Buying Life Insurance After Heart Valve Replacement Surgery
Can you still purchase affordable life insurance after having a heart valve replacement surgery?
Many people assume that their chances of being approved for life insurance after this type of procedure are impossible, which prevents them from ever trying.
Throughout the years, JRC Insurance Group has helped thousands of clients secure reliable, quality life insurance, including people who had heart valve replacement operations performed.
Our agency specializes in helping "high risk" applicants find affordable life insurance coverage from top-rated companies. In this article, we’ll explain how life insurers determine your rates for coverage. We’ll also provide insider’s tips to save you money, and share sample rates from other clients we’ve helped.
Here’s what we'll cover in this post:
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Here’s what we'll cover in this post:
What is a Heart Valve Replacement Surgery?
The heart consists of four valves, the aortic, mitral, pulmonary, and tricuspid. The purpose of each valve is to allow blood to flow freely through the chambers of your heart.
If a valve becomes damaged, it can cause the blood to leak backward (or “regurgitate”). If the valve does not open completely, it can limit the blood flow throughout your heart (a condition called “stenosis”).
When either of these issues occur, a heart valve replacement surgery is performed to replace the damaged valve with an artificial valve.
A heart valve replacement usually requires an open-heart operation, which may seem daunting, but the risks are usually minimal. In recent years, improved surgical techniques and medical advances have greatly decreased the probability of running into major complications such as an infection, heart attack, arrhythmia, or stroke following a heart valve replacement.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology, the 10-year survival rates for an aortic valve replacement are 84%. For a mitral valve replacement, 68.5%. The pulmonary and tricuspid valves are not usually replaced in adults.Individuals with a damaged heart valve often experience chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, fatigue, weakness, lightheadedness, fainting, lethargy, and swollen extremities. The benefits of having a heart valve replacement include:
- Improved heart function
- Improved quality of life
- Increased life expectancy
Heart Valve Issues that May Require Valve Replacement Surgery
Below we’ve listed the two most common heart valve issues that require a heart valve replacement.
Narrowed Aortic or Mitral Heart Valve
The most commonly replaced heart valve is the aortic valve. When the aortic valve is narrowed, also known as aortic stenosis, the valve does not open fully and your heart must work harder to pump blood through your body. This increased stress on the heart will eventually weaken the heart muscle and if it left untreated, it can lead other serious heart complications.
There are also some cases in which the mitral valve may need to be replaced due to mitral stenosis. When the mitral valve does not open properly, it blocks blood flow into the left ventricle.
The main cause of mitral valve stenosis is rheumatic fever, which is pretty rare in the U.S., but fairly common in underdeveloped countries. Rheumatic fever can scar the mitral valve. If left untreated, this may also cause other serious heart problems.
Leaky Aortic or Mitral Heart Valve
A leaky heart valve, also known as aortic insufficiency, or regurgitation, is another condition that may require the aortic valve to be replaced. This condition occurs when the aortic valve does not close tightly, causing the blood to flow backward into the heart rather than forward and through the body. If aortic regurgitation is left untreated, it can eventually lead to heart failure.
Aortic valves can be replaced with either a tissue valve from an animal such as a pig, from a human, or with a mechanical valve. Each type of valve has its own risks. Mechanical valves tend to be more durable and last longer, but run a much higher risk of clotting.
Tissue valves tend to only last about 10-15 years, which increases the chances of needing another replacement surgery in the future. Patients who have had their aortic valve replaced by a tissue valve more than 10 years ago will likely face higher life insurance rates due to the risk of needing another valve replacement in the near future.
Mitral insufficiency may require a valve replacement as well; this condition occurs when the oxygenated blood flows back into the lungs rather than forwards into the heart. It is possible for the mitral valve to be replaced either with a mechanical valve such as a Starr-Edwards, or with a tissue valve from either a human or pig. Like mechanical aortic valves, mitral valves tend to last longer than tissue valves, but they also create a higher risk for blood clots.
In some situations, the increased risk of blood clots requires the patient to take blood thinners to alleviate this concern. In most cases, the type of valve used in the surgery will have little to no effect on the applicant’s life insurance premiums. However, applicants who have been prescribed a blood thinner may see higher rates.
Questions Your Insurance Agent Will Ask You to Provide an Accurate Quote
During the life insurance application process, your agent will ask you some important questions in regards to your health history, in order to provide you with an accurate quote. Every life insurance company has different guidelines when approving a policy so, it’s important that you answer these questions to the best of your knowledge.
How long has it been since your heart valve replacement?
If you recently had surgery, the insurance underwriters usually want you to postpone your application at least 6 months to ensure that there are no complications from your procedure.
How old were you when you had your heart valve replaced?
In the eyes of the life insurance companies, the older you are when you develop heart complications, the better. Insurers tend to be the most lenient with approvals after the age of 50, and you’ll likely receive mild to moderate substandard rates. If you had an aortic or mitral valve replacement surgery before the age of 50, you will likely see a moderate to severe substandard rating.
If you were under age 40 at the time of your heart valve surgery, getting approved for coverage presents more of a challenge, but we can still help. In this situation it’s best to call us directly at 855-247-9555 to speak with an expert.
Unfortunately, if you have had three or more heart valves replaced, you may not be eligible for a traditional fully-underwritten life insurance policy. However, a guaranteed issue life insurance policy may be available. In this situation it is best to call and speak with an agent to determine your best options for coverage.
Do you have regular checkups with your physician or cardiologist?
Follow-up appointments with your physician and cardiologist are highly recommended after heart valve replacement surgery. Not only is it beneficial to know if the surgery was successful, but it also shows the insurance company that you’re taking your condition seriously. All life insurance companies prefer to see that you are proactive with your treatments and doing your best you can to live a long, healthy life.
Have you had any post-op diagnostic tests?
Almost all life insurance carriers will require lab and diagnostic tests such as an EKG or stress test before approving an application from someone who has had heart valve replacement surgery. These test results should be no more than 12 months old, and will ideally show minimal or no progression.
Are you taking any medications?
Common medications for patients after heart valve replacement surgery are over the counter treatment like Aspirin, or blood-thinning anticoagulants like Plavix, Coumadin, and Warfarin. Life insurance companies tend to be more lenient with applicants who are not taking blood-thinning medications, but if you are prescribed a blood thinner, there are a handful of companies that are more forgiving than the others.
Have you had any symptoms in the past six months?
Symptoms such as chest pains (angina), shortness of breath, or heart palpitations may be a sign of heart attack or heart failure. Experiencing any of these may make it difficult to get approved for traditional term life insurance, but some companies are much better with these concerns than others.
Do you have any other health issues?
It’s important to let your agent/underwriter know about any other significant health issues such as COPD, diabetes, coronary artery disease (CAD), hypertension, or atrial fibrillation. All of these can have significant effects on your premiums, especially if they’re not controlled. Lifestyle habits such as smoking, drinking and lack of exercise may also affect your rates.
Life Insurance Rates by Age for an Aortic or Mitral Valve Replacement
The rates displayed below are for applicants who have had a mitral or aortic valve replacement. The insurance companies typically do not differentiate between a mechanical (artificial) valve and a bioprosthetic valve that is made from animal tissue. Please note that insurers will want to see that an echocardiogram was performed within the last 5 years.
If you’d like to get an accurate rate for your specific age or needs, please feel free to give us a call and we’ll shop the market to find the best rates that are available.
How JRC Can Help You Save Time and Money on Life Insurance
At JRC Insurance Group, we understand the time that goes into shopping for a policy that fits your needs and doesn’t break the bank. To save you time and money, we work directly with 63 top-rated life insurance companies. By representing so many different providers, we’re able to find our clients the coverage they need at a price that fits their budget.
Our agents have decades of experience helping clients find affordable life insurance, even with health issues such as a heart valve replacement. Give us a call today at 855-247-9555 or request a free quote online. Within a few minutes, we will provide you with accurate quotes from dozens of companies.
Managing Partner and Co-founder
Cliff is a licensed life insurance agent and one of the owners of JRC Insurance Group. He has helped thousands of families of businesses with their life insurance needs since 2012 and specializes with applicants who are less than perfect health. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with family, traveling, and the great outdoors.