UPDATED: Apr 2, 2020
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Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder affecting people of all ages. Characterized mainly by unpredictable seizures, epilepsy can cause serious additional health complications. Naturally, with so many misconceptions and misinformation, surrounding epilepsy, finding everyday solutions can be tough, including life insurance for epilepsy sufferers.
This article will help you understand the basics of epilepsy and guide you through the steps you or a loved one with epilepsy can take to find the best life insurance for epilepsy available.
Shopping for life insurance with epilepsy starts with obtaining a baseline rate. Before you begin, take a quick moment to enter your ZIP code and get a free instant quote.
Best Companies for Asymptomatic Epilepsy Patients
A good place to start shopping is with larger providers that have been known to offer high-risk policies. The companies below have offered policies for other high-risk individuals who may have had health complications are smokers, or who might have dangerous occupations.
- American General
- Banner Life
- John Hancock
- Lincoln Financial
- Principal Life
- Protective Life
- Pacific Life
Of course, if you can find an agent who specializes in impaired risk policies, it might save you the time of visiting each of the above insurers to understand what might be offered for your specific diagnoses.
As a reference, here are average term life quotes from the top 10 insurance providers for term insurance, just to give you some ballpark figures.
|Age||$100,000 - Male||$100,000 - Female||$250,000 - Male||$250,000 - Female||$500,000 - Male||$500,000 - Female|
Now that you’ve seen some sample rates, let’s talk about how epilepsy affects life insurance rates.
Epilepsy is a chronic disorder recognized and diagnosed by unprovoked seizures. To be diagnosed, a patient must have experienced at least two seizures that were not caused by some other known reversible medical issue.
For example, alcohol withdrawal symptoms or low blood sugar may cause a seizure, but over time or with proper diet, these seizures won’t recur.
Epilepsy is typically diagnosed when seizures are triggered by brain trauma, genetics, and in many cases, unknown causes.
There is no cure for epilepsy. The graphic below from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital site highlights the impact of epilepsy around the globe.
In the United States, about 3.4 million people have active epilepsy, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This boils down to 1.2 percent of the population (3 million adults and over 400,000 children) who actively seek treatment for the disease.
The video below from the Epilepsy Society provides some more details on epilepsy.
The identifying symptom for epilepsy is a seizure. Seizures are categorized into four types:
- A petit mal seizure results in a brief loss of awareness and some inability to control muscles resulting in mouth twitching or rapid blinking. It is a brief disturbance of brain function usually lasting less than 15 seconds due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
- A grand mal seizure, also referred to as a generalized tonic-clonic seizure, is a seizure involving the entire body. The terms “seizure,” convulsion,” or “epilepsy” are most often associated with these generalized tonic-clonic seizures.
- Simple partial seizures are usually classified by the symptoms the person experiences. They can be either motor seizures, sensory seizures, autonomic seizures or physical seizures. During simple partial seizures, the person is fully awake, alert and able to interact during the event.
- Complex partial seizures result in a person remaining awake but losing awareness of their surroundings. These seizures typically last one to two minutes and often come with a warning sign or aura.
Epilepsy is caused by any irregular brain activity. It can affect people of any age. Some people can be born with structural abnormalities of the brain, which can cause epileptic symptoms and seizures.
Trauma, tumors, strokes, or infections that impact the brain can also cause epilepsy.
For a patient to be properly diagnosed with epilepsy, an initial evaluation is performed that will include a neurological exam to test behavior and motor skills.
Additionally, blood work will be examined to check for infections, genetic disorders, and other conditions commonly associated with epilepsy.
After blood work and an initial evaluation, a doctor can request an EEG (electroencephalogram) to be completed. The EEG will record brain wave activity, and doctors will use this activity during regular brain activity or during seizures to identify irregular patterns.
In less common cases, other scan tests might be used, such as CT, MRI, or PET scans.
Each uses a different method to image the brain, allowing doctors to look for irregularities, tumors, or lesions that could result in abnormal brain activity.
The types of tests performed are determined largely by the age of the patient and the ability for doctors to identify the cause of any epileptic seizures.
Types of Epilepsy
Epilepsy doesn’t come in one simple form. Research has identified many different symptoms and patterns that result in different versions of the disease. However, all types of epilepsy have one common symptom: seizures.
In 2017, the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) developed a way to organize and describe seizures.
Based on the type of seizure, a doctor will identify the type of epilepsy a patient has and whether the patient has any specific epilepsy syndrome. From this, doctors will assign a specific type of epilepsy.
The four types of epilepsy are:
- Generalized epilepsy – This type of epilepsy affects both sides of the brain, causing the patient to lose awareness and control over some motor functions during seizures.
- Focal epilepsy – This type of epilepsy is assigned when abnormal brain activity occurs in a specific part of the brain that can be identified. Patients maintain awareness during a seizure.
- Generalized and focal epilepsy – When patients experience both types of seizures, their diagnoses fall under this type of epilepsy.
- Unknown if generalized or focal epilepsy – if a doctor is uncertain where within the brain or how a seizure occurred, they might assign it into this category until further testing can provide more information.
The type of epilepsy you are diagnosed with is important. A proper diagnosis can help epilepsy patients develop a holistic plan including diet, exercise, and medication to manage symptoms.
Living With Epilepsy
Because seizures can be brought on by several factors, it may take a few occurrences before doctors can not only diagnose the type of epilepsy but be certain that the seizures are epileptic.
Once diagnosed, various treatments are available. Depending on the type and severity of symptoms, doctors can choose to treat epilepsy using medications or opt for surgery.
In some cases, both surgery and medications are necessary to prevent the recurrence of seizures.
The good news is that many patients can live comfortable lives if treatments are effective. The video below from the World Health Organization indicates that surgery and medications help about 70 percent of epilepsy patients lead normal lives.
Anti-epileptic drugs have been found to provide complete control for 50 percent of patients. For another 20 to 30 percent, seizure occurrences were dramatically reduced. The remaining 20 percent did not respond to the medications.
Even treatments such as a ketogenic diet have been found to control epileptic seizures, especially with children. Check out the video below to learn a bit more about ketogenic diets and epilepsy.
For patients trying to resume everyday life, some activities may be out of reach or come with additional requirements. Most patients diagnosed with epilepsy will need to meet special requirements before they can assume tasks such as driving.
Overall, seizures might never fully disappear, but treatment has been proven effective to manage symptoms and control seizures.
Life Insurance for Patients Diagnosed With Epilepsy
Life insurance companies want you to live a long, healthy life. For an insurance company, the longer you live means the longer you pay premiums and the longer the insurer has before they may have to pay any claims.
Because of this, insurers will require you to go through an underwriting process that can account for any factors that may put you at risk to die earlier than expected.
One of the ways you’re evaluated is by a medical exam.
During this exam, you’ll be asked questions about your family history, medical history, lifestyle, and smoking and alcohol usage. The person administering the exam will measure your height, weight, pulse, blood pressure and may require blood work to determine the overall health of your organs.
By evaluating each risk factor, the underwriter will determine your risk level and assign you to a risk pool. This risk pool will ultimately determine how much your life insurance will cost.
Although epilepsy is manageable if not curable for some people depending on the type and severity of symptoms, epilepsy can shorten an individual’s lifespan from between two and 10 years.
Shopping for Term Life Insurance Coverage With Epilepsy
So is it possible to get life insurance if you’re diagnosed with epilepsy? Shopping for life insurance is no easy task to begin with. It can take hours of online research, multiple inquiries to find the right agent, and even more time to review options from different providers.
The video below explains some of the possibilities that are available for finding life insurance after a seizure. Although the whole video is informative, jump to 1:15 in the video for specific information on insurance and seizures.
If you’re shopping for life insurance for the first time, it makes sense to start by shopping for term life insurance. This is because term life insurance is the most affordable coverage available and is the easiest type of life insurance to get.
Term life insurance isn’t a permanent type of insurance, but if you’re able to get term life insurance, it might be easier to convert the policy to a whole life or universal life policy after the expiration of the term.
For people diagnosed with epilepsy, it can be even harder. There are a few message boards where patients who have experienced seizures have expressed their frustration with denials from insurance companies.
The Epilepsy Society, located in the United Kingdom, estimates that approximately 36 percent of people with epilepsy have been refused insurance.
Thirty-six percent of applicants denied life insurance is an incredibly high number, especially with so many people finding success with treatments today.
That being said, finding affordable life insurance if you’ve been diagnosed with epilepsy is still important. So here are a few things you can do to help you to find a suitable option.
- Keep a good record of your medical history – Life insurance companies are concerned that those who have epilepsy are taking the proper precautions to keep it under control. A medical history of regular physician checkups is important to the company.
- Look for insurers that specialize in high-risk or impaired risk policies – Life insurance policies are available and offered for individuals who have preexisting conditions or have had medical issues. These companies will help people with epilepsy find plans.
- Pick a target rate to shop for – If your seizures have been controlled by medicine or surgery and you’ve been symptom-free for several years, look for insurers to offer your low-risk rates or reduce the rates of your current policy. Of course, to shop rates, you’ll need to know what rates are. Get a free rate quote now by entering your ZIP code.
To prepare for your life insurance application process, you’ll need to gather as much information as possible. You’ll specifically need to provide the following information:
- When you were diagnosed
- What your diagnosis was
- Type of seizure
- Frequency of attacks
- Date of latest seizure
- What steps you’ve taken since your diagnosis
- The degree of control as illustrated by medical records, height/weight and lab test results
- What type of treatment you’re on
- Any other medical conditions that are present
- Whether you are a tobacco user
- Blood work and a medical exam
- Any medications you’re taking to prevent or control seizures
- Any medical emergency plan you have in place
It’s always better to be prepared. Since you might be shopping with multiple companies, it’s good to keep all your information organized.
What Life Insurance Companies Look For
There are important measures you can take to prepare yourself before applying for term life insurance. Doing so will help your chances of getting approved for the best rating class possible. Use the following tips to put yourself in the best position to win:
- Visit your doctor as often as recommended.
- Follow your doctor’s advice regarding medication and treatment.
- Make sure your medical records are regularly updated. This is crucial. The life insurance company will rate your application poorly if it’s unable to determine your level of control.
- Get any other complications under control. For example, if you also have high blood pressure, make sure it’s being treated as well.
Insurance companies will be conducting a thorough review of your overall health and consider other risk factors. Normal metrics such as your age, gender, and where you live will be factors.
The underwriting review will also factor in the type of epilepsy you have, the severity and frequency of the symptoms and seizures, the effectiveness of any medication and the impact of any side effects, and any unrelated health concerns you might be experiencing.
What Our Experience Has Shown
Although life insurance may be more expensive for people with epilepsy, and in some cases might not be initially available, don’t give up hope.
We’ve helped thousands of people apply for term life insurance, and many of those people had epilepsy. Here are a few things we’ve learned:
- Some patients who are asymptomatic for five or more years may be able to receive reduced quotes or a reevaluation of risk.
- Premiums are lower for those who diet and exercise or keep their blood pressure down with medication.
- Premiums are higher for those who don’t follow up with a doctor regularly.
We recommend getting a policy in force first at a premium rate you can afford. You can then focus on improving the rating class through better control or lab results.
Real Examples from Real Customers
To truly understand how an epilepsy diagnosis might impact a person’s ability to get life insurance, let’s take a look at some real-life examples detailed in the table below.
|Customer||Age||Diagnosis and Age at Diagnosis||Lifestyle Details||Outcome||Annual Rate|
|Danielle||55||Petit Mal Epilepsy at age 9||Has not had an attack in over ten years|
No other additional conditions found
Visits doctor regularly
Approved at Standard Rate Class
|Sarah||51||Grand Mal Epilepsy at age 19||Uses medication for epilepsy to control seizures|
Has not had an attack in four years
No other additional conditions found
Approved at standard table B
|Natalia||51||Petit Mal Epilepsy at age 50||Experienced last attack within the year||POOR: |
You can see Danielle had the best outcome because her seizures happen infrequently and are being successfully treated with medication. Receiving regular follow-up appointments with her doctor also helped.
Sarah’s epilepsy is more severe, and although she had no other medical conditions and good follow-up results, her more recent seizures gave her a slightly worse prognosis.
Finally, Natalia had the poorest outcome. Her epilepsy is the most severe and her condition isn’t stable. This along with her more recent diagnosis and frequent hospital visits resulted in the decline of her application until she can stabilize her condition.
A Positive Future for Patients With Epilepsy
There is a light at the end of the tunnel for those who are suffering from epilepsy. Current research is making it possible to better diagnose epilepsy symptoms and types and determine treatments that are effective.
Advances in medicine and surgical treatments are helping epilepsy patients reduce or eliminate seizure occurrences and severity.
This is important because as advances are made, patients are able to live fuller lifestyles and reduce the occurrences of sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP).
It’s important for insurers because the more epilepsy patients are able to experience life without symptoms, the more likely insurers will be to offer insurance and even offer insurance at standard rates.
In fact, if you’re asymptomatic, revisit your options for purchasing a term insurance policy.
Is there a cure for epilepsy?
With all the different types of epilepsy, a single cure-all isn’t likely. However, surgery has made incredible advances in helping patients.
In fact, 60 to 65 percent of patients who receive surgery for epileptic seizures show no sign of recurring seizures. Surgery may seem like a last resort option. However, the surgery for helping epileptic patients is considered low-risk.
If surgery is not an option, the patients can be assured that medications used today are effective in controlling most seizures.
Research Is Helping Improve Patient Quality of Life
Living with the expectation that a seizure could come about at any time is difficult. In addition, many patients with epilepsy suffer from memory loss.
Dartmouth College’s Preventions Research Center has recently developed a home-based self-training and cognitive therapy (HOBSCOTCH) program. The HOBSCOTCH program paired memory loss coaches with epilepsy patients.
Patients who participated in the program received the benefit of better memory retention and reported additional benefits of more energy and focus improvements.
Aside from the HOBSCOTCH program, medical innovators are using techniques such as virtual visits to help patients who would otherwise not be able to regularly communicate issues.
Advances in research across technology, diet, medicine, and surgery are all making great strides in helping epilepsy patients lead symptom-free lives.
The Bottom Line
The good news about applying for term life insurance when you have epilepsy is: yes, you can qualify for coverage. The bad news is the approval and rating class can be very unpredictable and subjective.
However, if you follow the advice we’ve provided and, more importantly, discuss your situation with your life insurance agent or broker, you can have a positive outcome.
And remember, if you’re not pleased with the offer you receive, you can always try with another company or put the policy in force and work on improving the rating class through better control and lab results.
If you’re interested in shopping rates with a new provider, get started now by entering your ZIP code here and get a FREE quote in seconds.
Finding life insurance after being diagnosed with epilepsy can be challenging. Check out these top 10 common questions that epilepsy patients have asked in their quest for affordable insurance.
#1 – Epilepsy isn’t a fatal disease. Why would life insurance providers deny coverage for a person diagnosed with epilepsy?
Although epilepsy isn’t a chronic fatal disease, patients are at higher risk of death from a seizure or risk from complications like SUDEP. Because of this, epilepsy patients are considered high-risk.
#2 – If I have epilepsy, what can I do to ensure I qualify for life insurance?
By following your doctor’s recommendations and keeping good records on your medical history, you may be able to show you have successful control over epileptic seizures. With enough history, an insurer might consider any risk you might have to be manageable.
#3 – What insurance companies cover people diagnosed with epilepsy?
Since people diagnosed with epilepsy are considered high-risk, you’ll need to find an insurer that’s willing to write high-risk policies. It’s worthwhile to work with an impaired risk insurance agent to help you track down options and save time and money.
#4 – How much more can I expect to pay for insurance if I have epilepsy?
Your individual condition will need to be assessed. The rate you receive will depend on factors such as the type of epilepsy you have, the severity of seizures, and the frequency of seizures.
#5 – I was denied insurance five years ago when I had my last seizure. Can I reapply?
Yes, and you should. If you’ve been symptom-free for five years and have good records to show your treatment and progress, an insurer will reconsider your application.
#6 – I’m on medication to control my seizures. Will this be a problem for life insurance providers?
No. If your medication is helping to control your seizures, you may even be able to make a case for a better rate.
#7 – Are there other considerations an insurance company might have that can help me get insurance?
If you have epilepsy, keeping a healthy lifestyle with diet and exercise can help you get a better rate. Definitely avoid smoking or using any tobacco products.
#8 – Why do I need life insurance?
Whether you have epilepsy or not, having a life insurance policy allows you to protect your loved ones from unexpected expenses should anything happen to you.
In some cases, you may be required to have a policy. For example, if you apply for a mortgage, the bank may require you to carry life insurance that will pay off the loan if you were to die.
#9 – If I was just diagnosed with epilepsy, should I apply for life insurance now or wait a few years?
It’s best to try to secure life insurance as early as you can. By securing a policy earlier on, you have a better chance to reduce your policy rates or convert to a permanent policy over time.
#10 – I have a 10-year term policy that will expire this year, and I was diagnosed with epilepsy two years ago. What should I do?
Review your policy. Some policies might feature an option to convert to a permanent policy or continue with renewable terms without any additional approval. Either way, speak to your insurance company about options that might be suitable for you to remain covered.