Buying life insurance after a heart attack
A heart attack can strike at any time. The latest statistics from the American Heart Association show that 5.7 million men and women suffer heart failure every year.
The good news is researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine found that hospital death rates within the first 30 days of a heart attack are decreasing. In 1995, 14.6 percent of heart attack patients died in the hospital, compared to 10 percent in 2006. While there have been vast improvements in the prevention and treatment of heart attacks, a heart attack will still raise a red flag if you apply for life insurance.
Life insurance rates will depend on the severity of your heart disease and the steps you've taken to treat it.
"We are able to offer an insurance policy to the vast majority of people with a history of heart disease," says Christopher Graham, vice president and chief underwriter at Hartford Life.
While a heart attack will almost certainly disqualify you from the best "preferred" life insurance rates, according to Graham, people have qualified for "standard" rates in spite of coronary conditions.
What can you do?
"We are able to offer an insurance policy to the vast majority of people with a history of heart disease."
— Christopher Graham,
So how can you get the best possible life insurance premiums after a heart attack? The first step is to wait a while. You could save substantial money by waiting a year or two.
"For many impairments, the more recent the occurrence, the less favorable the rates," says Graham. "We want to look at what happens afterwards. Are you continuing to see your physician? Are you following the prescribed treatment? Is your condition reacting favorably to the treatment and is the condition stabilized or eliminated?"
Some life insurers will charge a "flat extra" premium on top of the rate charged for your heart condition for the first few years after a heart attack or similar occurrence. Delaying your insurance purchase will allow the insurer to see what steps you've taken to improve your health since your heart attack.
Of course, while you are waiting you also need to take steps to improve your health. Following your doctor's orders is one of the most significant things you can to do to help make sure you pay the best premium possible for life insurance.
"Your doctor will tell you to lower your cholesterol, change your diet, keep track of your blood pressure, take your medications and exercise. It's tried and true and the best advice," says Graham. "Work with your physician to stabilize your condition and make sure that it is all evident in your doctor's records."
Make sure the life insurance company knows
Making sure the steps you have taken and your successes are detailed in your medical files will help the insurance underwriter assign you lower premiums. The more specific the information you provide, the more likely you are to get the best life insurance rates possible.
Patients who are more proactive and who show they are paying attention to their health tend to reassure underwriters.
"As with anything, [an underwriter] can sometimes be on the fence as to what kind of an offer to make to a life insurance applicant," says Graham. "If you feel good about their care and prognosis, you will usually fall on the side of the more aggressive offer."
Medical underwriting criteria vary greatly among life insurance companies, so comparison shopping is crucial for finding good rates.