The life insurance approval process is funny sometimes. It’s not always simple and straightforward.
Case in point: artificial heart valves.
Though the medical conditions which require an artificial heart valve will almost always immediately disqualify you from coverage, those with an artificial heart valve can often actually qualify for the same coverage.
Seems paradoxical, no? Keep reading…
Of course, this qualification comes at a cost. Just because you qualify for coverage with an artificial heart valve, don’t expect you won’t pay a higher premium than a healthy person.
The reason those with an artificial heart valve sometimes qualify for traditional coverage is because the condition which requires the device has been taken care of.
In other words, the risk of the pre-existing condition has been mitigated.
Sure, you’re still at a greater risk of developing future heart problems, but some life insurance companies consider this risk “acceptable.”
Below we look more at artificial heart valves and how one might affect your life insurance eligibility.
First, What is an Artificial Heart Valve?
A defective heart valve is a serious medical condition which can result in death.
Open heart surgery is required to remove the defective heart valve to replace it with an artificial heart valve.
An artificial heart valve is simply a man-made version of the heart valve nature provided you. There are several different versions, but they all work in mostly the same way.
They work to preserve the normal function of the heart. They ensure the heart continues functioning normally without issues.
It should be noted the heart has four valves. Usually only one of these valves is replaced by an artificial version at a time.
Most operations to install an artificial heart valve resolve the problem which warranted the operation, enabling the person to live a healthily and happily for a normal lifespan.
Why Might You Need One?
There are countless reasons why someone might need an operation to install an artificial heart valve.
Almost all of them boil down to a problem with the natural heart valve. Most of these problems stem from damage to the heart valve caused by valvular heart disease.
Valvular heart disease itself has several causes.
Among them are:
- congenital heart disease
- previous heart attacks
Aging is another risk factor for developing a disease that affects the heart valve.
All of these things are risks to a life insurance company; and this is where your rate is impacted most!
Remember, the specific reason you required an artificial heart valve plays a major role in the level of coverage you’ll receive from a life insurance carrier.
Know Your Type of Artificial Heart Valve Before Applying
Artificial heart valves come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and forms.
These can be broken down into two main types: mechanical or tissue.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each.
Of course, the specific type of heart valve that’s best for you depends largely on the cause of your heart valve disease. Your doctor will look at the particulars of your condition to decide which of the two is best for you.
The main advantage of a mechanical valve is it lasts for a long time, up to 25 years. The disadvantage is you must take blood-thinning medication for the rest of your life.
The main advantage of a tissue valve is you won’t be at risk for blood clots, so blood-thinning medication isn’t required. The disadvantage is they last only around 10 to 15 years before replacement is necessary.
Heart valve replacement generally comes with few complications. The main factor to note is certain antibiotics can cause infection.
That’s why it’s so important to be open and upfront about your artificial heart valve whenever working with a doctor or dentist. This will prevent the wrong antibiotic from being administered.
Specific Questions You’ll Be Asked When Applying
You can expect to answer a boatload of questions during your life insurance application.
Many of these questions will relate directly to your artificial heart valve, but will also target your overall health, family medical history, and your lifestyle.
Simply put, the goal of the questions asked during your application is to give the life insurance underwriters the tools they need to assess your overall risk as a client.
The fact is life insurance companies don’t want to insure those who pose too great a risk level to their company.
The underwriting process is also what decides how much you’ll pay for your life insurance coverage, if you qualify. Your level of risk directly correlates to the rate you’ll pay.
All of that said, you can prepare to answer questions on the following topics during your life insurance application:
- Health – Do you have any other health conditions?
- Diet and Exercise – What is your weight and BMI? Do you eat healthy and exercise regularly?
- Lifestyle – Do you smoke or drink? Do you engage in high-risk activities or hobbies, or work a dangerous job?
- Cause of Replacement – What necessitated your artificial heart valve? What symptoms did you experience from the condition and how severe were they?
- Complications – Did your heart valve replacement go smoothly? Did you experience any complications?
- Prognosis – What is your outlook like for your artificial heart valve and the condition that necessitated it?
Remember, these questions are just the tip of the iceberg as far as your life insurance application goes.
Those with an artificial heart valve should also expect to answer questions relating to:
- which valve was replaced
- who diagnosed the condition (a general practitioner or cardiologist)
- the last time you’ve had a heart stress test performed
- medications or diets specific to treating your heart health
- and more.
You’ll notice most questions will emphasize the cause of the artificial heart valve rather than the artificial heart valve itself.
That’s because the pre-existing, underlying condition which warranted the replacement is the most important factor when analyzing your overall health risk.
The Application and Approval Process
Like all traditional life insurance applications, applying for life insurance with an artificial heart valve includes a medical exam.
You must submit a current medical exam to the life insurance provider along with your completed application. The exam is used to verify the information you’ve provided.
The entire underwriting process that determines your eligibility generally lasts for between 4 and 6 weeks. You’ll receive a response at the end of this period of time.
Your response will include whether you’ve been accepted. If you have, it will also include the rate which you’ll be required to pay.
If you need coverage sooner, or don’t care to go through this entire process, you can get a graded or guaranteed death benefit policy, but you can expect lower amounts of coverage, at higher costs per thousand.
Many of these require little to no information in comparison, and issue quite fast.
What Rates To Expect
If you are otherwise healthy and you can prove your artificial heart valve is operating smoothly, you can expect to qualify for traditional coverage.
But it will come at a cost. You’ll likely be categorized into one of the highest risk classes on the life insurance rating table. This means you’ll pay the highest premiums.
For someone with a heart condition who gets approved for a traditional policy at, say, a Table 8 rating, they’ll pay 200% more for their coverage.
Though it’s a bummer, it’s important to note that even qualifying for life insurance after experiencing a condition which necessitated open heart surgery is a major success.
Those who do not qualify for traditional coverage have several life insurance alternatives, like the guaranteed issue policy mentioned above.
Finding the Best Coverage with an Artificial Heart Valve
Don’t just go with the first life insurance provider who offers you coverage first.
Do your research, spend some time on the project, and apply with several life insurance companies who interest you.
Or, let us do all this work for you; we’re trained, expert field underwriters with a passion for assisting people just like you; you do have options, and we’re on your side to make sure you get the lowest price possible for the best possible policy.