Strokes are becoming increasingly common in Canada, with strokes routinely clocking in among the top five leading causes of death annually.
These severe forms of cardiovascular disease affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. The effects of a stroke can range from minor rehabilitation to death, with many stroke survivors experiencing debilitating lifelong consequences.
As a survivor of stroke, you may wonder if you’re able to secure a life insurance policy.
Yes, you can get life insurance after a stroke, but the process may be a bit more complicated and more expensive than it would have been prior to a stroke.
A stroke occurs when the blood flow to the brain is cut off, leaving the brain cells deprived of oxygen. When this happens, the brain cells begin to die.
This causes the abilities controlled by the affected area to the brain to be lost, with common side effects of stroke including memory loss, loss of muscle control, and difficulty speaking.
Because a stroke is a severe condition that impacts multiple parts of the body, it can cause a lot of complications and may require a great deal of rehabilitation. Additionally, many strokes are caused by other health problems, such as hypertension or diabetes.
As a result, life insurance companies consider stroke survivors to be high-risk. This means they’re more likely to have more serious health problems down the line, or to die earlier, than a fully healthy person of a similar age.
When someone is considered high-risk, the insurance company may look for reasons to deny their application, offer limited options for life insurance coverage, or charge higher rates than they would for a person who is considered low-risk.
While finding life insurance after a stroke isn’t impossible, it is likely to be more complicated and is going to cost you more than if you hadn’t had a stroke.
When you apply for life insurance, you have to go through the underwriting process before you are issued a policy.
During the underwriting policy, the life insurance company combs through your medical history, family history, and lifestyle to determine just how much of a risk you will be to insure. This process is used to figure out what type of life insurance you will be offered and at what rates.
Here are some common things life insurance companies look for during the underwriting process if you’ve experienced a stroke:
Some common questions you can expect from a life insurance company about your stroke include:
These questions help the insurance company determine what level of risk they will accept by offering you a life insurance policy, which will then decide whether you qualify for a policy and how much you will be charged for that policy.
If a life insurance company asks you these or any other questions related to your stroke or overall health, it is important that you be truthful with your responses. Any omitted information can lead to the company denying you coverage or dramatically increasing your rates.
When applying for life insurance following a stroke, one of the most important things your insurance company will want to determine is whether you experienced a full stroke or a mini-stroke, known as a TIA.
A TIA presents all the same symptoms as a full stroke, but there is no lasting neurological damage. This means that someone who experienced a TIA is going to seem less risky to insure than someone who experienced a full stroke.
There are different ratings assigned to life insurance applicants, and your stroke or TIA can impact whether or not you qualify for certain ratings and how much you will pay for each type:
This is the highest possible rating a life insurance carrier can offer. If you’ve had a stroke or a mini-stroke, it is highly unlikely you will qualify for this rate class.
In some cases, someone who has experienced a TIA may qualify for a preferred rating if you are in otherwise perfect health or if, after a review of medical records, the TIA was found to be misdiagnosed.
For applicants who have experienced a stroke, standard rating is probably the best rating for which they will qualify. However, in order to qualify for standard rating, most people will have to apply at least six years following their stroke and there cannot be any additional health issues present.
Most stroke survivors who apply at least a year following their stroke and who do not present with any lasting damage will likely be offered a substandard rating. Those who had a TIA may be able to get a substandard rating six months or more following their TIA.
If you apply for life insurance within six months of a TIA or a year after a full stroke, you can expect to be declined for certain types of life insurance. You may be able to secure “guaranteed issue” whole life insurance, however.
If you are declined for life insurance due to not enough time passing between your stroke and your application, you may be able to purchase a guaranteed issue insurance policy.
This type of policy is a whole life policy that’s issued without regard to your health. There are no health questions on the application and no medical exam required by the underwriter.
When choosing these policies, there are some drawbacks, including:
Although having a stroke may limit your options when it comes to choosing a life insurance policy, there are still some ways you can find the best policy at a better rate.
Here are some guidelines for finding the best life insurance policy after a stroke:
While your stroke may limit the type of policy you’re able to qualify for, if given the option, many people find that term life insurance policies are more affordable than whole life policies.
If you’re able to qualify for a term life insurance policy and you want life insurance to help your spouse pay off your home or put your children through college, a term life insurance policy may be the most affordable option for you. In many cases, you can even convert a term life insurance policy into a whole life insurance policy at the end of the term without additional underwriting, meaning any later complications from your stroke won’t be considered in the policy conversion.
A whole life policy, on the other hand, may be beneficial for those wishing to provide an inheritance to their family members.
Overall, whole life policies will cost you more money, especially after having a stroke, but adjusting the amount of coverage you purchase can help offset the increase in premiums due to your stroke.
There are two levels of underwriting when purchasing life insurance: fully underwritten and no medical exam policies.
When you opt for a fully underwritten policy, you are likely to have to submit to a medical exam prior to the insurer making a decision on your coverage. This is especially likely given your prior history of stroke. The findings from this medical exam, if you discover you have unknown underlying health conditions, could pose problems for your qualifying for coverage.
Choosing a no medical exam life insurance policy means that you won’t have to undergo a medical exam, but you will have to truthfully fill out an extensive health questionnaire.
Although you will be spared any additional health issues causing you problems during underwriting, these types of policies tend to have much lower coverage limits than others - $500,000 for term policies and $50,000 for whole life policies.
How much coverage you choose to purchase is going to be determined by a variety of factors, including:
Adjusting how much coverage you purchase may mean you’re able to reduce the overall price of your life insurance policy, making it more affordable for you long-term.
Once you have purchased a life insurance policy and that policy has been issued, your insurer cannot change your rates or cancel your policy if you have a stroke.
If you already have life insurance, there are a few situations where a new stroke could prove problematic:
Qualifying for life insurance after a stroke can be a frustrating process. Knowing what to expect when you begin, and being prepared for any bumps along the way, can make all the difference in helping you get a favorable outcome.
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