It’s Halloween here at Quotacy, and as much as we’d like to scare you with high prices out of the blue, we know that giving you information on how your health issues will affect your price is the right thing to do. So we dug up some of the most common risky health issues we could find and gave them all to our new friend, Frankie (see graphic below). And before you ask, no, he’s not related to Victor and his monster – he gets that a lot. With everything that he’s got going on, it’s doubtful that Frankie would be approved for coverage. Luckily, if you’ve only got one or two of these risky health issues, it’s still definitely possible to be approved for life insurance.
Issues that Affect the Head
Depression is a persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that can lead to a range of behavioral and physical symptoms. These may include changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration, daily behavior, or self-esteem. Depression can also be associated with thoughts of suicide. While severe depression can result in a table rating or decline depending on its severity, clients with past or mild depression that is well controlled with medication can still see approvals for best-class rates for coverage. We’ve written a blog specifically about depression if you’d like more information on how it’s underwritten.
Anxiety disorder is often described as heightened feelings of worry, anxiety, or fear that are strong enough to interfere with your daily life. These feelings are often out of proportion with the normal impact of an event. Similarly to depression, the degree to which anxiety affects your life will have a big impact on your prices. Minor and well-controlled anxiety can see approvals for near-best-class rates, while poorly controlled anxiety is more difficult to insure, and therefore more expensive.
A stroke is a medical emergency caused by damage to the brain due to an interruption of its blood supply. Since you’re more likely to have several medical problems if you’ve previously had a stroke, an insurance carrier will most likely not approve you for anything other than standard rates or table ratings. The time since your stroke and the steps you’re taking to make sure that it doesn’t happen again are key factors in an underwriter’s decision.
Issues that Affect the Heart
Heart disease is a broad categorization of several cardiovascular health issues ranging from angina to heart attacks to recent heart surgery done. Because heart disease covers so many health issues, your unique medical situation plays a huge role in how underwriters will rate you. The time since your heart condition, the steps you’re taking to keep your heart healthy, and the types of medicine you’re taking play strongly into how you’re seen by underwriters. We’ve also got a dedicated heart disease blog, so head there if you’d like to learn more.
Coronary artery disease is normally categorized by the buildup of plaque in the major blood vessels entering and leaving the heart, restricting blood flow, making your heart work harder, and leading to several dangerous health issues. Since having CAD can lead to worse problems down the road, underwriters look very closely at how you’re treating your CAD in order to determine the proper risk class.
Even as few as five years ago, a pacemaker would have made your life insurance application much more costly just by virtue of its presence. The wires used in pacemakers were previously prone to shortages, which would increase your risk significantly and end up putting you into table rating territory. Recently, thanks to advancements in the production of pacemakers, the wiring has become quite a bit more reliable, so carriers are beginning to offer standard risk classes to pacemaker patients after 1 year of problem-free use. The 1-year stipulation is primarily due to the risk of infection during the surgery – carriers like to see that everything went well with the operation before offering a policy.
Issues That Affect the Lungs
Asthma is a fairly common health issues that occurs when a person’s airways constrict, swell up, and generate excess mucus, which results in difficulty breathing. These attacks can range from momentary shortness of breath to the total closure of your airways, leaving sufferers unable to breath and in need of immediate help. As such, underwriters look at the severity of your asthma to give a risk class. For more info and a few example cases, check out our blog on how asthma is seen by underwriters.
Sleep apnea is a disorder that is characterized by inconsistent breathing during sleep. A person with sleep apnea repeatedly stops and starts breathing during their sleep, which can lead to medical issues if it isn’t properly treated through exercise or surgery, or controlled using a CPAP or BiPAP machine. We often get clients asking about sleep apnea on their applications, so we wrote up a dedicated sleep apnea blog to answer some of the most common questions we see.
Tuberculosis, or TB, is a respiratory health issues that is asymptomatic in most people, but can cause chest pain, cough, fever, fatigue, and even weight and muscle loss in the cases where it makes itself known. It’s a bacterial infection that’s partially treated with vaccines, but there are still around 200,000 cases every year in the US. If you’re currently suffering from tuberculosis, you will most likely not be insured. However, once you beat the infection and get healthy again, you should be able to be approved for normal insurance rates.
Issues that Affect the Stomach
Depending on your BMI, you may be more likely to develop certain medical health issues like diabetes, heart disease and sleep apnea later in life, which means that underwriters take it into account when determining your risk class. BMI is judged on a sliding scale based on things like your age, height, family history, and many other factors, so it’s difficult to give a hard and fast rule to follow. For a few example cases, check out our blog on how obesity affects life insurance applications.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in every cell in your body. Normally, your body makes cholesterol in order to help it process nutrients like vitamin D and hormones, and it also plays a role in digestion. However, cholesterol also comes into your body through the food you eat. Too much cholesterol can stick to your blood vessels and lead to complications like heart disease. Underwriters look at the numbers – if your cholesterol is over a certain threshold, you’ll be disqualified for that risk class. Carriers use different scales for how much cholesterol they find acceptable for each risk class, but in general, staying below the 240 mg/dl range can help keep you in the running for best-class offers.
Diabetes is caused by high blood sugar levels, and a lack of enough insulin to process it all normally. There are a lot of factors that go into underwriting for diabetes, but this handy blog post about diabetes walks you through the main factors you need to know about.
Here at Quotacy, we’re always upfront and honest about our price estimates, and the more information you give us about any medical conditions you have up front, the earlier we can give you an accurate estimate about the kinds of prices you’ll see.
Issues That Affect the Blood
HIV and AIDS
Until recently, HIV and AIDS would get you an automatic decline for life insurance due to how risky it was to insure. However, thanks to advances in medicine that are making it easier to live with these conditions, insurers are beginning to offer policies for HIV+ clients. These policies are highly dependent on how well your HIV is being controlled through medication, and on the other risk factors present in your case, but it isn’t an automatic cause for rejection anymore.
Blood Pressure and Hypertension
We all know that high blood pressure can lead to medical complications – heart and kidney failure, stroke, vision loss, and quite a few other risky conditions stem from this problem. Like high cholesterol, blood pressure is underwritten by the numbers – past a certain threshold you’ll be ineligible for certain risk classes. Check out our blog post on hypertension for more information and example cases.
Anemia is categorized by the lack of healthy red blood cells, which means that less oxygen makes its way around the body. It can be caused by iron and vitamin B deficiency, or by a genetic disorder called sickle cell anemia, which causes healthy blood cells to break down naturally. Depending on the root cause, the severity of your anemia, and how well you’re managing your condition, underwriters will evaluate your application differently.
Issues That Affect the Liver
Alcoholism is an incredibly risky condition that can easily compound with other issues like depression or blood disorders to greatly increase your risk of death. This means that underwriters look very hard at how your alcohol use interacts with other aspects of your life in order to determine your risk class. This blog about alcohol and insurance applications goes over how underwriters see alcohol use in a little more detail.
Cirrhosis of the liver is basically the formation of scar tissue that prevents the liver from completing its normal tasks within the body, like getting rid of toxins and harmful substances within the body and breaking down saturated fat to produce healthy cholesterol. If you are currently suffering from cirrhosis of the liver that has had time to progress unchecked, it’s probable that you’ll see a decline from the carrier.
Issues That Affect the Spine
Multiple sclerosis (or MS) is an inflammatory autoimmune disorder that affects the brain and spinal cord. Essentially, it stems from a lack of healthy myelin in the body, which is the fatty substance surrounding nerve cells that normally facilitates nerve transmission. You can think of MS as “faulty wiring” in your nervous system. We’ve got a blog that explores MS underwriting in much more detail.
Paraplegia and quadriplegia describe paralysis in either the legs or all limbs, respectively. Since there are many factors that could cause paralysis, the cause of the condition is the first thing that underwriters look at in order to place a rating on a case. The degree to which the client can still move the affected body parts and the possibility for rehabilitation also play a role in your opportunities for coverage. Quadriplegia will see higher rates and a higher rate of declines than paraplegia, but both conditions will more than likely result in substandard approval classes.
Issues that Affect the Legs
Osteoporosis is a common disease that reduces a person’s bone mass, which means that the bones are more brittle and less resistant to fractures and breaks. Most people suffering from osteoporosis don’t even realize they have it until they break a bone unexpectedly. Since a bone that’s broken once is more likely to break again, osteoporosis left uncared for can result in chronic pain, and even fractures from actions like coughing or standing up. Underwriters will look at the length of time you’ve had osteoporosis and the degree to which it affects your life in order to find the right prices for you.
Gout is a condition caused by the crystallization of uric acid in the joints, which causes inflammation, redness, tenderness and sometimes severe pain. The carrier’s decision will be primarily based on the severity of a client’s gout, as well as the frequency at which the client suffers from gout attacks, but a person suffering from gout can still get approved for normal rates.
If you’re starting your life insurance journey with a medical condition that has an impact on your life, you can almost certainly still find insurance – but you probably won’t end up getting best-class rates. Here at Quotacy, we’re always upfront and honest about our price estimates, and the more information you give us about any medical conditions you have up front, the earlier we can give you an accurate estimate about the kinds of prices you’ll see.
If you’d like to explore your options for coverage, feel free to give us a call and tell us about the issues you’re bringing to the table, and we’d be happy to give you an estimate. Or, you can run a quote and apply, and we’ll ask you for details on your medical conditions and shop around for you to find the coverage that best matches your needs. Who knows – the prices might shock you (in a good way)!
About the writer
Eric started in Quotacy's sales department, but moved to marketing after helping hundreds of people through their life insurance buying journey. Aside from writing about buying life insurance, he also edits Quotacy's monthly newsletter, runs our YouTube channel and produces Real Life, our podcast. Eric lives in Minneapolis, where his coworkers are trying to convince him to take his humor into the spotlight. Connect with him on LinkedIn.