People with bipolar disorder may find it challenging to get approved for decent life insurance coverage at an affordable rate. This is mainly because life insurance companies see bipolar disorder as a high risk medical condition.
One of the main challenges those with bipolar disorder face is when a life insurance company doesn’t have experience working with applicants who have the disorder. In this case, they may not be able to give you the most accurate ratings and best premiums.
We understand how frustrating this can be, so we’ve outlined the steps you need to take to get the best life insurance policy if you have bipolar disorder..
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Why Bipolar Disorder Matters for Life Insurance
Life insurance underwriters look at the statistics behind high-risk medical conditions, such as bipolar disorder, when assessing health ratings and qualifications for insurance.
Individuals who suffer from bipolar disorder have a higher risk of dying from another medical condition than people without this type of mental illness.
In fact, the risk of death for those with bipolar disorder is similar to the mortality risk for smokers.
Experts used to believe the increased mortality risk was related to depression, suicide, and accidents. Now they are finding other physiological factors are leading to the increased risk of premature death.
People with bipolar disorder may make unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as:
- Having a poor diet
- Binge eating
- Failure to exercise
- Abusing alcohol or drugs
- Living alone or lacking social stimulation
- Neglecting medical care in favor of mental health care
These lifestyle factors may contribute to poor physical health.
In addition, side effects of medication prescribed to bipolar patients can increase the risk of certain health conditions, such as diabetes. Some doctors have also found that mental illness can put undue stress on the immune system.
According to NIMH, people with this mental illness are also more likely to have thyroid disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.
About 51 million people across the globe suffer from bipolar disorder. To put it in perspective, about 2.2 million people in the U.S. have the disorder. By comparison, only about 350,000 Americans have insulin-dependent diabetes.
Many life insurance companies, however, do have experience working with bipolar applicants.
They know the statistics show that early intervention and modern treatments are often very successful in controlling the condition.
Because symptoms of bipolar disorder vary widely, life insurance underwriters must ask the right questions to find out more about your personal experience with it before they can give you the best quote.
How the Application Process Works
Even if you have gone through many bipolar cycles throughout your life, you won’t necessarily be declined for life insurance.
Your history of symptoms is only one factor affecting your health rating. What life insurance underwriters want to see most is the condition is under control and being actively maintained.
If you are under regular professional medical care and take medication to control your symptoms, your rating may not be significantly affected at all.
Some of the questions you’ll likely be asked on your life insurance application include the following.
When were you diagnosed with bipolar disorder?
Along with the date of diagnosis, knowing the frequency and severity of manic or depressive incidences will help the underwriter determine your rating.
What symptoms have you experienced in the past year?
A recent history of rapid cycling through manic and depressive episodes may lower your rating. Other recent symptoms, such as sleeplessness, paranoia, difficulty concentrating, or reckless behavior may increase your mortality risk and lower your rating.
What medication(s) are you taking for bipolar disorder?
Only 40% of people with bipolar disorder who are controlling the condition with medication suffer from relapses. Medication is important in managing symptoms, and good medication management can help earn you a higher life insurance rating.
Do you see a psychologist regularly?
Your doctor’s assessment of your condition will help the underwriter give you the most accurate rating.
Life insurance companies need to see you are complying with treatment. Seeing a health professional regularly is a good indicator your mental illness is well managed.
But keep in mind, a hazy or haphazard medical profile with inconsistent data from several doctors is usually a big concern.
Is your quality of life affected by your symptoms?
If lack of sleep or erratic behavior makes it difficult for you to hold down a job or maintain a normal social life, it may be an indicator your bipolar disorder is not under control.
Have you had suicidal tendencies?
Because suicide is a risk factor for people with bipolar disorder, underwriters want to know if you have had any suicidal thoughts or attempts in the past.
Suicidal tendencies are, obviously, not a good sign for an insurance carrier, and many will postpone any offers of coverage for several years from the date of last thought or action.
Ratings You’re Likely to Receive
If you visit your psychologist regularly, take medication consistently, and don’t have symptoms interfering with your daily life, you may receive a Standard health rating.
This rating is given to people with a typical medical history. They may have one or two mild medical conditions, but they don’t pose a large risk to the insurance company.
If more than a year has passed since you last experienced symptoms, you’ll have a better chance of falling into the Standard category.
If you have experienced symptoms within the past year affecting your lifestyle or that have led to hospitalization, you should receive a rating of Mild Substandard or Medium Substandard.
If your symptoms are mild or moderate but are usually controlled with medication, you should receive one of these ratings.
People who fall under these categories usually pay about 50% to 100% more than people in the Standard health class.
People who have displayed symptoms of schizophrenia associated with bipolar disorder or who have medical side effects caused by long-term medication may require further assessment.
The more physical complications you have, the more likely you are to fall into the Severe Substandard health class, or be declined for a traditional policy.
The Best Place to Begin for the Best Life Insurance
Life insurance underwriters will be able to better assess your risk when you can comprehensively answer all their questions.
Working with an experienced insurance agent will give you the best chance of successfully ticking all the boxes an underwriter will be looking at—giving you the best chance at the lowest rates.
You can help by making sure your mental health history is well documented.
If you are in poor physical health, in addition to having bipolar disorder, you can always look for a Guaranteed Issue policy, but this should be a last resort.
These types of policies don’t require you to take a medical exam, and you only have to answer a few questions about your medical history. However, you may end up paying more for premiums, and your coverage may be reduced.
It will typically benefit you to obtain a quote for traditional life insurance. You may be surprised at the options available to you.