are also "guaranteed issue" policies that almost anyone can qualify for. They cost a lot more and offer lower coverage amounts, typically topping off at $50,000.00, but even people with terminal cancer can qualify.
Q: What's the best thing someone can do to help them get life insurance with heart disease (or pre-existing condition) at a better rate?
Definitely quit smoking, keep weight controlled, exercise regularly, and eat a healthy diet. But, other than this, the number one thing would be to work with an independent broker that knows this market. The agent can help save you a tremendous amount of money and save you time.
Always use an independent life insurance agent to find the most comprehensive coverage at the most affordable rates. Company or call center agents will not achieve the best possible results as they have limited options and work more specifically for commissions, which may not be in the best interests of the applicant.
Yes, you can get life insurance, and QuoteWizard can help you compare rates and find the most affordable policy.
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