Everyone probably knows someone in their life who’s had a heart attack. The word alone conjures up thoughts of terrifying pain―of a fierce tightening in the chest and a struggle to catch your breath.
And this frightening image of heart attacks is well earned. According to the CDC, cardiovascular diseases are responsible for one out of every four deaths each year in America, and the statistics don’t differ much around the world either.
If you’ve had a heart attack, there’s a good possibility that it was one of the worst experiences of your life. Yet, you know that your heart attack does not define you or your health.
Unfortunately, many life insurance companies believe that it does, and your chances of getting a decent seating after a heart attack drops considerably. However, not all hope is lost. Far from it, in fact. There are still many ways for you to find affordable life insurance coverage, even after a heart attack.
Here are some facts about heart attacks, how life insurance companies view them, and some useful tips for applying for life insurance after you’ve had one.
What is a Heart Attack?
A myocardial infarction, typically known as a heart attack, occurs when the blood flow stops or slows down in a specific part of the heart. This then leads to pain throughout the chest, abdomen and arms, as well as sweating, dizziness, and sometimes, death.
If the blood flow is cut off from an area of the heart for too long, something called ischemic cascade occurs, where heart cells begin to die and are replaced by myocardial scarring. Myocardial scarring can lead to other health problems in the future, making a heart attack extremely dangerous, even if you survive it.
Heart attacks have a number of causes, including smoking, poor diet and exercise, high blood pressure, diabetes and genetic defects. There are many ways you can prevent a heart attack and other health problems by eating heart healthy foods, doing cardiovascular activities, taking medication and stopping smoking.
How Will a Heart Attack Affect Your Life Insurance Premiums?
Life insurance companies are always going to notice if you’ve had a heart attack, but there are many extenuating circumstances which could lead to better or worse rates. Here are a few factors that may impact your premiums.
When was your heart attack, and how old were you?
If your heart attack was more recent, life insurance companies may want to wait some time before approving you so they can see how you’ve healed since it occurred. Also, the age you were when you had your heart attack is important as well.
With life insurance, it’s almost always better to be younger. However, when it comes to heart attacks, the older you were when it happened, the better, as having a heart attack in your twenties or thirties can be a sign of chronic health issues.
What health problems led to your heart attack?
If your heart attack was the result of a serious underlying condition, your rates will increase, as this indicates you may have more heart problems in the future. Likewise, if you are obese, an unhealthy eater, and/or a smoker, you will most likely have to pay more in premiums.
Did you have any procedures to prevent future problems?
There are a number of medical procedures you can have after a heart attack, such as bypass surgery or an atherectomy. These can be great for your health, and can improve your premiums. However, once again life insurance companies will want to wait until you’ve recovered before writing out your policy to make sure the surgery was a success and no complications have resulted from it.
There are many other questions your life insurance agent will ask you, including how your health has changed since your heart attack, whether or not you have a family history of heart disease, and what (if any) medications are you taking? Be sure to give your agent all the necessary information so that they can do whatever they need to to get you the best policy since companies can differ widely.
What Can You Do To Lower Your Rates?
Improve your health
Obviously, everything you can do to make yourself healthier is recommended. This includes doing heart pumping activities and exercises, having regular checkups, taking medication, quitting smoking and eating heart healthy foods such as avocado, salmon, blueberries and walnuts.
Keep your medical records clear and up-to-date.
Next, make sure that not only do you regularly visit the doctor, but that you’re continually updating your medical records. Life insurance companies will often decline applications that look incomplete or confusing, so clarity is your friend.
Work with an independent life insurance agent.
Getting life insurance is always complicated, and if you’ve had a heart attack it’s even worse. This is why getting an independent life insurance agent is crucial for getting the best rates. They will take your individual needs and concerns and find the best policies possible by cross checking prices across thousands of different companies. Hire a life insurance agent to take the hassle off of your mind.
The Application Process
Once your agent has narrowed the list down to a handful of promising companies, it’s time to begin the application process. Here is a general outline of what needs to be done.
Get a quote
The first step of the process your agent does for you. He or she will use your medical records to get a rough estimate of what rates you will receive after applying for a certain policy.
It’s important to get a quote from a life insurance agency before sending them a complete copy of your medical records, as this could permanently scar your chances of getting a decent policy. Instead, let your agent check to see if they are a good fit for you before you show your cards.
Fill out the application
The next step is to complete the application. You will need to answer all the questions listed above relating to your heart attack. Also include all other relevant information about your health and life.
Once again, you must give them all the information you have and in the clearest format as possible. Your agent will help you organize your application, but if there is any misinformation, it will backfire on you.
Take a medical exam
Finally your going to need to take a complete medical exam to confirm the information on your application.
Wait for their decision
Now, all that’s left to do after the medical exam is wait. The company you applied with will analyze all the data and come to a decision based on the severity of your heart attack, its cause and your family history, as well as the information on your general health, and write you a policy based on these factors.
Here are the different ratings life insurance companies use to sort applicants in accordance with risk level.
Preferred plus is the best seating available. Unfortunately, you will not qualify for it. A heart attack is just too serious.
A preferred rating is also unlikely. No matter how much your health has improved, a heart attack is a label you can’t easily shake.
A standard rating, meanwhile, is more likely. Your heart attack will have needed to be mild. And you’ll need to show that years have passed without you having another one. Though, if this is the case, you may just receive this class.
A table rating is usually what you can expect when applying for life insurance after a heart attack. If enough time has passed since your heart attack, your health is otherwise in good condition, and your heart attack was not indicative of a serious chronic ailment, a table rating is most likely where you’ll be placed.
Unfortunately, many people who have had a heart attack, especially if it was recent and the applicant lives an unhealthy lifestyle, are denied outright for coverage. Don’t worry though. If you have been denied life insurance because of your heart attack, there are still options.
What Do You Do if You Are Denied Traditional Life Insurance?
If you have been denied traditional life insurance, or you’ve found a company that will accept you but you want to see if you can find something else, here are some of the steps you can take.
Get guaranteed life insurance.
Guaranteed life insurance, or no-exam life insurance, is an excellent choice for people who cannot get traditional insurance. It’s not ideal, as guaranteed life insurance usually costs more and offers less.
However, it’s easy to obtain and people are almost never turned down. It doesn’t matter what health you’re in and you don’t need to take an exam. Usually, all you have to do is write down your age, sex and state of residence. Then, the policy is yours.
(Note that by buying a guaranteed life insurance policy it doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with it forever. You can purchase a guaranteed life insurance policy to cover you while you explore the options below and try to get accepted for a traditional life insurance policy. Then, once you do, you can replace your guaranteed policy with your new one.)
Try other companies
Remember, there are thousands of life insurance companies for you to choose from. Just because you’ve had a heart attack, or even multiple heart attacks, doesn’t mean there isn’t a company for you.
The market depends on competition. So, as much as companies only want to take on low risk clients, they also want your business. If you dig around enough, you’re bound to find someone willing to give you better rates. That’s why we encourage working with a life insurance agent.
Finally, you can wait. Oftentimes, the reason why life insurance companies deny clients who have had heart attacks is because not enough time has passed since their last one and it’s too soon to know whether or not more can be expected.
If you find a policy that works for you, but you get denied for this reason, then it may be a good idea to buy a guaranteed life insurance policy in the meantime and wait a year or two before applying again.
What Type of Life Insurance is Best For People With Heart Problems?
Of course, before you do anything, you need to decide what type of life insurance you want. Now, there are some forms of life insurance that are especially suitable for people who have had a heart attack. Here are some of the main types of life insurance and which ones would be better for your situation.
Term life insurance is a type of life insurance that lasts for a certain number of years. This may be the best policy for many people reading this. That is as long as your expenses aren’t too great and your heart problems are mild to moderate.
Guaranteed (simplified and burial)
We already discussed guaranteed life insurance, however, these are its two main forms. First, there is simplified guaranteed life insurance. Simplified guaranteed insurance requires no medical exam and only a one-page questionnaire.
Meanwhile, guaranteed burial life insurance requires no exam, no questionnaire, and you can have it in less than 24 hours. Guaranteed burial insurance is only meant to cover funeral expenses and is for people with poor health and limited options.
This type of life insurance is a policy that you buy once and lasts for the rest of your life. Permanent life insurance is good for people in their 30s or 40s with mild heart problems who want to build a trust or estate. Because these are more expensive, it may not always be the best option.
Good Life Insurance Companies for People With Heart Problems
Because heart attacks have different implications to different companies, it’s important to work with a company that has a history of accepting higher risk clients with heart problems. It will require a good amount of research to find the right company for your needs. But here are a few places you may be interested in looking into.
Let’s face it. If you’ve had a heart attack, your chances of getting the best life insurance rates are low.
However, receiving a standard or table rating is far from a disaster. And it is perfectly possible for you to get a good policy at a decent price. The process may be a little more complicated, but having a heart attack doesn’t mean you’re out of the race.