UPDATED: Mar 26, 2020
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We’re back with the third and final installment in our series about heart health and its impact on your term life insurance. First we looked at the various measurements taken and tests performed during the paramedical exam. Then we talked about the ways life insurance company underwriters use some of this information to evaluate your application. We kept this discussion mostly to the basics such as blood pressure and cholesterol.
Today, we are going to explore the more advanced testing that is sometimes required by life insurance companies. These requirements usually come into play for applicants with medical history of heart disease or complications, older applicants and people applying for large amounts of term life insurance.
An EKG is a test that records the electrical activity of your heart. An EKG is not always required by the life insurance company. Typically, an EKG will be needed if you are over the age of 60 or if you are applying for a large amount of coverage such as $1 million+.
Companies use the EKG test results to see if there are any underlying heart conditions or to verify heart related information found in your medical records.
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The exercise EKG is similar to the resting EKG, only the test is conducted while you walk/run on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike. It is sometimes called a ‘stress’ test or ‘treadmill’ test. Like the resting EKG, the exercise EKG is usually only required for older applicants and very large coverage amounts. An exercise EKG can also be used if results from a resting EKG are inconclusive.
If you have a medical history of heart-related problems, life insurance companies will often refer to your medical records when evaluating your application. They generally look for current or past measurements, test results, medications, procedures, etc.
Life insurance underwriting can be very subjective if you have a history of serious conditions such as heart attack, stroke, or heart-related surgeries. Most companies have a Medical Director (typically a licensed MD) who will review all related medical records in these situations. The company will then use this expert’s opinion when deciding to approve or decline your application and the rate you will pay.
You might be surprised to learn that life insurance companies consider the health history of your family when reviewing your application. For heart-related family history, the company will generally look at your parent’s health, although sometimes they will consider siblings as well. If one or more of your parents died due to cardiovascular disease (e.g. heart attack, stroke) you may pay more for your policy.
Here are typical life insurance company guidelines for family history of cardiovascular disease and the corresponding rating class you are likely to receive. (Note: These guidelines vary by company.)
|Super Preferred||Preferred||Standard Plus|
|Family History – Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)||No CVD in parents/siblings prior to age 60||No deaths in parents prior to age 60||No more than one death in parents prior to age 60|
The unfortunate thing about family history is your parent may have been a health fanatic, or he/she may have smoked two packs a day for 20 years — it doesn’t matter. An early death due to CVD is treated the same way, whether it was in spite of excellent lifestyle choices or due to poor lifestyle choices.
Remember that heart health is one of the most scrutinized areas of a term life insurance application. If you have heart-related medical history or family history of CVD, let your agent know so she/he can find the best life insurance company for you and your situation.