Life Insurance with Bipolar Disorder…What you Need to Know

Life Insurance with Bipolar Disorder…What you Need to Know

If you are wondering if you can get affordable life insurance with bipolar disorder you have come to the right place.

The simple answer is yes it's possible. The more complicated (and honest) answer is "it depends on your particular circumstance". Based on your situation rates can range from standard to a table rating or even a decline.

Life Insurance Underwriting is about Risk Assessment​

The reason life insurance underwriters look so closely at every detail of your health is that they are assessing how much risk your health poses to the company's profitability. The simple fact is that if you die too soon, they lose money. They get paid to limit that possibility.

With that simple premise of life insurance company's perspective in mind, it's worth noting that the process of applying for life insurance is virtually the same regardless of yourexisting health condition. So, whether your risk is a previous heart attack or recreational scuba diving the application process is the same.

Life Insurance with Bipolar Disorder: What Carriers will Take into Consideration

Life insurance underwriters will generally be concerned with 5 general questions:

  • Do you fit into the usual risk factors for the condition
  • What are/were your syptoms
  • What was the Diagnosis & Treatment
  • What is the aftercare (follow up & compliance)
  • What is your health like apart from the condition/history in question

While the outline above is general in form , the questions will require specific answers. These answers will be gathered from your application, a telephone interview, the Medical Information Bureau, a Script Check, and an Attending Physicians Statement (APS).

Lets look at the general areas of inquiry one at a time.

Do you "fit" into the usual risk factors for the Condition

Underwriters tend to be more comfortable with making offers when the applicant's condition fits into a common risk factor pattern. If the condition doesn't fit, there as a concern that something else is at play. When this is the case, underwriters will try to allay their fears by taking a harder look at the file.

The known causes​ and risks for bipolar disorder are listed below:

  • Biological differences. People with bipolar disorder appear to have physical changes in their brains. The significance of these changes is still uncertain but may eventually help pinpoint causes.
  • Genetics. Bipolar disorder is more common in people who have a first-degree relative, such as a sibling or parent, with the condition. Researchers are trying to find genes that may be involved in causing bipolar disorder.

Risk factors

  • Having a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, with bipolar disorder
  • Periods of high stress, such as the death of a loved one or other traumatic event
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Source: Mayo Clinic

What are/were your symptoms

When underwriting life insurance with bipolar disorder, carriers will want to know the symptoms you had  and how long you had them before the diagnosis. There will be a particular emphasis on incidents within the last 2 years.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) lists the following symptoms as the most common:

People having a manic episode may:

  • Feel very “up” or “high”
  • Feel “jumpy” or “wired”
  • Have trouble sleeping
  • Become more active than usual
  • Talk really fast about a lot of different things
  • Be agitated, irritable, or “touchy”
  • Feel like their thoughts are going very fast
  • Think they can do a lot of things at once
  • Do risky things, like spend a lot of money or have reckless sex

People having a depressive episode may:

  • Feel very “down” or sad
  • Sleep too much or too little
  • Feel like they can’t enjoy anything
  • Feel worried and empty
  • Have trouble concentrating
  • Forget things a lot
  • Eat too much or too little
  • Feel tired or “slowed down”
  • Have trouble sleeping
  • Think about death or suicide

Your Diagnosis and Treatments

Life insurance underwriting will need to know your age at the date of you diagnosis and the specialist who made the diagnosis. Diagosis for bipolar disorder is usually after some or all of the following:  

  • Physical exam
  • Psychiatric assessment
  • Mood charting

Life insurance underwriting will also need to know the dates and dosages of any pharmaceutical medications prescribed. the following is a list of tyhe tyopes of medications most often presribed:

  • Mood stabilizers, such as lithium (Lithobid). 
  • Anticonvulsants, such as carbamazepine (such as Equetro and Tegretol), divalproex (Depakote), and valproate (Depakene). . 
  • Antipsychotics, such as aripiprazole (Abilify), olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel), risperidone (Risperdal), and ziprasidone (Geodon). 
  • Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium). 
  • Source: WebMD

Your Follow Up Care

When evaluating life insurance with bipolar disorder applications, underwriting will want to see compliance with prescription medication and any follow up requirements including doctors appointments.

Your Over all Health (and related conditions)

While any application for life insurance will take into consideration your overall health including conditions like high cholesterol and gout, underwriters in bipolar cases will specifically look for certain related conditions.

​Below is a list of the related complications and  co-occuring conditions:

Co-occurring conditions

Obtaining Life Insurance with Bipolar Disorder


With a couple of caveats, the process of obtaining life insurance is essentially the same for everyone regardless of health.


The primary caveats with bipolar disorder are that no exam or so called “non-med” policies will only be available if there are no serious complications, and an attending physician's statement (APS) may be requested depending on the overall health of the applicant.


The APS can slow the process as doctors are in no hurry to respond to requests from life insurance companies. if an APS is requested, the best way to "grease the wheels" is for the applicant to contact the doctors office.


The information that you will be required to provide in order to get the most accurate quote is as follows:

The information that you will be required to provide in order to get the most accurate quote is as follows:

  1. Date of Diagnosis

  2. Age at Diagnosis

  3. Treatments Undergone (was Hospitalization required?)

  4. Dates & Doses of Treatments

  5. Severity of Symptoms (was work missed for more than a month?)

  6. Other Health Issues

Possible Underwriting Ratings for Life Insurance with Bipolar Disorder


Because applications for life insurance with lupus are evaluated on a case by case basis, your story matters. That is to say two people with the same age and condition may get vastly different offers from the same carrier based on age of diagnosis and patient compliance.

Because each case is different, the following pricing scenarios are the best estimates based on experience.

Best Case – If bipolar  symptoms are under excellent control with medication and regular follow up and no history of  hospitalizations or suicide attempts  and excellent health- many cases have a chance for a standard rating. Simply use the quoter on the right for a standard rating.

Mid Case –If your bipolar disorder is under control now but more than 2 years ago you lost considerable work time to the condition or were hospitalized,  or have other health issues, you may be looking at a table 2/B to table 8/H rate.

To learn about how table ratings work click here.

* while expensive this may still be a very good outcome for the circumstances

Severe Case – Severe bipolar cases where there is a suicide attempt history or hospitalization and significant lost work time in the last 2 years will be declined . 

Decline– For a severe case you may be declined for traditional coverage. If this is the case you may be eligible for a smaller face amount policy. These policies are referred to as Guaranteed issue or simplified issue. These policies are more expensive than traditional insurance and have a 2 year waiting period until the full benefit is available.If you have been declined please contact us.

Why you Should Use an Independent Agent when Shopping for Life Insurance with Bipolar Disorder

Now you already understand that your story matters, and that two people in similar situations can get very different offers from the same carrier.


But did you know that different insurance companies will also treat each case differently?


For example SBLI may have more of an appetite for the risk that bipolar disorder presents than say Assurity. In this case the underwriting grade will reflect this increased appetite.


So, if your Agent only represented one carrier and you found out later that that you could have gotten a rate 35% or 45% better, how would you feel?

life insurance with bipolar disorder

You’d probably be angry either at the agent or likely both. So it’s important that your Agent represent multiple carriers.


Most good independent agents will have access to over 50 carriers. This ensures the best chance at the best rate.


Note that if he doesn’t have access to alternatives , he may not be interested in telling you.

Key Take Aways

  • Access to more carriers will result in better pricing.
  • It may be worth paying slightly more if there is a strong permanent conversion product.
  • Only independent brokers have the freedom to offer the best deal at all times.

Case Study: Pricing Life Insurance with Bipolar Disorder


So, I have been preaching about the importance of using an independent Agent and you may think that sounds a little self serving coming from an independent agent.


You are right, it is. However, it is also the undeniable ( and provable) truth.


Please see the case study below . it will show why it is in your interest to have as many options as possible available when shopping for life insurance with bipolar disorder or any other impairment.


Gender: Female Age: 29

$1000000 20 Year Term

Tobacco: No

Well controlled and followed up bipolar disorder. Diagnosed Age 19

 No Other Health Concerns


This looks like a best case scenario that would be either standard or Table 2/B or 4/D depending on the insurers appetite for a bipolar risk. Let’s take a look at the rates.


Standard Rates Table 2/B Rates Table 4/D Rates


CARRIERMO. PYMTCARRIERMO. PYMTCARRIERMO. PYMT
assurity$60.03AIG73.01AIG95.50
banner60.37banner73.50banner96.25
Mutual of Omaha 201762.30Mutual of Omaha 201790.74Mutual of Omaha 2017119.18
prudential logo70.65prudential logo105.93prudential logo141.84
lincoln financial81.38lincoln financial118.12lincoln financial154.88

This table which shows only a few of the major life insurance companies available illustrates the difference in rates.For standard rates Lincoln is 35% more expensive than Banner.


On it’s face this seems like a pretty straight forward choice and if underwriting grades between carriers is the same, it really can be that simple. This kind of easy price shopping is particularly useful for younger folks in good health and demonstrates why you want to use an independent Agent.


For people who suffer from bipolar disorder or any other serious diagnosis, it gets much more complicated.

Because life insurers manage their appetite for specific risks by being more lenient or more stringent with underwriting grades, you need to know which company will grade you a standard or table 2 risk and which ons will grade you as table 4-6.


In the case above Prudential (one of the more expensive standard rates) is likely to be the best deal because the more competitively priced carrier will likely rate the risk table 4 while Pru might well go standard.


This is something you can’t know by simply looking at the lowest price. In this case using an independent agent could save you 29% (the difference between Prudential @ standard and AIG @ Table 4).

Your Next Step


Now that you know the information you will need to receive the most accurate quote possible for life insurance with bipolar disorder, it’s time to gather the information and speak to an independent Agent (raising my hand).

We are committed to totally transparent pricing (we’ll even share our computer screen with you if you’d like), and making the application process as painless as possible.

Thank you for choosing the Life Insurance Help Desk to research life insurance with bipolar disorder. Should you have any question, plese do not hesitate to give us a call or shoot an email over.

Fast fact overview of Bipolar Disorder​

​Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is believed to affect 2.6% of the U.S. population.

Over the years some very famous people have suffered from bipolar disorder. Among the the actresses Catherine Zeta-Jones, and  Marilyn Monroe​, famed artist Vincent Van Gogh, and Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain.


Life Insurance with Bipolar Disorder
Life Insurance with Bipolar Disorder
Life Insurance with Bipolar Disorder
Life Insurance with Bipolar Disorder
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James Tobin, CFP
 

Jim Tobin is the owner of Life Insurance Help Desk, a Fairfield County, CT. life insurance agency. You can find him on Google + and Facebook. Over the past 10 years, Jim has used his CFP-financial planning designation to help individuals with their life insurance needs. In addition to working with life insurance clients, Jim teaches ESL classes in his spare time. He resides with his beautiful wife Nicole and the 3 cats that rule their lives..