Life insurance and impaired health

Getting life insurance if you have impaired health can be quite a challenge.

Depending on the type of medical condition you are in, an insurance company is not likely to offer you the best rates in the market. In many cases, they may even reject your application for insurance.

Don't despair though. There might be something you can do to get life insurance when you have pre-existing medical conditions. Read on...

Most expensive medical conditions that impact life insurance rates

  • Cancer - Insurance companies look at the cancer type, how severe it is and the kind of treatment the individual has received when determining rates. Generally, companies become very cautious with internal types of cancer like breast cancer. On the other hand, external cancer, like skin lesions, will not cause as much concern among insurers.

  • Heart disease - having this condition will cost you the most in insurance premium. The reason for this is that the insurance provider will look at you as having a short life expectancy. Even if you do not have the condition but if heart disease runs in your family, it can lead to costlier life insurance for you.

  • Diabetes - Type 1 diabetics, those whose condition developed from childhood, will find difficulty in finding a willing insurer. If they do, it is certain that they will get higher rates. Individuals, whose condition developed only when they reach adulthood and are able to manage it via strict diet and medication, have better chances of finding an insurer who is willing to offer them a lower rate.

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - This is another condition, which tends to shorten a person's lifespan. People with COPD may end up on home oxygen and the condition may even lead to death. When insurers evaluate someone diagnosed with COPD they will want to know the severity of the COPD and the overall health aside from this condition. People who are classified as having extreme COPD would even have difficulty to get approved for insurance.

  • Asthma - For those who are lifelong asthmatics, insurers are sure to charge them with higher premiums.

  • Obesity - Obesity is often associated with dangerous medical conditions like hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, etc. This is the reason why insurers look at individuals with extra weight as high risk and therefore offer them higher rates.

Conditions that are uninsurable at any price

You will not find an insurance provider willing to insure any of the following:

  • Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome
  • Huntington's disease
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease)
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Stage 4 cancer
  • Multiple sclerosis

Conditions that will give you a hard time getting a good life insurance deal

Smoking and life insurance

Insurers are adherers to the age old adage that smoking is dangerous to one's health. That is why smokers get higher rates compared to nonsmokers.

When assessing how much rate they will charge a smoker, insurance companies look at the cigars, cigarettes and chewing tobacco he uses. These companies also look at the use of nicotine gum or nicotine patch as a form of tobacco use.

Note, that many insurers do not give distinction to the quantity - heavy smokers and occasional smokers pose to them the same level of risks and therefore get the same higher rates.

Alcohol and life insurance

Insurers tend to be cautious with granting insurance policies to individuals with a history of alcohol abuse. Even if an individual is a recovering alcoholic, getting life insurance can be difficult, still it is a possibility. It is important to know the process that insurers follow when they underwrite consumers with this condition or history.

For the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a man is a heavy alcohol drinker if he consumes over two drinks a day. For women, it is over one drink a day. The standards for alcoholic drinks are: five ounces of wine, eight ounces of malt liquor or twelve ounces of beer.

The reasons why companies see alcoholics as high risk individuals is because alcoholism has strong association with: car accidents, liver diseases, cancer, substance addiction, heart conditions, depression and suicide.

Insurers apply a set of criteria that includes: medical records, history, driving records, treatment, current lab results, etc. A company will look at the different aspects of an individual's present life when determining his level of risk. Specifically, an insurer will look at:

  • the person's age at the time he is diagnosed
  • the period of time from the time of the diagnosis
  • any driving-related convictions
  • elevated liver enzymes
  • the time period since treatment
  • the level of success of the treatment received
  • number of visits to the doctor
  • whether the individual is a smoker or into drugs
  • whether the individual continues to drink
  • whether the person has any other medical conditions

High blood pressure and life insurance

Individuals who have problems with their blood pressure are sure to get a hard time getting a good life insurance deal. Those with high blood pressure are treated with caution because of the condition's strong association with heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.

Each insurance company would have their own standards. To give an idea as to what may be deemed as blood pressure readings, a company may offer its best rates to a person whose readings have not gone past 136/86 in the past two years. Those individuals with readings under 146/90, may get the next best rates. Of course, other companies may follow different readings.

The bottom line is that lowering blood pressure to normal or near normal levels will translate to better premium charges for life insurance.

Obesity and life insurance

Being overweight and being obese are two different things. To determine which you are, you need to establish what your Body Mass Index is. An individual is deemed overweight if their BMI ranges from 25 to 29.9. They are obese if their BMI is 30 or over.

Insurers may or may not charge overweight individuals with higher rates. For example, if you are just 10 pounds over what is deemed as the ideal weight for you, it is unlikely they will charge you with higher premiums. When you are obese, that is when insurers will start getting concerned. This is because obesity tends to bring with it a host of serious medical conditions like heart disease, hypertension, liver disease, cancer, sleep apnea, gallbladder disease, diabetes, etc.

Just how important some insurers view BMI can be seen in one company's special offer: a twenty percent discount in life policies for those who can maintain their BMI in the 19 to 25 range for the next twenty years.

Take note, however, that weight in itself is not the only factor that insurers are concerned with. They tend to look at the bigger picture when assessing an individual's risk level and charge their premium rates accordingly. So, you may appear overweight in paper but if the company's overall assessment reveals you are not a high mortality risk, you could still get good rates. Conversely, a person's weight may be within what is deemed as "ideal" for him, but if he has a serious medical condition, then that could increase his premiums considerably.

Steps to getting life insurance when you have pre-existing medical conditions

  • Start your quest by getting the services of an experienced insurance broker or agent. These professionals should know what are the processes and requirements applicable to you and how you should meet them successfully.
  • Make a compilation of all the necessary documents:
    • your disorders or diseases
    • the medications you are taking
    • the treatments you have been subjected to.
    • The names of doctors or medical professionals who attended to you.
    • The names of clinics or hospitals you have been to in the last decade.
  • Prepare your health summary. Start by enumerating your positive points like you are a nonsmoker, or nondrinker, or that you do regular exercises, etc.
  • Declare the major accidents you have been involved with particularly those that have standing effects. For example, metal rods placed in your body.
  • Deal with companies that are new and aggressive. These are the ones who are likely to consider you as a client.
  • Get ready for your medical examination. Make sure the exam is carried out at a time you are in your best condition.
  • If a company disapproves your application, ask for a written explanation.
  • Whatever the outcome is, get copies of all test results so you can monitor them over time.
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