Surviving a heart attack can change your life. It may also change the way you think about life insurance and the consequences for your loved ones if you hadn’t survived.
The short answer to the above question is yes; you can still get life insurance after a heart attack. What you get will depend on several factors such as the severity of the heart attack, your age, and how much time has passed since your event.
In this post, I will cover the underwriter’s questions, the coverages you can obtain with a history of heart attack, and sample rates to give you an idea of the different scenarios you should expect.
Heart Attack Facts
Below are heart attack facts according to the CDC.
- About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year – that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. More than half of the deaths due to heart disease in 2009 were in men.
- Coronary heart disease) is the most common type of heart disease, killing over 370,000 people annually.
- Every year, about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack, and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.
What Are the Insurance Companies Looking for When Insuring Heart Attack Survivors?
The unfortunate truth is that any health event, whether it’s cancer, heart attack or diabetes, makes life insurance harder to buy and more expensive. Any pre-existing condition will trigger a different set of questions by the underwriter to assess the overall risk you pose to the insurance carrier.
The underwriting process is the evaluation of your eligibility for coverage and the rates you should expect to pay.
Let’s review of the questions you should prepare to answer when shopping for life insurance with a history of heart attack.
Date(s) of the Heart Attack(s)
Let me open with the brutal fact: If your heart attack (myocardial infarction) happened within the last six months, you will not be able to apply for a traditional policy, and I advise you to wait.
The underwriter is looking for reassurance that your situation is stable before approving you for coverage. Note that multiple heart attacks will almost always result in declined coverage.
Do Any of These Apply to You?
- Echocardiogram – a test using sound waves to generate images of your heart to identify heart disease
- Coronary catheterization – a procedure to diagnose and treat cardiovascular conditions
- Coronary angiography – a procedure that uses special dye and x-rays to evaluate the blood flow through the arteries
- Bypass surgery – a surgery to restore normal blood flow to the arteries
- Heart failure – a condition in which the heart doesn’t pump blood as it should
- Arrhythmia – an irregular heartbeat that can be too slow or fast
Takeaway: The underwriter is trying to gauge the risk you pose based on the treatment and diagnostic procedure that was recommended.
How Old Were You When First Suffered a Heart Attack?
Having a heart attack is never good. From the insurance company’s standpoint, though, even if you were younger when you had it, it isn’t going to help you get your policy issued.
Are You on Any Medication?
Make sure you follow your doctor’s orders when it comes to the medications and follow-up visits. Failure to do so is risky not only to your health but to your life insurance application. An individual who doesn’t take the doctor’s advice seriously poses a higher risk, and this is something insurers are trying to avoid.
How Severe Was the Heart Attack?
Heart attacks have severity levels. A mild heart attack only affects a small part of the heart muscle or doesn’t cause permanent damage. A massive heart attack can result in permanent damage to the heart or a more substantial portion of the heart muscle.
You can expect to get a standard rate if you only had one vessel affected, retain normal left ventricular function (55% or higher), and have improved cardiac factors.
Have You Completed an Electrocardiogram Since the Heart Attack?
The electrocardiogram is an old and simple test with useful information about heart’s health. This test measures the electrical activity of the heart muscle as it changes over time. The insurance carrier would like to know the results and the dates.
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
What Rate Class Can I Qualify for If I Am a Heart Attack Survivor?
This is where it gets complicated. Most of the time, if you can get a policy, you will get a table rate, which is 25% or more than the standard rate. As noted before, your age, medication, the severity of the heart attack, and contributing factors such as lipids, weight, etc., will all play a role in determining your rates. It will be impossible for me to estimate it without knowing anything about you.
Let me leave with the following factors that will make your rates even higher or get you declined:
- Heart attack at a young age
- Multiple heart attacks
- New episodes of chest pain
- New electrocardiogram changes
- Being overweight
- Uncontrolled blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Being a smoker
A heart attack is usually a result of another underlying health condition. Whether it’s overweight or bad lipids numbers, the only way for you to get better rates is to address the health ailments that caused the heart attack. If you need to stop smoking or losing weight, do what you can so you will not only improve your health but get better rates for life insurance.
Life Insurance for Heart Attack Survivors 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
Underwriting a potential client who is looking for life insurance after a heart attack involves many moving pieces. It is in your best interest to work with an experienced broker and be honest about your health issues so he/she can do their job and find a company who is willing to insure you.