Heart conditions, no matter how minor, will have a profound impact on your life insurance approval odds. Near the top of the list, irregular heartbeats are one of the most delicate conditions for insurers to consider.
And while those with pacemakers feel the weight of their condition in their monthly premiums, individuals with defibrillators face even more difficulty finding affordable life insurance.
Similar to a pacemaker, an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is an electronic chip inserted into the body that sends electrical signals to the heart. However, while a pacemaker only sends low pulses to control irregular heart rhythms, a modern ICD will do this and monitor for signs of cardiac arrest. If it senses sudden cardiac arrest, it sends a powerful electrical shock to restore its rhythm.
An ICD’s ability to continually monitor heart rhythms makes it ideal for high-risk individuals. A number of heart illnesses may put individuals at risk of a heart attack, warranting their use of an ICD.
Who Needs a Defibrillator?
Individuals with ICDs usually suffer from an extremely fast heartbeat (ventricular tachycardia) or low blood supply due to an erratic heartbeat (ventricular fibrillation). In both cases, the heart needs constant regulation and monitoring for any life-threatening disruptions.
Your doctor may recommend an ICD for other general causes of ventricular arrhythmia or dangerous health risks. If any of the following apply to you, it could be beneficial to discuss an ICD with your doctor:
- History of heart disease or cardiac arrests.
- Abnormal heart condition involving enlarged heart muscles or other cardiomyopathies.
- Genetic heart condition resulting in a defective rhythm, such as QT syndrome or Brugada syndrome.
As evidenced, ICDs are generally reserved for individuals with life-threatening heart conditions. From a life insurance provider’s standpoint, an ICD is a glaring sign of an advanced risk of death.
Many traditional term and permanent policy providers will not approve coverage if you have an ICD. Fortunately, as defibrillator technology has improved, life insurance providers are becoming more accommodating for those with unique heart risks. The critical consideration is working with a knowledgeable insurance agent to find the best rates.
Life Insurance Options with a Defibrillator
Finding quality life insurance with a defibrillator is undeniably difficult but not impossible. Individuals seeking life insurance with a heart condition, particularly those requiring an ICD, normally fall into a Substandard health rating, negatively impacting their approval odds.
There are special life insurance plans that certain niche providers offer for individuals with defibrillators, but the extra risk will be reflected in the higher premiums.
Why You Should Work with a Life Insurance Agent
An experienced insurance agent can help you find providers that specialize in high-risk cases. Agents know the underwriting requirements for most companies, so they can weed out providers that will likely deny coverage. This way, you only send applications if you have a legitimate chance of approval.
If you apply by yourself or work with an inexperienced agent, it may seem like sending out applications to all the providers will get you the best rate. You may get some declines but you will eventually get a satisfactory approval, right?
Unfortunately, like applying for credit, multiple attempts hurts your chances for approval or good rates. A company that would normally approve you may end up declining you if you have already been declined by other companies.
The reason for this is that every application records at the Medical Information Bureau. The MIB gathers and distributes medical and application records as a sort of protection for insurers. When a new application submits, the insurer references the MIB.
A record of declined applications is not a good sign for life insurance providers. They will lose confidence in your insurability, labeling you too high-risk and ultimately denying your application.
Having an experienced life insurance agent can keep you from putting yourself at a further disadvantage. They will collect your information and only search out and speak to companies that offer special risk plans. Working on your behalf, they can have direct conversations with providers or submit trial applications to test your approval odds without sending information to the MIB.
Guaranteed Life Insurance
As we will discuss later, there are several ways to improve your chances of getting competitive life insurance rates with a defibrillator. However, with an advanced or terminal illness associated with your defibrillator, life insurance options may not be available even through special risk providers. In these situations, you could still potentially get coverage under a guaranteed issue policy, though this should almost always be a last resort.
Guaranteed issue policies are whole life plans with stripped-back requirements for at-risk individuals. There is no required medical exam, medical underwriting or background review. If you meet the age requirements and pay your premiums, you cannot be denied coverage.
All of this sounds easy and appropriate for someone looking for life insurance with a defibrillator. Like most things that sound too good to be true, however, there are some notable caveats. The following are some key drawbacks to expect from a guaranteed issue policy:
- Low death benefits, usually capping at $25,000.
- Death benefits cannot be paid in the first two years, although premiums are returned if the individual dies in that time.
- High premiums relative to the death benefit amount.
Insurance companies take on a huge risk in cases that warrant a guaranteed issue policy. Because of this risk, the customer faces decreased benefits and a long, uncertain waiting period. Avoiding this scenario begins with working with a knowledgeable agent and preparing yourself for the application process.
Questions to Expect from the Insurance Company
Applying for life insurance with a pre-existing condition almost always requires additional information. If you note your defibrillator, underwriting will follow up on your application for details about your heart condition. The following are some of the most common questions life insurances companies will ask:
- When did you get your ICD?
- Why did you get an ICD? Provide details about your specific condition.
- Have you experienced any symptoms of your condition since receiving your ICD?
- Had any health complications arise from the implantation or use of your ICD?
- Any new heart conditions since you received your ICD?
- List any medications you are currently taking.
- Do you regularly follow up with your cardiologist?
Life insurance companies also consider the normal factors for eligibility, such as age, gender, and lifestyle habits.
Getting the Best Life Insurance Rates with a Defibrillator
Acknowledge the Waiting Period
If you have a defibrillator, insurance companies are more accommodating if they feel confident that it is effective for you. This is why they ask about how long you have had your ICD. If you show a long history of reduced symptoms and no complications from the ICD, you seem less risky to insurers.
If you recently received your ICD within 3-6 months prior to applying, most life insurance providers may put you on a waiting list. They need to see whether complications arise prior to approval, so they may wait 6-12 months before making a decision.
Alternatively, if you apply less than three months after receiving your defibrillator, life insurance providers may simply decline your application. That would put you in bad standing for future decisions because it would enter the MIB’s records. The best practice is to wait at least one year after receiving your ICD to maximize your approval odds.
You obviously cannot control your age, gender, or your heart condition, but you can control your lifestyle. Special risk insurers are like any other provider, and smoking, drinking, and weight still factor heavily into their decisions. Although an ICD will undoubtedly raise your rates, you can still ensure the best pricing by maintaining healthy habits.
Go to the Doctor
As part of your healthy habits, regular doctor visits should be a key priority. Insurance companies like to see frequent follow-ups with your cardiologist. This gives them confidence in your ability to manage your condition and it gets them the most recent information.
If it has been several years since you visited your doctor, you may be subject to higher rates. Without reliable information, insurance companies are unlikely to give you the benefit of the doubt. Eliminate guesswork with up-to-date information so you can get the best possible rates.
Working with an Experienced Life Insurance Agent
It cannot be overstated how crucial it is to work with a knowledgeable agent when you need life insurance with a defibrillator. Agents have the experience, time, and resources available to research and pursue the best possible plans that fit your needs and budget.
An agent will do the heavy lifting for you. They can make the phone calls and submit trial offers to get you options without hurting your approval odds. It takes extra work getting approved for life insurance with a defibrillator, but agents have the knowledge and network to get the best rates from special risk providers.
At NextGen Life Insurance, we leverage our expertise and industry insight to find policies that perfectly match your life insurance needs and goals. Get your free quote today or call us at 646-216-4199 to get started.