Today we’ll discuss what the process of applying for life insurance will typically look like if you’re applying with a pre-existing medical condition like arrhythmia.
In doing so…
It might seem that we don’t go into much detail at times, but this is simply because there are MANY types of arrhythmia and giving a “one size fits all” solution would be both irresponsible and impossible!
When someone applies for life insurance after having been diagnosed with an arrhythmia, it is fairly common that that person can “potentially” qualify for a Preferred rate, while another person suffering from an arrhythmia may be denied, immediately!
Ultimately, it all boils down to:
- The general state of your health, apart from the fact that you have an irregular heartbeat.
- And, which type of arrhythmia you have been diagnosed.
Having said that however…
There are similarities between many arrhythmias which will allow us to make some “generalizations” when describing the approach insurance underwriters will likely take when considering your application.
Definition of Arrhythmia .
Arrhythmias are generally defined as a heartbeat that is abnormal. This could be too fast, irregular, or too slow.
Symptoms of an arrhythmia.
- No symptoms. Strange as it may seem, there are cases where the individual doesn’t know they have an arrhythmia.
- “Pitter-patter” sensation or fluttering in the chest.
- Dizziness or fainting.
- Chest pains.
Treatment for an arrhythmia.
Treatments for arrhythmia may vary significantly from doing nothing to surgery, it’s all going to come down to how “severe” your situation is. Arrhythmias can also be treated with prescription anti-arrhythmic drugs.
Arrhythmia types that are most common.
Premature Atrial Contractions
One of the types of arrhythmias we most often see here at InsuranceBrokersUSA are Premature Atrial Contractions (PACs). This is mainly because this type is very common in the United States. This type of arrhythmias is caused by the nerve cells firing prematurely within the atrium, resulting in premature contractions.
For those with PACs, the good news is that most cases are harmless and need little to no treatment. Most PAC cases are diagnosed in healthy individuals with little (if any) evidence of heart disease.
Clients with PACs can often get Preferred or Preferred Plus insurance rates. If the PAC however occurs often, even those clients may be classified as having an increased life insurance risk.
Premature Ventricular Contractions (Bigeminy)
Patients with abnormal extra heartbeats are classified as having Premature Ventricular Contractions (PVCs). These start in the lower ventricle chambers of the heart and the patient will describe it as a fluttering feeling in the chest.
PVCs could be harmful for patients with other heart problems, but for most individuals with PVC, treatment will not be required.
Some patients who have PVCs are uncomfortable with the feeling the abnormal heartbeats cause. Medications (beta blockers) are available that will lessen the symptoms. Many environment triggers are known for increasing the risk of PVCs, including caffeine and nicotine. If these triggers are avoided, it could also reduce the symptoms of PVC.
Individual that have PVCs could possibly qualify for good life insurance rates as PVCs are generally not considered dangerous and will often be diagnosed in patients that don’t have any other heart disease.
Bradycardia is when the heart beats abnormally slow (less than 60 bpm). Bradycardia can be caused by:
- Electrolyte imbalance.
- Reactions to a variety of prescription medications.
- An atrioventricular block.
Treatment for bradycardia
The treatment for bradycardia will depend on the primary cause. This could be as simple as avoiding certain medication to having a pacemaker installed.
Insurance underwriters will also treat applicants with bradycardia differently, depending on the underlying cause. In many cases however, coverage for a whole life or traditional term insurance policy will still be possible.
Tachycardia is defined as a heartbeat that is abnormally fast and the cause could be a number of conditions. At InsuranceBrokersUSA, the ones we see most often are:
- Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) or Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). This arrhythmia is characterized by a heartbeat that is faster than normal and starts above the ventricular chambers.
- Sinus tachycardia. This variation is caused by the sinus node firing impulses at a high rate and leads to the heart beating faster than 100 beats per minute.
- Ventricular tachycardia (VT).VT will be diagnosed if a heartbeat is abnormally fast and starts in the ventricular chambers of the heart.
Atrial fibrillation is also referred to as Afib or AF. This type of arrhythmia worries insurance companies. With AF, problems occur when the lower heart chambers (ventricles) and the upper heart chambers (atria) do not beat in sync.
Patients with AF will experience a higher heart rate and symptoms comparable to heart tremors. These cause shortness of breath, fatigue, or feeling light-headed.
As many other health factors have an influence on people diagnosed with AF, obtaining life insurance coverage for those individuals becomes complicated.
Although you can in theory qualify for any of the 14 possible rate classes available if you have AF, any rating better than Standard should be seen as a bonus.
Atrial flutters (AFL) is categorized as a supra-ventricular tachycardia where a heartbeat that is abnormally fast originates in the atrial chambers and then continues through the complete beating process.
As approximately 200,000 people are diagnosed as having atrial flutter each year, we have listed it as a distinct type of arrhythmia and have written a separate article on Tips for Quality Life Insurance for Those Diagnosed with Atrial Flutter.
Now if we were doctors…
And not just life insurance agents, we would explain the seriousness of an abnormally fast heartbeat, but…
- We are not doctors
- We did not go to medical school
- And even figuring out how to spell these medical conditions in this article gave us a real headache…
So, from here on out, we’re going to stick with what we know…
Insurance underwriters will examine applications from people diagnosed with tachycardia in more detail than applications from people with atrial or premature ventricular contractions.
Although these clients could probably still qualify for Preferred rates, many insurance underwriters will spend more time going through their application before signing off on any approvals.
The life insurance process for people with Arrhythmias
Now that the most common types of arrhythmias have been listed and we’ve briefly discussed how they might be viewed by life insurance companies, let’s look at the workings of the life insurance application process and how life insurers will decide whom to insure and who not.
Life insurance policy types
When you apply for life insurance, there are 3 categories you should be aware of:
- Whole life and traditional term policies.
- Whole life and simplified issue term policies.
- Guaranteed issue whole life policies.
For our purpose however…
Since we’re already aware that you have been diagnosed with an arrhythmia, many if not most simplified issue life insurance policies can already be eliminated as those policies will be difficult to qualify for due to the fact that insurance companies will have less information to base their decision on which is why they’ll tend to “err on the side of caution” and choose not to approve many individuals who would easily qualify for a traditional term or whole life insurance policy.
This leaves us with…
Traditional term or whole life insurance options and guaranteed issue life insurance policies. A quick look at each will show how these policies could be an option for anyone diagnosed with an arrhythmia.
Whole life insurance or fully underwritten term options
People tend to think about fully underwritten life insurance policies when they think about life insurance. With these policies, a person needs to:
- Apply for a policy.
- Answer questions relating to their health.
- Take a medical exam (This might include an EKG).
- Wait a few weeks before knowing whether they have been approved.
What is not commonly known is that insurance companies also…
- Request a DMV report.
- Request a prescription database check to determine which medications are being used and what has been prescribed previously.
- Request copies of all medical records.
- Request a criminal background check.
- Insurance companies might also do a soft credit check to find out if you have filed for insolvency in the last 2 years.
Fully underwritten life insurance policies require many questions to be answered and many reports need to be submitted before your application will be approved.
Once it is known that you have been diagnosed with an arrhythmia, insurance underwriters normally ask you additional questions to find out more about the extent of your condition. These questions could be something like:
- Who diagnosed your condition – a general practitioner or a cardiologist?
- Which type of arrhythmia have you been diagnosed with?
- How often do you see a cardiologist or primary care physician?
- When were you diagnosed?
- Have you suffered from a stroke or heart attack?
- Are you receiving treatment for your condition? If yes, what does the treatment entail?
- Have you ever been hospitalized for your condition?
- Have any of your immediate family members ever had a heart attack or stroke?
- What is your weight and height?
- What symptoms do you experience?
- Have you used nicotine or tobacco products in the past 12 months?
- Are you currently working?
- Have you applied for, or received disability benefits in the past 12 months?
From the answers to these questions, the insurance company will have a good overview of the seriousness of your condition, as well as a fair indication about the type of life insurance you are eligible for and what rate you will be eligible for.
Until your application has been completed and the insurance underwriter has obtained all the information required, you won’t know for certain if you are eligible for coverage or at what rate.
One thing we try…
Do is “tilt to odds” in your favor. We use the information collected in your insurance application to put you in contact with the life insurance company who we think might be the best for you, based on the company’s internal underwriting guidelines.
You should know that…
Here at InsuranceBrokersUSA, we have consciously chosen to stay an independent life insurance broker and we can therefore work with many life insurance companies. This means that we do not rely on a few insurance companies when we help you find the best life insurance policy for you, but we can literally shop with dozens!
What happens if…
You simply don’t qualify for a fully underwritten insurance policy?
We will then look at other types of life insurance policies that are accessible. These policies don’t require a medical exam and don’t need any health questions answered!
These policies are known as guaranteed issue life insurance policies and, if you are between 40 and 85 years old and an American citizen, you will qualify. Note: guaranteed issue life insurance policies are not available in all states.
Advantages of guaranteed issue life insurance policies
The major advantages of guaranteed issue life insurance policies are:
- Applications are easy and quick and can normally be done via email or over the phone.
- If you meet the two main requirements for approval, coverage won’t be denied.
- Approvals are often given within 24 hours, meaning you don’t have to wait for weeks before you are covered.
Guaranteed issue life insurance policy disadvantages
The major disadvantages of guaranteed issue life insurance policies are:
A guaranteed issue life insurance policy won’t offer big amounts of life insurance cover. Most guaranteed issue life insurance policies offer a maximum cover of $25,000 dollars. If $25,000 dollars isn’t enough for you, this type of policy might not be the ideal choice for you.
These policies are more expensive than any other life insurance policies.
This doesn’t necessarily imply that your premium will be huge, it simply means that what you pay for $25,000 dollars in cover might be the same as what another person would typically pay for $250,000 dollars in cover.
The reason for this is logical: prices for life insurance policies are determined by your health and the likelihood of you dying soon. The better your health is and the longer you’re likely to live, the cheaper your policy will be.
Guaranteed issue life insurance policies always have a graded death benefit clause incorporated.
Defining Graded Death Benefit
A Graded death benefit clause in a guaranteed issue life insurance policy states that for your policy to pay out when you die of “natural” causes such as stroke, cancer, diabetes, or heart disease, you must “outlive” a specific waiting period, referred to as a graded death time.
This “waiting time” could be different but will normally be between 2 and 3 years dependent on the insurance company. An accidental cause of death such as natural disasters and car accidents will however be covered immediately.
You may wonder why guaranteed issue life insurance policies have graded death benefit clauses
The answer is simply that as a guaranteed issue life insurance policy won’t need a medical exam or ask any health questions. This means that the insurance company won’t know how healthy or sick you are.
They therefore use a graded death benefit to limit their risk with applicants that may be extremely ill, or even weeks or days away from dying!
For more information about guaranteed issue life insurance policies and graded death benefits, please call us.
We do know that…
Just because we’ve given you a heap of information in the article, we don’t expect you to all of a sudden be an expert. We do however hope that you realize that even with a pre-existing condition such as an arrhythmia, you may still possibly have options and you simply need to contact an agency that knows its way around the pitfalls!
Why are you waiting? Call us today to find out how we help you!