Heart disease is a term that collects a variety of potential conditions, all of which impact the way a person’s heart operates.
According to the Canadian government, heart disease affects approximately 1 in 12 Canadians over the age of 20. That’s roughly 2.4 million people nationwide who live with a diagnosed heart disease.
Because heart disease is so prevalent, it’s a big topic for life insurance providers and people seeking to purchase health insurance.
If you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, you may wonder if you are still eligible for life insurance despite your disease.
The answer, while complicated, is that yes, you can get life insurance with heart disease. However, it may be a bit more difficult to qualify for coverage from some companies, and you may end up having to pay more for coverage.
How Heart Disease Impacts Life Insurance
Heart health is important to an individual’s overall health and well-being.
When your heart is in good condition, it can efficiently circulate blood throughout your body, sending oxygenated blood where it needs to be and returning deoxygenated blood to the heart. This prevents the body from suffering from the ill effects of toxic blood, which can cause parts of the body to shut down and makes the heart work even harder.
With heart disease, your heart doesn’t function as it should for whatever reason.
In the most common type of heart disease, coronary heart disease (CHD), the flow of blood to and from one or more sections of the heart is restricted. This means that the remainder of the heart has to work harder to meet the body’s needs for blood.
When the heart isn’t working properly, a person’s overall health is impacted.
Suffering from heart disease increases your risks of an early death, and increasing risks of serious conditions such as stroke and heart attack.
By having heart disease, you are seen as a higher risk to the insurance company.
Why Is It Difficult for Those with Heart Disease to Get Life Insurance?
People with heart disease are considered more likely to either have more health complications than healthy people, or they’re more likely to die earlier than their peers.
Because of this, insurance companies feel that offering life insurance to someone with heart disease puts them at a higher financial risk. This means that, while you may not be outright denied life insurance, you may be limited to specific types of life insurance policies or you may have to pay higher rates if you have heart disease.
Health Factors That Impact the Cost of Life Insurance with Heart Disease
When applying for life insurance, your overall health and wellness is evaluated by the insurance company when determining what type of insurance you qualify for and how much you’ll pay.
If you have heart disease, the insurance company will evaluate your case based on a variety of factors when figuring out how risky it is to insure you.
Some of these health factors include:
Cause of Heart Disease
If your heart disease is genetic, it may change the insurance company’s view of your risk than if your heart disease is determined to have been the result of lifestyle choices you made, such as smoking or not managing your weight.
To help the insurance company determine how risky your heart disease is, they may request information from your treating doctor during the underwriting process.
Prognosis & Recommended Treatment
For some people, living with heart disease just means watching what they eat, managing their stress, and getting some more exercise. For others, heart disease can require serious medical interventions, such as surgery.
Your doctor’s assessment on your overall health - whether your heart disease is manageable and just a minor roadblock in an otherwise healthy life or whether your heart disease is severe and could lead to an early death - will be key in helping an insurer determine your risk.
For well-managed heart disease, you are more likely to qualify for life insurance with more companies and at lower rates than someone whose heart disease is advanced and requires major interventions.
Being prescribed certain medications to help manage your heart disease can be considered an extra risk factor for certain insurance companies.
During the underwriting process, insurers will want a full accounting of all medications you take, how long you’ve been taking them, and in what doses.
Diet & General Lifestyle
The healthier you live your life despite your heart disease, the lower your risk assessment will be with a life insurance company.
If you maintain a largely healthy diet and an active lifestyle, you may be more likely to get better life insurance coverage at better rates than someone who doesn’t work to control their diet and get regular exercise.
Frequent smoking is one of the contributing factors to non-genetic heart disease. If you have a smoking habit, the insurance company will want to know about it during the underwriting process.
Additionally, if you are a former smoker but quit to improve your health, the insurance company will want to know that information, including how long ago you quit.
The younger you are diagnosed with heart disease, the higher the risk you pose to a life insurance company.
As a result, you may have to pay higher premiums for your life insurance if you’re diagnosed earlier in life than if you are older when you are diagnosed.
Choosing the Best Life Insurance Policy with Heart Disease
When shopping for life insurance with heart disease, it may take some shopping around to find the best policy with the best rates.
Here are some guidelines for choosing the best life insurance policy if you have heart disease:
Type of Policy
Regardless of whether or not you have heart disease, most people find term life insurance policies more affordable. They only cover a person for a specific number of years and don’t come with any cash value.
If your reason for shopping for life insurance is to allow your spouse to pay off your home in the event of your death, or providing money for your children’s college education, choosing a term life insurance policy may be the most cost-effective option. Many term life insurance policies can be converted into whole life policies without re-starting the underwriting process, which means that later complications from your heart disease won’t be considered in the policy conversion.
For those who plan to provide an inheritance to their family or ensure ongoing financial support for a spouse when buying life insurance, a whole life insurance policy may be the wise choice.
Whole life policies will cost you more money - especially with heart disease - but adjusting how much coverage you purchase can make them more affordable and help offset the increases in premiums as a result of your heart disease.
Level of Underwriting
When you purchase life insurance coverage, you have two options during the underwriting process: fully underwritten and no medical exam policies.
If you elect a fully underwritten policy, you may be required to submit to a medical exam prior to the insurer making a decision on your coverage. Because you have heart disease, this could pose a problem if you’re hoping to qualify for insurance at a reasonable rate.
For those worried about having to undergo a medical exam, no medical exam life insurance policies are an option.
While you don’t have to worry about unknown health problems cropping up during the underwriting process, these types of policies have lower coverage options ($500,000 for term policies and $50,000 for whole life policies).
When completing the underwriting process for a no medical exam policy, it is essential to fully and honestly complete the insurer’s health questionnaires. If you leave out or lie about information on the application, it can work against you in purchasing coverage.
Amount of Coverage
The amount of coverage you need to purchase is determined by a variety of personal factors, including:
- Your financial obligations, such as child support
- Your salary
- Ages of children
- Whether you have a mortgage or other debt to be paid
Adjusting the amount of coverage you purchase may allow you to reduce the price of your life insurance policy, making it more affordable.
What If You Are Diagnosed with Heart Disease After Buying Life Insurance?
Thankfully, once you have purchased a life insurance policy and the policy has been issued, your insurer cannot change your rates or cancel your policy if you are diagnosed with heart disease. If, for example, you purchase a term or whole life insurance and are diagnosed with heart disease a few years later, your diagnosis will not impact your life insurance policy.
If you already have life insurance, there are a few situations in which a new heart disease diagnosis could be a problem:
- You have term life insurance and want to continue coverage: If you want to purchase a new term life insurance policy once your prior policy terminates, even through the same company, you will need to undergo the underwriting process again. This may cause your insurer to reject your application or charge you higher premiums.
- You have group life insurance through your employer and you leave that job: In this instance, you may be given the opportunity to convert your group life insurance policy or to port your coverage. Converting or porting your policy does not subject you to further medical review, but it can be far more expensive than applying for life insurance coverage on your own.
- You want to increase the coverage on your policy: When you increase your coverage, you may be subject to additional underwriting. In this case, your new heart disease diagnosis could increase your premiums.
Finding the right life insurance policy when you have heart disease can be a challenge. If you examine your options and are willing to adjust the coverage you do receive, you can still qualify for a life insurance policy at a price you can afford.
With Insurdinary’s life insurance comparison tool, you can compare premiums and plans for multiple carriers, receive a personalized quote, and apply for coverage in minutes. Get a quote today!