Life Insurance with Barrett’s Esophagus
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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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Getting life insurance while having pre-existing conditions can be a frustrating task to accomplish, especially if you apply by yourself. While some companies are more lenient than others in their underwriting guidelines, the reality is that some conditions are worse than others and therefore pose a higher risk to the insurer.
This typically results in higher rates or declination. Today, I will discuss the questions and rates you should expect if you suffer from Barrett’s esophagus and are seeking life insurance.
What Is Barrett’s Esophagus
Barrett’s esophagus is a serious complication of GERD, which stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. It is typically found in patients with a history of heartburn, reflux, or other gastrointestinal symptoms.
Barrett’s esophagus is linked with an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer, which has about five years of survival rate. This is why the insurer is concerned. The symptoms are frequent heartburn, difficulty swallowing food, and chest pain.
What Are the Insurance Companies Looking for When Insuring Individuals with Barrett’s Esophagus?
The underwriting consideration for Barrett’s esophagus will highly depend on the biopsy report, which will further confirm whether there is dysplasia present, and if dysplasia (cellular abnormality) is present, whether it is high-grade (moderate to severe) or low-grade (mild).
Since cancer risk is at its highest for those with moderate to severe dysplasia, your application will be postponed until after surgery or when a follow-up biopsy shows negative for dysplasia.
Let’s take a look at a few other questions the underwriter will ask.
1. Date of First Diagnosis
This is a typical first question for all high-risk individuals. In essence, if you were diagnosed with mild dysplasia within the past year, your application will be postponed for a year unless a follow-up biopsy shows negative for dysplasia.
If, however, you were diagnosed with severe dysplasia, you should expect to be postponed for two years after treatment and to pay substantially more after that.
2. Have You Had Any of the Following Treatments?
- Endoscopic procedure: The underwriter will want to know the dates and results of the evaluation.
- Surgery: If you had one, you will have to wait two years before applying for a life insurance policy. After five years, you will not be rated, provided there are no complications and no further surveillance is recommended.
3. Are Any of the Following Present?
- Dysplasia, low-grade: This means that some of the cells look abnormal, but currently do not have the ability to spread. This is a very early form of pre-cancer of the esophagus.
- Dysplasia, high-grade: This is a more advanced form of cell abnormality than low-grade dysplasia.
Takeaway: Unfortunately, as long as dysplasia is present, the application will be declined until a follow-up biopsy shows negative for dysplasia.
4. Are You on Any Medications or Treatments?
This opens the door wide for the underwriter to assess the overall risk you pose to the carrier. There are a few treatments available, such as surgery, cryoablation therapy, and endoscopic surveillance.
When it comes to medications, there are two categories: One that reduces the level of acid in your stomach, and one that boosts the degree of movement in the upper gastrointestinal tract.
From the underwriter’s point of view, you will be declined coverage if you are on endoscopic surveillance or just had surgery. Anytime your ailment is controlled via medications with no history of dysplasia, you will not be rated.
What Rate Class Can I Qualify for If I Have Barrett’s Esophagus?
As mentioned above if dysplasia is still present, you will not be eligible for coverage.
Here are the two other conditions under which you can get a policy:
- Mild (low-grade) dysplasia: Within one year of surgery and follow-up biopsy showing negative for dysplasia, you will not be rated.
- Moderate to severe (high-grade) dysplasia: You will have to wait two years before applying for coverage, and you will be charged an extra $5 flat rate per $1,000 of coverage for a maximum period of three years (100k of coverage will cost $50 extra per month). You will not be rated if you apply five years after the surgery and no further surveillance is recommended.
What Other Questions Will the Underwriter Ask?
Here are a few other questions you will need to answer:
- Current age
- State of residence
- Height and weight
- Income and liabilities
- High-risk hobbies (if any)
- Current and past health history
- Family history
- Foreign travel
- Smoking habits
- Alcohol habits
- Driving history
- Criminal history
- Prescription usage
Life Insurance with Barrett’s Esophagus Sample Monthly Rates
40-Year-Old Male Nonsmoker on a 20-Year Term
40-Year-Old Female Nonsmoker on a 20-Year Term
50-Year-Old Male Nonsmoker on a 20-Year Term
50-Year-Old Female Nonsmoker on a 20-Year Term
60-Year-Old Male Nonsmoker on a 20-Year Term
60-Year-Old Female Nonsmoker on a 20-Year Term
When it comes to getting life insurance with Barrett’s esophagus, the underwriter’s decision is cut and dry. If there is no history of dysplasia, documented by endoscopy, you will not be rated and can qualify for coverage.
With severe or moderate dysplasia, you will be denied coverage unless it was treated with ablation or surgical resection and the follow-up shows negative for dysplasia.
Even then, you will be rated higher prices up to five years after the treatment as long as no further surveillance is recommended.