Jeff is a well-known speaker and expert in life insurance and financial planning. He has been featured and quoted in Nerdwallet, Bloomberg, Forbes, U.S. News & Money, USA Today, and other leading finance websites. He is a licensed life insurance agent and has helped over 3000 people secure life insurance. He is licensed in all 50 states & DC. Jeff has spoken at top insurance conferen...

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Benjamin Carr was a licensed insurance agent in Georgia and has two years' experience in life, health, property and casualty coverage. He has worked with State Farm and other risk management firms. He is also a strategic writer and editor with a background in branding, marketing, and quality assurance. He has been in military newsrooms — literally on the frontline of journalism.

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Reviewed by Benji Carr
Former Licensed Life Insurance Agent Benji Carr

UPDATED: Apr 8, 2022

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Heart disease is any condition that includes structural problems, blood clots or diseased vessels, and it is a big deal in the life insurance industry.

This is why we decided to write this series on heart disease.

You can’t really blame the life insurance industry for being wary about underwriting those with heart problems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in America, killing roughly 610,000 individuals every year. That’s 1 in every 4 deaths!

The most common type of heart disease is coronary heart disease (CHD), which is responsible for roughly 370,000 deaths annually. This type of disease occurs when blood flow to one or more sections of the heart is not sufficient to meet the heart muscle’s needs.

Heart attacks are also a cause for concern, occurring in about 735,000 Americans annually.

The scariest part? About 210,000 of these individuals have already suffered a heart attack in the past.

So, heart health is important. It’s important for circulating oxygenated blood to the rest of the body, helping it get the nutrients it needs, while also carrying away waste.

If your heart fails to function properly, the rest of the body soon follows suit, as cells cannot get the nutrients they need from oxygenated blood.

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Changes in Life Insurance Underwriting for Heart Disease

Heart disease of any sort used to be an automatic decline with most life insurance companies. Sure, the odd company here and there would cover an individual with heart disease; however, he or she would find themselves paying far too much for their policy.

This is because it is the job of an underwriter to take on the most amount of risk, while still ensuring their company remains profitable. If an applicant posed too high a risk to insure, he or she was automatically declined.

This was great news for those selling Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance, sometimes known as “No Exam” insurance. With this type of coverage, an individual could find coverage with the promise that they would not have to undergo a medically underwritten examination – a huge draw for those scared of declines.

The problem with this type of life insurance was that many individuals were still paying too much for insufficient coverage.

The draw of not having to take a medical exam overshadowed the reality that many individuals with minor heart conditions were lumped in with individuals with extremely serious conditions, and all were paying the same life insurance premium. Yikes.

The good news is that, as more and more breakthroughs in how we treat, diagnose and prevent heart disease are revealed, insurance companies are becoming less rigid in their risk ratings for applicants with heart disease.

Insurance underwriters now know not to look at the disease itself, but the underlying causes of the disease, and to assess each applicant on an individual basis.

The more information insurers are provided with, the better.

Instead of immediately declining an applicant with a heart disease, underwriters instead look at the following and are able to paint a fairly accurate picture of an applicant’s risk:

  • The cause of the disease
  • The symptoms associated with its cause
  • The prognosis and recommended treatment options
  • EKG results and the results of other cardiac tests
  • The medications an applicant is taking and their side effects
  • Diet
  • Lifestyle
  • Smoking Habits
  • Age
  • Weight

….the list is endless. Underwriting life insurance has gotten more complex, with underwriters considering all facets of heart disease before assessing risk.

Additionally, the views on risks of certain diseases have changed over the years. A heart attack, for example, is no longer a cause for an immediate decline. Instead, it is considered using the above factors and more.

This change in the underwriting process is good news for high risk clients.

You may find that you have to postpone your application after major surgeries, or that you are given a flat extra – a fee tacked on per every thousand dollars of your policy – rather than being denied coverage.  For most individuals with mild heart conditions and no other health complications, a Standard rating is common.

For those with more severe forms of heart disease, table ratings with flat extras are to be expected from most insurance companies.

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Here are a few different heart conditions which might make your rates fluctuate, based on your condition:

  1. Aortic Regurgitation
  2. Aortic Stenosis
  3. Bundle Branch Blocks
  4. Cardiomyopathy
  5. Congestive Heart Failure
  6. Heart Attack

The Biggest Change In The Life Insurance Industry

Agents are, perhaps, the biggest game-chargers in the life insurance industry.

Agents no longer see their clients as paychecks. Life insurance agents are beginning to view their clients as individuals, taking the time to get to know them on a personal basis.

Our agents, especially, use knowledge a powerful tool, a tool that helps their clients get the best insurance rates every time.

This knowledge occurs in three main areas:

  • Knowledge of the high risk diseases and conditions our clients have
  • Personal knowledge of our clients and their health backgrounds
  • Knowledge of the life insurance industry

Thanks to technological changes in the way we access health information as well as the way we treat high-risk diseases, agents now have extensive research at their fingertips. A good agent will make him-or-her-self an expert in your conditions, gathering new information and studies that may help you earn better ratings.

This knowledge is also crucial for insurance applicants; the more positive medical documentation you can provide concerning your heart disease, the better your rating will be.

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The Bottom Line

Life insurance with heart disease risk factors is available but at a higher cost. Affordable life insurance for heart disease patients can be found, but life insurance rates are the lowest if you buy when you’re young and healthy. Affordable rates can vary based on heart conditions, so you might pay more for life insurance after a heart attack than if you have high blood pressure. Before you buy term life insurance with heart disease risk factors, always compare quotes.

You should contact the insurance company or insurance agent directly for applicable quotes if you have pre-existing conditions.