Life Insurance with Cardiomyopathy…What you Need to Know

Getting an approval for life insurance with cardiomyopathy can be a difficult task, This is especially true if you apply to the wrong insurer.

Your rates for life insurance with cardiomyopathy will be dictated by your particular circumstance, the severity of the symptoms, and the carrier chosen.

The carrier is an important part of this equation, as different insurance companies have very different appetites for coronary and cardiovascular risks. Thus, it is important that you apply with the company that is most likely to view your type of risk most favorably.

Insurance​ underwriters always look at an applicants medical condition from the perspective of "what risk does this condition pose to the company?". How this risk is determined is a combination of your medical history and the carrier's appetite for that type of risk.

This logic holds true whether you have cardiomyopathy, high blood pressure, use marijuana, or any number of pre-existing circumstances.

What Life Insurers 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
  • 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 Cardiomyopathy?

The reason underwriters are more comfortable with making offers when an applicant fits into the usual patterns is because if they don't fit, there as a real possibility 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.

In the case of a cardiomyopathy the common factors depend on whether the cardiomyopathy is primary or secondary.  Primary cardiomyopathy is idiopathic and likely genetic.

Whereas, secondary cardiomyopathy is tied to other conditions. Such as coronary artery disease, often brought on by lifestyle choices such as poor diet/obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol use, use of narcotics, and lack of physical activity.

What were your symptoms

Underwriting will want to know the symptoms you had (if any) and how long you had them before the diagnosis. The most common symptoms are: 

  • Breathlessness with exertion or even at rest
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles and feet
  • Bloating of the abdomen due to fluid buildup
  • Cough while lying down
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeats that feel rapid, pounding or fluttering
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness and fainting
  • Source: Mayo Clinic

Your Diagnosis and Treatments

Life insurance underwriters will want to know the date of first cardiomyopathy diagnosis. Underwriting will also need to know if the cardiomyopathy is ischemic or not (related to CAD) and if not, is it  dilated, hypertrophic, restrictive or ventricular dyspalsia.   ​. Underwriting will also want to know what medications you have been prescribed ,both related to the cardiomyopathy and otherwise.

The medications prescribed are dependent on conditions that are contributing to the cardiomyopathy. A quick look as WebMD list the following as commonly prescribed to cardiomyopathy patients Beta and channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, anti arrhythmia drugs, and blood thinners  for patients with clots.

Be sure to inform your agent about any medications as some medications can affect underwriting grades and rates. While information that is "foggy" will be taken from your medical records, knowing the dates of diagnosis and treatments is necessary to get an accurate quote.

Your Follow Up Care

Life insurance underwriters will want to see that you have been compliant with any after care follow up requirements. These follow up requirements may include cardiologist visits and lifestyle changes as well as prescription medication.

​Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and losing weight can have a significant effect on underwriting as those choices tend to be reflected in blood pressure, cholesterol and EKG readings.

Speaking of EKG and stress test readings, it is important , both for your health and your life insurance rates, that you ​are monitored by a cardiologist following the cardiomyopathy diagnosis.

Your Over all Health (any related conditions)

Intimately related but distinct from cardiomyopathy, there are certain diseases and conditions are closely monitored by cardiologist and life insurance underwriters. These include :

  • High blood pressure​
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • heart attack and stroke

Additionally, underwriters will want to know about your overall health. That means any other condition you are treated for as well as height weight ,vitals and blood labs.

Obtaining Life Insurance with Cardiomyopathy 

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

The primary caveats for life insurance with cardiomyopathy are that no exam or so called “non-med” policies may only be available in limited face amounts and an attending physician's statement (APS) is often required.

The APS will likely slow the process as doctors are in no hurry to respond to requests from life insurance companies.

As discussed earlier, 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. Severity of Symptoms

  3. Treatments Undergone (and test results)

  4. Dates of Treatments

    ​5. All other health issues​

Possible Underwriting Ratings with Cardiomyopathy

Because Life insurance applications are evaluated on a case by case basis, your story always matters.

That is to say two people with the same age and condition may get significantly different offers from the same company 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 - with stable cardiomyopathy a normal EKG, regular follow up and perfect health otherwise, it may be possible to get a Standard rating. However, be aware that this is extremely rare and  EVERYTHING would have to fall right in to place.  

The more realistic rating for a well controlled and followed up cardiomyopathy case is substandard "table" 2/B. ​

To learn about how table ratings work click here.

Mid-Severe –all applications for life insurance with cardiomyopathy that do not fit into the best case scenario will be a degree of substandard. The severity will depend on your cardiomyopathy symptoms as well as any other health issues particularly if the other conditions contribute to the cardiomyopathy like coronary artery disease.  

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. If you have been declined please contact us.

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

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

What you might not know is that different insurance companies will also treat each case differently.

For example TransAmerica may have more of an appetite for the risk that angioplasty presents than say Protective. 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?

angry customer

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

In fact a good independent agent will have access to over 50 carriers. This ensures the best chance at a good rate.

Note that if he doesn’t, he probably won’t be in a hurry to let you in on this information.

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 Cardiomyopathy

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

You’re right, it is. However, it is also the (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 cardiomyopathy or any other impairment.

Gender: Male Age: 45

$500000 20 Year Term

Tobacco: No

Cardiomyopathy diagnosis  age 42, normal EKG, excellent follow up,preventative use of Beta Blocker-  ​excellent health otherwise. 

This looks like a best case scenario that could be either standard (if very lucky)  or Table 2/B or 4/D depending on the insurers appetite for a cardiac risk. Let’s take a look at the rates.

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

 protective$95.25 banner126.00 banner166.25
 banner98.08 protective142.88 principal193.81
 mutual omaha99.93 mutual omaha147.17 mutual omaha194.43
 prudential logo112.50 transamerica144.48 transamerica191.78
 assurity130.50 prudential logo171.22 prudential logo230.98

*Rates as of 12/10/2016

This table which shows only a few of the major life insurance companies available illustrates the difference in rates. For standard rates Assurity is 33% more expensive than Protective.

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 cardiomyopathy 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 (the second most expensive standard rate) is likely to be the best deal because the more competitively priced carriers will likely rate the risk table 2/ 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 38% (the difference between Prudential @ standard and Banner @ Table 4).

Your Next Step

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

Compare Rates Now

Thank you for choosing the to research life insurance with cardiomyopathy. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to give us a call or shoot us an email.

Additional Reading: ​Fast  Fact Overview of Cardiomyopathy

​Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscle. It makes it harder for the heart to fill with blood and to pump blood. Cardiomyopathy is a major cause of heart failure. The condition can also cause abnormal heart rhythms. Cardiomyopathy can affect people of all ages and races.

There are two main types of cardiomyopathy:

  • Primary cardiomyopathy – The patient does not have other cardiac conditions that lead to weakened heart muscle. In some cases, cardiomyopathies are inherited and may be passed down to other family members.
  • Secondary cardiomyopathy – Caused by a medical condition (such as high blood pressure, valve disease, congenital heart disease or coronary artery disease).  

Cardiomyopathy that is  related to coronary artery disease (CAD) is referred to as ischemic. Whereas, cardiomyopathy that is not related to CAD is referred to as non-ischemic.

Non-ischemic forms of the condition can be inherited from family members. The most common non​-ischemic forms of cardiomyopathy are :

    • Dilated Cardiomyopathy
    • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy
    • Restrictive Cardiomyopathy
    • Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia (ARVD)
    • Source: Cleveland Clinic

Some of the more famous people who have died from cardiomyopathy are: singers Elvis Presley and, Geoge Michael, actor, James Gandolfini, and basketball star Hank Gathers. 

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life insurance with cardiomyopathy
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life insurance with cardiomyopathy
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 LinkedIn 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..