Guide to Purchasing Life Insurance with Coronary Artery Disease

According to the American Heart Association, coronary heart disease, otherwise known as coronary artery disease (CAD), affects more than 13 million Americans and is the single leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States.

Life insurance companies tend to be more cautious when approving applicants with coronary artery disease, but affordable coverage may still be available. At JRC, we understand that purchasing life insurance may not seem like a simple task when you have coronary artery disease, but we can help.

Our agents specialize with clients that are considered to be a “high risk” and we are well-versed with each company’s underwriting process. By working with dozens of top-rated life insurance carriers, JRC is able to match each of our client’s with the best life insurance options available.

Quick Article Guide

1. What is Coronary Artery Disease?
2. How Will My Coronary Artery Disease Affect My Life Insurance Rates?
3. How is Mild Coronary Artery Disease Treated?
4. Life Insurance Rates for an Applicant With Mild Coronary Artery Disease
5. How is Advanced Coronary Artery Disease Treated?
6. Life Insurance Rates for an Applicant with Advanced Coronary Artery Disease
7. Risk Factors that are Associated with Coronary Artery Disease
8. JRC is Here for YOU!

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What is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary artery disease is a result of plaque that has built up in a person’s arteries. CAD, which is also commonly referred to as atherosclerosis, leads to the narrowing of arteries or even causes blockages. It normally takes years or even decades for coronary artery disease to develop and many people may not be aware of the issue until they experience a large blockage or heart attack. CAD can also be diagnosed through an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), stress test, angiogram, or CT scan which is why many doctors recommend these tests as we get older.

Some of the most common symptoms of coronary artery disease are a fast heartbeat, shortness of breath, palpitations, and nausea. Some of the more serious complications that are associated with coronary artery disease include angina (chest pains), arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat), heart attack, or even heart failure. For these reasons, life insurance carriers are extremely cautious when approving an applicant that has a history of CAD. If you currently suffer from heart disease, the best way to help yourself find affordable life insurance coverage is by working with an independent and experienced agent.  An experienced agent that is appointed with multiple life insurance carriers will be able to determine which insurance company is your best match.

How Will My Coronary Artery Disease Affect My Life Insurance Rates?

When it comes to purchasing life insurance with coronary artery disease, the life insurance company’s underwriters will consider each applicant on a case by case matter.  Some cases of CAD are considered to be mild, while others are considered to be advanced. There are several questions about your health and lifestyle that your agent will need to ask you to determine whether your CAD is mild or advanced. The answers to these questions are very important because they will help your agent determine which company is the best fit for you. Some life insurance companies are much more lenient with applicants that have a history of CAD than others, and applying with the right insurance company will not only save you money, but it will greatly decrease your chances of getting declined.

How is Mild Coronary Artery Disease Treated?

There are several treatments for mild coronary artery disease, depending on your overall health and lifestyle. Some treatments for mild CAD may be as simple as eating healthy, starting an exercise regimen, reducing stress, and quitting smoking. There are also medications that are used for treating CAD such as:

  • Aspirin or blood thinners – These can reduce the risk of your blood clotting which helps prevent your arteries from obstructing.  For those who have had heart attacks in the past, an aspirin regimen can help prevent future attacks.
  • Cholesterol medications – These types of medications can help by reducing the amount of “bad” cholesterol (LDL), which can help decrease the amount of material that is deposited into your arteries.
  • Beta blockers – These medications also help reduce the risk of future heart attacks for those who have suffered from ones in the past.  They are used to slow down your heart rate as well as lower your blood pressure, which in turn decreases the amount of oxygen your heart needs.

Life insurance underwriters view medications for heart disease as both a good and a bad thing.  On one hand, starting an aspirin regimen can show that you’re willing to take the necessary steps to living a healthy lifestyle; however, if you’re prescribed blood thinning medication to treat atrial fibrillation or arrhythmia, your CAD will likely be seen as advanced, which will result in higher cost of insurance. Below are sample rates for an applicant that is considered to have a mild case of CAD. If you’ve had a surgery performed to control your CAD, skip to this section.

Life Insurance Rates for an Applicant with Mild Coronary Artery Disease

The rates below are for an applicant who is not taking blood thinning medications and has not had an angioplasty, bypass surgery, or stents placed to control their CAD.

How is Advanced Coronary Artery Disease Treated?

While medications and lifestyle changes can help treat heart disease, there are instances when a patient with CAD may need a more aggressive form of treatment. Here are the most common surgeries performed to control advanced cases of CAD:

  • Angioplasty is thought of as the “roto-rooter” of surgical repair. This type of surgery involves inserting a special catheter with a balloon tip into the damaged artery.  The catheter is then inflated in order to compress the plaque into the artery wall.  This procedure helps open up the artery which in turn increases blood flow to the heart. Read more about purchasing life insurance after an angioplasty procedure.
  • Stents are small mesh cylinders that are inserted into a diseased artery after an angioplasty procedure is performed. Stents are left inside the coronary artery to prevent it from re-closing and some of these devices will also release medication to prevent blood clots from forming. Read more about purchasing life insurance with stents.
  • Bypass surgery is when a surgeon creates a “graft” by taking another blood vessel from the body, (usually from the leg), and places it around the narrowed or blocked artery in order to restore blood flow to the heart. Read more about purchasing life insurance after a bypass surgery.

If you have experienced any of the procedures listed above, it is important to remember that timing is everything because many life insurance carriers will require an insurance applicant to wait at least six months before approving their policy.  This is mainly because patients who experience complications from these procedures will normally develop them within six months post-op.

If you have experienced chest pains (angina) following your surgery, this is likely due to a serious complication and will unfortunately result in a denial of your application. In this situation, your best option for coverage will be guaranteed issue life insurance.

In addition to the initial waiting period, the underwriters like to see good medical follow up as well as positive results on the applicant’s follow-up EKG and/or stress test.  This shows that the procedure was successful and that you’re working towards improving your condition.

Life Insurance Rates for an Applicant with Advanced Coronary Artery Disease

If you have had an angioplasty procedure, bypass surgery, or stents placed, the most lenient companies will typically approve your policy at a substandard rate class. However, with CAD, the fewer vessels that are diseased or damaged the better, and it’s possible for applicants who only had one mildly diseased artery to qualify for standard life insurance rates.

Here are some actual rates for an applicant who has had their CAD treated with an angioplasty, stents, or a bypass surgery:

We are lucky to grow up in a day and age where we have technology that’s constantly improving. While these procedures tend to have a high success rate, there are other factors that the underwriter will consider and these factors may affect your eligibility for coverage.  If you had a stent or bypass surgery as a result of a heart attack, your rates will likely be much higher depending on if the heart was damaged from the attack. In this situation, we recommend calling us directly to speak with an expert that can help you determine your best options. We can be reached toll-free at (855) 247-9555.

Risk Factors that are Associated with Coronary Artery Disease

All life insurance companies prefer to see that you’re doing your part to keep your heart disease under control. The best way to do this is by controlling your weight, developing a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. If you’re a tobacco user, your doctor will also recommend that you quit immediately. In addition, it’s important to follow your doctor’s advice and complete regular follow-ups or imaging tests to monitor your condition.

Applicants who do not monitor their condition or continue to use tobacco despite their health condition may have a much harder time getting approved for affordable coverage.  Here are some common health issues that can contribute to heart disease:

  1. Family history – Family history is commonly associated with a higher risk of heart disease, especially for those whose parents developed heart disease before the age of 60.
  1. Stress – Being extremely overwhelmed or stressed can damage your arteries as well as increase other risk factors associated with coronary artery disease.
  1. High blood pressure – Having elevated blood pressure for an extended period of time can result in the hardening of your arteries, which causes them to narrow and reduce your blood flow.
  1. High LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol – The plaque that builds up in your arteries mainly consists of cholesterol as well as other substances. Overtime this plaque causes your arteries to narrow or even become blocked.

HDL cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol while LDL is considered “bad” cholesterol. The insurance companies consider your HDL ratio when approving a life insurance policy and prefer a ratio of 5.0 or less. To calculate this number, divide your total cholesterol by your “good” cholesterol.

  1. Age – As we get older, our risk for developing coronary artery disease increases.
  1. Smoking or tobacco use – According to Heart.Org, “cigarette smoking is a powerful independent risk factor for sudden cardiac death in patients with coronary heart disease.”
  1. Lack of exercise – Those who have an inactive lifestyle and are overweight have a greater risk of developing heart disease.
  1. Diabetes – Elevated blood sugar greatly increases the risk of developing CAD, and this risk is even greater when blood sugar levels are not controlled.  Roughly 68% of people under the age of 65 with diabetes die from some sort of heart disease, and about 16% will die from stroke. (Heart.org)

Life insurance underwriters also consider any other health issues that you have. If you’re taking a medication to control your blood pressure or your cholesterol, typically this is not an issue. However, uncontrolled diabetes in combination with coronary artery disease may result in severe substandard rates or a denial of coverage. In this situation, it’s very important to work with a skilled agent who can help you determine your best options for coverage.

JRC is Here for YOU!

Our agents at JRC Insurance Group specialize in “high risk cases” and we are willing to do the necessary work to help our applicants find the affordable life insurance coverage that they need.  We are experts in the underwriting process and work with over 40 life insurance companies to make sure that you receive the best deal.

Give us a call today, toll-free at: (855) 247-9555, or request a free quote online. We are here to help!

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Cliff Pendell

VP of Marketing at JRC Insurance Group
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.
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