Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and is a common health condition throughout the population.
The most classic heart disease outcome is a heart attack. Is it possible to get life insurance after a heart attack?
The surprising answer is “yes,” at least in most cases. The major variable, however, will be the premium you’ll pay for your policy.
That will depend on a large number of factors, including how recent the heart attack was, how well you’ve been doing since, the extent of the damage caused by the heart attack, and your future prognosis.
If you’ve had a heart attack, or any other significant health condition, you’ve come to the right place.
As life insurance brokers, we specialize in high-risk life insurance.
That includes not only serious health conditions, but also high-risk occupations, high-risk hobbies, and even certain behaviors (like smoking) that are viewed negatively by the life insurance industry.
With that in mind, let’s take a close look at the implications of life insurance after heart attack.
Table of Contents
What is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack is generally caused by a blockage that impedes the flow of blood to your heart.
As a result of the blockage, the heart muscle can’t get the oxygen needed to keep it pumping, resulting in the death of the tissue of the heart.
That can lead to permanent damage of the heart muscle, limiting the ability of the heart to function properly.
The more technical term for a heart attack is myocardial infarction, and more than 1 million Americans experience this event each year.
Symptoms include discomfort, pressure, tightness, squeezing, or pain in the chest or below the breastbone or the arm. You also may have discomfort that goes to your back, jaw, or arm; a feeling of fullness, indigestion or even a choking feeling; sweating, upset stomach, vomiting or dizziness; severe weakness, anxiety, petite, or shortness of breath, and a fast or uneven heartbeat.
That’s a very broad range of symptoms, which means the potential for ignoring the symptoms and believing them to be something less serious is common.
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Diagnosing a Heart Attack
Often, a heart attack isn’t determined until well after the fact. It’s even possible to have a heart attack that presents no symptoms whatsoever.
However, coronary artery blockages are not the only reason for heart attacks. A spasm in a coronary artery can also be the cause. During the spasm, the arteries restrict or spasm on and off, cutting off the blood supply to the heart. It can happen even if you don’t have coronary artery disease.
Since each coronary artery sends blood to a different part of the heart, the particular area and size damaged in the attack will vary with each event. The amount of time between the heart attack and subsequent treatment is also a major factor.
Surprisingly, the heart muscle begins to heal shortly after a heart attack. But because scar tissue forms over the damaged area, it can limit how much the heart can pump after the attack.
Heart attacks are commonly diagnosed by EKGs, blood tests, electrocardiography, and cardiac catheterization. Certain medications can be administered, or emergency surgery can be performed, shortly after a heart attack that will minimize the damage and maximize the patient’s outcome.
How Life Insurance Companies Consider Applicants After a Heart Attack
Life insurance after a heart attack is available, but it will come with more scrutiny than would be the case for a healthy applicant.
You should fully expect the level of questioning and documentation to be higher, as the insurance company attempts to gain a full understanding of the extent of your condition, as well as the future prognosis.
Age at time of Heart Attack
One of the first factors a life insurance company looks at is the age at which the heart attack occurred. From insurance, the later in life the attack occurs, the better.
The chance of getting coverage for a heart attack at 62 will be better than if it happened at age 49. This is because the earlier a heart attack occurs in life, the greater the likelihood of recurrence.
Unfortunately, it may be impossible to get a traditional life insurance policy if you have a heart attack before 50, though there are certain policies designed specifically for people in that situation.
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Severity of the Heart Attack
The severity of the heart attack is also a major factor. They’ll mostly assess the level of damage done to your heart, and how much the heart muscle has recovered after the fact.
For example, if a heart attack was caused by one or two blocked coronary arteries, the insurance outcome will be more favorable than if it was a result of three or more blocked vessels.
Your height-to-weight ratio is an important consideration. Heart disease of all types is considered to be closely related to lifestyle, and one indication of a healthy one is maintaining normal body weight.
It’s critical to maintain a balanced diet any regular exercise routine immediately after a heart attack, and to get as close to normal body weight as possible.
If you are obese, or morbidly obese – subsequent to having a heart attack – you’ll either pay a very high premium for coverage, or be referred to a guaranteed issue policy.
If so, the death benefit will be limited, and no benefits will be paid within the first two or three years of policy issuance.
Following Your Treatment Regimen
Your complicity in following your treatment regimen will be critical. That includes regular visits to your cardiologist and other recommended specialists, as well as taking prescribed medications and participating in other therapies deemed to be necessary.
Other Risk Factors
Finally, the life insurance company will be concerned with any other risk factors you have. These can include other health conditions, such as diabetes, behavioral issues – like smoking – or even high-risk occupations or hobbies.
The stronger you are apart from your heart condition, the greater the likelihood of both approval and a lower premium.
How Much Will Life Insurance with Heart Disease Cost?
This is really the main question when it comes to life insurance after a heart attack. The life insurance industry has grown to be able to accommodate nearly every health profile. It’s mostly a matter of how much coverage you can buy, and what premium you’ll pay for that coverage.
From the start, you should understand that you’ll be unlikely to qualify for the lowest premiums if you’ve had a heart attack. Those include preferred plus, preferred, and standard plus.
But if your heart attack was relatively mild, and is currently well-managed, it may be possible to qualify for a standard rating. That means you’ll be able to get a premium level based on the health profile of a person in average health.
To the degree that your situation is more serious, you may receive a substandard rating, also referred to as a table rating. The typical life insurance company will have 10 table ratings, which may be listed either numerically or alphabetically. Each higher number or letter will correspond to a 25% increase in the premium you would pay over a standard rated life insurance policy.
For example, if the life insurance company issues your policy with a premium table rating of 5, you’ll pay a premium that’s 125% higher than that for a standard rating (5 X 25%).
A $1,000 premium under a standard rating would then translate into $2,250 with a table rating of 5. This is, of course, much more expensive than the premium for a standard rated policy, but you will still be eligible for traditional life insurance in any amount you can afford.
Improve Your Chances of Life Insurance Acceptance After a Heart Attack
As discussed earlier, it’s important to maintain your overall health in the best manner possible. That means being proactive about seeking medical treatment for your condition, eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, and maintaining proper body weight.
You should also avoid any potential health impairing behaviors, like smoking or excess alcohol consumption.
The type of policy and length are also important. Whole life insurance is permanent life insurance coverage, and it’s usually more difficult to get after a heart attack or other major health condition.
A better choice will be a term policy. For example, you’re more likely to be approved for a 10-year term policy after a heart attack, than you will be for a whole life policy.
At the same time, a 10-year term policy will also be easier to qualify for than a 30-year term policy, because the likelihood of death within 30 years is much greater than it is within 10 years.
If you’re unable to qualify for a traditional life insurance policy, either term or whole life, you may need to consider guaranteed issue life insurance. It’s a type of life insurance that’s available to applicants considered to be very high risk.
As the name implies, guaranteed issue life insurance will be automatically approved. However, the amount of the death benefit is limited, generally to somewhere between $25,000 to a maximum of $50,000.
What’s more, there’s an extended waiting period that comes with the policy. If you die within the first two or three years that the policy is in force, the death benefit will not be paid.
However, if you die after the waiting period, the full death benefit will be paid by your beneficiaries.
Applying for Life Insurance After a Heart Attack
The single most important strategy for getting the lowest cost life insurance policy is to work with an experienced, knowledgeable life insurance broker.
Many consumers don’t understand the difference between an independent insurance broker and what is known as a “captive” insurance agent.
But a captive insurance agent works for a single insurance company. If that company happens to take a dim view of life insurance after a heart attack, not only will you pay more for the policy than you should, but you may even be declined.
That’s why it’s so important to work with an independent insurance broker. We work with many different life insurance companies and know the ones that take the most favorable view of all types of health-related conditions, including life insurance after a heart attack.
We only place your application with the companies most likely to a) issue an approval, and b) do so at the lowest premium possible.
We’ll also help to determine the right policy for you, whether that’s whole life, term life (and at what length), or if you may need to apply for a guaranteed issue policy.
That will save you both time shopping for the right insurance company, as well as money on the ultimate premium you will pay.
In addition, don’t make an application with the companies that advertise the lowest premiums – under the assumption that they’ll also have the lowest premiums for life insurance with a heart attack.
It’s quite the opposite. Such companies offer the lowest premiums precisely because they are made available only to the youngest, healthiest applicants. The most likely outcome, if you apply after a heart attack, is that your application will be declined.
Take advantage of our experience in placing applicants with heart attacks and other health-related conditions. It’s what we specialize in. And our services won’t cost you anything extra. We are paid by the life insurance companies to place your application with them, and at no additional cost to you.