When it comes to matters of the heart, people are understandably concerned with their chances of getting life insurance with an irregular heartbeat. Some conditions are considered mild and of no concern, while others are very serious and could get you denied.
Having an irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, does not mean you will be denied when applying for a life insurance though. However, the cause, symptoms, and diagnosis are some of the key factors which will determine your rating and whether or not you will be approved.
The good (and bad) news is, so many people have been diagnosed with heart conditions that life insurance companies are finding ways to make sure they can approve them. What does this mean for you?
The life insurance company needs a lot more information from you and your doctor on your specific condition during the application process. Your lifestyle and habits will also be looked at closely to determine how risky it is to approve your application.
Let’s take a look at what it means to have an arrhythmia and how it can affect your chances of getting approved for life insurance. We’ll also give you some tips to make sure you get the best rate when you do apply.
What are the causes and symptoms of an irregular heartbeat?
A doctor will first determine if your irregular heartbeat is due to too slow or too fast of a beat in the cycle. A heartbeat that is too slow is diagnosed as bradycardia. A heartbeat that is too fast is tachycardia.
Some people have an irregular heartbeat with no ill effects. However, others can find themselves being rushed to the hospital and undergoing emergency heart surgery.
Causes of arrhythmia:
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Heart disease
- Heart muscle changes
- Post heart attack injury
- Post heart surgery complication
Symptoms of arrhrythmia:
- Dizziness or feeling of lightheadedness
- Feeling like your heart is pounding very hard in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Weakness or fatigue
- Chest tightness
- Heart palpitations or fluttering
Types of arrhythmia explained
There are several types of irregular heartbeat. We will list a few of the most common types here:
- Premature atrial contractions – extra heartbeats which start in the upper artia chambers of the heart. These contractions are usually not cause for concern and no treatment is typically needed.
- Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) – most common type of irregular heartbeat and usually felt when overly stressed, too much caffeine consumption, or electrolytes are off. However, PVCs could also be caused by heart disease, so if you can’t attribute it to other factors, it’s best to see a cardiologist to rule out greater concern.
- Atrial flutter – common right after heart surgery or in those with heart disease.
- Atrial fibrillation – abnormal heartbeat in the upper atrial chambers and is considered common, usually preceded by an atrial flutter.
If your doctor suspects that you have an irregular heartbeat, they will need to complete one or more tests to confirm the diagnosis and deliver a treatment plan.
Tests needed to determine type of arrhythmia
Tests to determine an arrhythmia can include:
- Head-up tilt table test
- Event monitor – this monitor may be worn up to a month to collect data on your heart rhythm for your doctor to review
- Holtor monitor or portable EKG
- Cardiac stress test
- Cardiac catherization
Once tests have been completed and your doctor is able to diagnose your type of irregular heartbeat, they will make a treatment plan which can include one or more of the following:
- Electrical Cardioversion – the doctor will try to restart your heartbeat to a normal rhythm by sending an electrical shock to the heart
- Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) – typically used when diagnosed with ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation
- Catheter Ablation – a catheter is inserted in the leg and high frequency electrical energy is sent to the heart to try to reset the abnormal heartbeat
- Heart surgery
Questions to be prepared for when applying for life insurance with an irregular heartbeat
Make a list of all the information needed so that once you are ready to complete the life insurance application, you can breeze right through. This will eliminate having to spend more time getting everything together and having to make more phone calls to complete the application.
If you don’t have the answers to some of these questions, that’s okay. It might be worth it to make a call to your doctor’s office to get the information. You can also have them send you a copy of your chart as well.
The list may seem like a lot but remember you need to show the underwriters that even though you have a problem with your heart, you are working with your doctor and doing everything you can to resolve the issue.
- What is your doctors full name, phone number, address? This is for all your doctors – primary care, cardiologist, and any specialist you are or have seen in the last 3-5 years
- What symptoms do you have?
- When was your first episode?
- When was your most recent episode?
- What tests have you done and what were the results?
- How long ago were the tests completed?
- What was the diagnosis and type of arrhythmia?
- What treatment plan has your doctor authorized?
- Did your doctor determine an underlying cause for your condition?
- What medications are you taking and what dosage?
How can I get the best rate on life insurance with an irregular heartbeat?
Here are some tips on making sure you get the best rate when applying for a life insurance policy.
Follow your doctor’s treatment plan
Whatever plan your doctor has put in place, make sure you are following it. The underwriters will get the information on your treatment plan from your doctor during the review process. If it’s clear you are not following it, you run a high chance of being denied.
If you are a smoker and have any heart issues, you will likely be denied by the life insurance company. So if you smoke, now is the best time to quit! Most insurance companies look back 12 months or more when determining smoker status. You will be asked as part of the application if you have ever smoked and if so, how long it has been since you quit.
If you are not already leading an active lifestyle, you should be. Cardiovascular exercise is not just good for your heart, it’s good for your overall health. Make sure you are being active by walking for at least 30 minutes per day. Your heart and waistline will thank you.
Eat heart healthy foods
Being active is only part of living a healthy lifestyle. You also have to eat healthy foods, and this is especially true if you have heart issues like an irregular heartbeat. If you are unsure what foods are heart healthy, we’ve got a few here to add to your grocery list.
- Fresh herbs
- Black beans
- Olive oil
- Sweet potato
- Swiss chard
- Flax seed
Address any other health issues
This is especially true if your other health issues are heart related. Following the tips outlined above can get you on the road to recovery by leading a more healthy lifestyle. However, if you still have underlying health issues, the chances of getting denied go up.
Get more than one life insurance quote
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), there are almost 900 life insurance companies in the United States. That is a lot of different companies and they all have different underwriting guidelines and criteria that determines rates.
It doesn’t hurt to get as many different quotes as possible to determine which company will be the most likely to give you the best rate and pricing.
But don’t go applying with a bunch of different companies. Some people might think that they increase their chances of getting approved by applying with different companies. Actually, the opposite is true.
Even though this tactic works great when looking for home and auto insurance, it does not work with life insurance and can get you outright denied before the underwriters even review your case. The Medical Information Bureau is a resource used by health and life insurance underwriters to view approvals and denials on applicants.
You can be sure that any application that had a determination of approval or denial is housed in this database. One of the questions you are asked on the life insurance application is if you have been denied for life insurance before.
If you have, and you are likely to reply “Yes” if you have submitted multiple applications with a heart problem, they are going to take a hard look at your MIB data and likely deny your application.
What rate can I expect with an arrhythmia?
Almost impossible. If your arrhythmia is mild and no treatment was prescribed, you are being monitored by a cardiologist, and you are in perfect health other than your heart, you might be able to get this rating.
Highly unlikely. You have a better chance of getting a Preferred rating than Preferred Plus if all the factors listed above hold true for your health.
Possible. If you have a normal BMI, lead an active and healthy lifestyle and have no other health issues. If you have had any treatment plan that includes medication or other heart intervention, you won’t get approved with this rating.
Substandard (Table Rating
Most likely rating. A substandard rating is going to be your best rate if you aren’t active and are still have issues regulating your heartbeat. Underwriters know that heart issues typically lead to other health issues and these individuals have a higher mortality risk.
It is possible to get denied, even if this is your first life insurance application. If you have other heart or health issues and have had a device installed to regulate your heartbeat, you won’t be approved for a standard life insurance policy.
What happens if I’m denied or the rate is too expensive?
You have a couple of different options if you are denied or get a rate approved that you can’t afford.
Luckily, being denied with one company doesn’t mean you won’t get approved with another. At this point, you should look into getting a Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance policy. Like the name suggests, as long as you haven’t been diagnosed as terminal and can pay your premiums, you can get approved.
The downside to going this route is that you might not get as much coverage as you want and the rate can be expensive. But, if it’s your only alternative, it’s better to have some coverage than none at all.
You always have the option to reapply for standard life insurance if your health improves down the road. If you’ve been denied, now is the best time to take a hard look at your lifestyle, make some changes, and make it your goal to be approved next time.
The rate is too expensive
If the rate you were approved for is too expensive for you to afford, you also have options. You can choose to keep the policy but lower the coverage amount. This will lower the premium you have to pay.
Or, you can talk with an agent to see if there are other companies that specialize in providing rates to people with heart issues. If you didn’t talk with an agent before applying the first time, it is likely the reason you were denied. An agent is invaluable when helping people navigate the companies to find the best one to work with their health concerns.
If you are ready to work with an agent to get the best quote for your health, start today by getting a free quote to see what your options are.