Life Insurance after a Heart Attack? You Bet!

October 26, 2010

There’s no surprise that having “heart attack” listed in your medical history is a giant red flag when it comes to applying for life insurance, but even so, you are not automatically deemed “uninsurable” nor will your premiums always be astronomical. Depending on the treatment protocols you have used, the severity of your condition, and your age, you may still be able to get life insurance coverage at reasonable rates.

In the words of Christopher Graham, vice president and chief underwriter for Hartford Life, “We are able to offer an insurance policy to the vast majority of people with a history of heart disease.”

Dr. Robert Gleeson, a medical underwriter and vice president at Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company emphasizes the same thing. “We spend our lives underwriting diseases,” he says, “And, as an industry, we’ve had a lot of experience with coronary disease.”
While your heart attack will likely disqualify you from getting the very best life insurance rates, you may be able to qualify for the second-best tier (“standard” as opposed to “‘preferred”).

Here are three tips to help you get lowest possible life insurance premiums after a heart attack:

  • Document Everything. When you do apply for insurance, be sure to provide documentation for everything you’ve been doing. It’s not enough for YOU to know. The insurer must know. Be specific: it will reassure the underwriters buy into your case. Dr. Gleeson explains why: “If someone tells me that they have high blood pressure but doesn’t give me any more information, I don’t feel very good about issuing a policy without getting more information.”
  • Stay in Treatment: While you’re waiting, you need to be proactive about improving your health. Work with your doctors to change your diet, increase your exercise and take the proper medications to keep your blood pressure stable.
  • Wait a While. You may be able to save money if you wait a year or two after having a heart attack before you buy life insurance, because the longer you can demonstrate that you are taking care of yourself – good cardiogram readings, for example, and low cholesterol, the less of a risk you will seem to be.

Remember that underwriting guidelines vary between insurers and that these guidelines are updated and revised as medical knowledge is expanded and different treatments move from “experimental” to “standard.”
Remember also that just because one life insurance company rejects you doesn’t mean another won’t say “yes.” As with all sorts of insurance, it’s best to shop around.