10 Costliest Life Insurance Health Conditions

  • High blood pressure: Keep a lid on it

    First the bad news: If your blood pressure has never remotely approached 120 over 80, an underwriter will wonder why.

    "High blood pressure that's not well-controlled can lead to a lot of end-organ diseases like coronary artery disease, stroke, kidney damage, peripheral artery disease -- a lot of different vascular complications," says Goldstein.

    The good news: "The industry underwrites very favorably individuals who have high blood pressure that is well-controlled and well-managed," Goldstein says. "Every company would have different criteria, but if your physician started you on some medication and it shows by a couple of readings that you're in really good control, most carriers would look at that very favorably."

    Could someone with high blood pressure qualify for a preferred policy?

    "Yes, they could," she says. "Different carriers have different categories of preferred, but yes, high blood pressure that is well-managed, most carriers would have that qualified for preferred."

  • Type 2 diabetes: Youth works against you

    Type 2 (or adult onset) diabetes presents a challenge to underwriters because of the toll it takes on the body's vascular system. It can lead to coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease, renal failure and blindness.

    "It absolutely can affect risk class because there are a lot of potentially life-threatening complications that can result from diabetes," says Goldstein.

    Youth works against the Type 2 applicant. "The younger they are, the higher the risks as they get older," says Goldstein. "If I get diabetes at age 70, I might already have coronary artery disease or a stroke anyway, so the impact of the diabetes might not affect my life expectancy in the way it might a 40-year-old. A 40-year-old is unlikely to qualify for preferred in my experience."

    Bloom says the key to affordable coverage is control and management.

    "We would take into consideration whether the proposed insured is under the care of a medical professional and whether the condition is well-controlled. Some conditions may require a period of time after diagnosis -- for example, six to 12 months -- before we could insure the client," he says.

  • Heart disease: Insurers fear the 'big one'

    Heart disease will always flag a life insurance underwriter for the simple reason that "the big one," a massive heart attack, can be sudden and deadly. Heart disease itself encompasses a wide range of diseases and conditions, from atherosclerosis to a prolapsed mitral valve. Because the severity and progression of heart disease can be difficult to document, underwriters typically take a second look at the applicant's family tree for guidance.

    "We do consider family history in our underwriting assessments," says Bloom. "Generally, this is associated with immediate family members -- father, mother, sister, brother -- who may have developed heart disease or had a stroke."

    Will heart disease keep you out of the preferred risk class?

    "In general, coronary artery disease in a 40-year-old would usually be looked at carefully and could be something that is rated (not preferred)," says Goldstein. "If it is actually very, very severe to where the heart has significant damage to it so that it is not pumping effectively, it could actually be a situation that is not insurable."

    Our 40-year-old man may be asked to undergo an electrocardiogram prior to becoming insured.

  • Asthma: Well-managed asthma sufferers can breathe easy

    Asthma is a common chronic respiratory condition in which the airways suddenly and unexpectedly constrict, causing coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and a tightening of the chest.

    "There are asthma deaths, but for individuals who are under good medical care, that would be a rare circumstance," says Goldstein.

    An underwriter's concern about asthma would likely rise in relation to the severity of the condition and how well it is managed.

    Should an asthma sufferer aspire to a premium rate class? Absolutely, says Goldstein.

    "An individual who has well-controlled asthma could well be a preferred underwriting risk. For the most part, asthma will be extremely favorably underwritten," she says.

    "On the other hand, although we hardly ever see this, if someone who has asthma is ending up in the hospital several times a year, that would be a less favorable risk."

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