Buying life insurance if you've survived a stroke can be a tad tricky, but being a stroke survivor does not automatically mean you'll be declined for coverage if you apply, nor does it mean your stuck accepting a small policy issued without full medical underwriting from an obscure company with questionable credit raitings.
Today we'll be detailing the process of applying for life insurance is a stroke is in your medical history, including the items that you'll need to watch out for and what expectations should be when approaching this task.
A common first step for anyone who has had a “stroke” is for them to detail exactly what happened. for most people, they understand that something took place that their doctor referred to as a stroke, but the precise event needs further explanation.
In truth, the term stroke can be somewhat non-specific as some people use it to encompass several medical conditions. Chiefly, the term stroke is a reference to a condition also known as a Cereberal Vascular Accident (CVA). Simply put, CVA's are a condition where blood supply to a portion of the brain has been restricted or cut off either by restricted blood flow to that portion (ischemia) or by internal bleeding in the brain (hemorrhage). The important end result to determine that a stroke (CVA) has taken place is infarction (tissue death).
Another condition that is commonly referred to as a stroke, but represents potentially less serious consequences is an event known as a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) also frequently referred to as a Mini Stroke. TIA's represent loss of blood flow which results in impaired physical or cognitive function as a result of tissue starvation, but the episode is not permanent and does not cause infarction. This is not to say that a TIA poses little risk or worry. TIA's can often be a precursor to a CVA an because of this, individuals with a TIA in their health history need comprehensive follow up to prove reduced worry that a CVA could be lurking.
Lastly, some people have a condition known as a silent stroke. As its name infers, the likelihood of knowing that you have experienced a silent stroke very small as they do not cause symptoms in most cases. This means the only way one would typically know that a silent stroke has taken place is if they've had a head scan that finds evidence of the silent stroke.
Depending on the actual “stroke” that has taken place, the required information varies a bit, but there are a few items that will be important in all situations CVA, TIA, and Silent Stroke.
First age when the first event took place will sometimes play an important role in whether or not a medically underwriting policy is possible. Usually, individuals who had their first stroke under the age of 40 will have a much more difficult time in securing an offer for life insurance and more ideally the proposed insured will have a much easier time if the event took place after he or she reached age 55. In fact as one ages the there is a larger discount placed on the fact that they've experienced a stroke. To be clear, though, no age will ever discount a stroke history enough to move a proposed insured beyond a standard risk class offer.
Time that has passed since the event helps predict likelihood of a second event. For most carriers (in fact all that we’re aware of) the proposed insured will need to have had at least one year pass since the event before an offer can be made. Applications submitted for individuals who are still within a year will most likely be postponed to review again once one year has passed best case scenario.
Additional risk factors will play an important role in receiving an offer from a life insurer. If the proposed insured has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes mellitus, smokes, and/or a family history of either strokes or arteriosclerosis (arteriosclerosis would typically only be an important consideration if the proposed insured’s stroke was caused by ischemia instead of hemorrhage) than that individual poses a much greater risk for a repeat episode and as such will have a tougher time getting an offer for life insurance. Additionally, individuals with heart disease, will be viewed as greater risk applicants and have a tougher time.
The specific items underwriting will review besides additional risk factors regard recovery. If the stroke has left the proposed insured with physical limitations due to permanent damage, the expense of the policy will rise to reflect the added risk involved (i.e. decreased physical activity due to disabling events like stroke correlate negatively with life expectancy).
It should comes as no surprise that premiums for an individual who has experienced a CVA will generally be higher than premiums for individuals who have experienced a TIA. How much more depends on additional risk factors and recovery, but generally speaking it’s prudent to anticipate premiums for a CVA survivor to be twice that of a TIA survivor.
Silent Strokes on the other hand tend to be a bit more a wild card. Because of their somewhat more obscure nature there tends to be a little more range regarding likely action. On the one hand, since silent strokes, if found, are generally regarded as precursors to a CVA (like TIA’s) if the individual shows no additional problems, appears to have a low number of risk factors, and has a doctor who can give some explanation as to what might have gone on to cause the silent stroke, than pricing for life insurance should be very similar to that of a TIA.
If on the other hand, the individual has shown signs of declining health, has a few risk factors, and/or there is no explanation for what might have caused the silent stroke premiums can be more in line with a CVA if an offer is made at all.
If someone has had a stroke and is in need of life insurance, it’s important to at least have a year behind you before applying. Positive health stats are really important and compliance with any recommended medical action (be it changes in diet, lifestyle, or medication) can help a lot.
I don’t want to gloss things over, though. Strokes are taken pretty seriously by life underwriters, and premiums are going to be more expensive than what would be paid for standard rates. Traditionally the insurer will rate the case and add a flat extra for a few years to mitigate their financial risk. And unlike other health conditions that do themselves pose serious health problems, stroke survivors don’t often find their way to a standard offer with positive health stats.
If you’d like help in getting life insurance after having a stroke, or helping someone who needs life insurance who has had a stroke. We invite you to contact us to discuss the situation. We’ve handled this and many other health conditions successfully and would be happy to discuss what can be done for you.
Brandon launched the Insurance Pro Blog in July of 2011 as a project to de-mystify the life insurance industry. Brandon was born in Northern New England, and he currently calls VT home. He attended Syracuse University and graduated with a triple major in Economics, Public Administration, and Political Science.