An Insiders Guide to Life Insurance with Atrial Fibrillation
Individuals with atrial fibrillation, or A-Fib, are a greater concern for life insurance companies. Even though A-Fib itself is not considered to be life threatening, it is known to lead to other medical issues, such as heart disease or stroke, and these conditions are seen as an increased risk to insurance companies.
While being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation does not necessarily mean you will be declined for life insurance, you will need to work with an experienced life insurance agent to help secure affordable coverage.
Throughout the years, JRC Insurance Group has helped many clients with atrial fibrillation secure affordable life insurance. We understand that shopping for life insurance can be a daunting experience for anyone who has a few health issues, especially if they have been turned down for coverage before. We can help you secure the most affordable option available because our agents are appointed by multiple carriers. This will also increase your chances of being approved.
This article will explain the four different types of atrial fibrillation and further discuss how they are viewed by life insurance companies. We will also provide actual rates and explain how life insurance companies evaluate different cases.
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Here’s what we'll cover in this post:
What Is Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation occurs when the upper chambers of the heart, also known as the atria, quiver rapidly in an uncoordinated way. This can cause heart palpitations or shortness of breath. When this happens, the heart is unable to efficiently pump blood throughout the body. When blood is not pumped throughout the body, the brain and other organs receive less oxygen and this can cause dizziness, fainting, weakness, and even strokes.
According to the American Heart Association, people with atrial fibrillation are five times more likely to have a stroke than those with a normal heart rhythm. A-Fib can be caused by a variety of factors including heart valve disease, heart failure, cardiomyopathy, coronary artery disease, and high blood pressure.Currently over two million people in the United States have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. By the year 2025, it is expected that that the number of Americans that have some form atrial fibrillation will increase to over three million.
Types Atrial Fibrillation and Flutter Symptoms:
Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation
Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation is also commonly known as intermittent or recurrent atrial fibrillation. This type of atrial fibrillation generally last for less than seven days and occurs when the upper chambers of the heart, or atria, fall out of normal rhythm.
When this occurs, patients usually experience chest pains, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and lightheadedness. Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation can be caused by a variety of factors including heart disease, high blood pressure, binge drinking, low potassium, stress, nicotine, medications, thyroid issues, drug use, or viral infections.There are a couple of companies that will place applicants with paroxysmal A-Fib into the “preferred plus” rate class as long as the cause of the A-Fib is not from serious heart problems or drug use. Other requirements to qualify for this top rate class include an electrocardiogram that does not show any signs of atrial fibrillation and was performed within the last six months.
In addition, the insurance company will also want to see no more than five episodes of atrial fibrillation per year. Some companies will also want to see that the majority of these episodes were self-resolving or resolved by medications within 48 hours.
Persistent Atrial Fibrillation
When the number of atrial fibrillation episodes is greater than ten times per year, it is considered to be persistent atrial fibrillation.
This means that the A-Fib is consistent and only responds to treatments such as medications or cardioversion (a procedure that attempts to bring the heart back into a normal rhythm).
If heart disease is not an underlying issue, some applicants may be approved for life insurance at a substandard rate; however, in cases in which significant heart disease is present, you may be approved with a “flat extra” rate or even denied coverage. If your atrial fibrillation requires an implanted cardiac defibrillator, your only option available is guaranteed issue life insurance policy which offers up to a $25,000 death benefit.
Permanent Atrial Fibrillation
Permanent atrial fibrillation, or chronic A-Fib, is diagnosed when someone has ongoing atrial fibrillation that does not subside. With chronic atrial fibrillation, the upper and lower chambers of the heart consistently beat out of sync. If you have been diagnosed with chronic atrial fibrillation but have never had a complete cardiac evaluation, getting approved for life insurance can be a challenge, and if you are approved, you can expect a very high substandard rate class.
On the other hand, if you have had a cardiac evaluation for your atrial fibrillation, the insurance company will want to determine whether or not any structural damage exists within the chambers of your heart.
After you have had a complete cardiac evaluation performed, life insurance companies tend to be more lenient with their approvals. You may still qualify for a substandard rate class, but many applicants do not realize that there are eight to twelve substandard rate classes with most life insurance companies.
Improving even a few rate classes will save you more than 50% on the cost of your life insurance. The insurance companies base their approvals and prices on an applicant's “risk,” and if they do not know the cause of your A-Fib, they must assume the worst case scenario.
Many people who have been diagnosed with chronic atrial fibrillation seek treatment to correct the condition. This treatment is referred to as pulmonary vein isolation (PVI) or a MAZE procedure. If this treatment is performed and you have no symptoms of atrial fibrillation after 12 months, you may qualify for preferred best rates with a handful of companies.
If your chronic atrial fibrillation was treated with an ablation or a pacemaker, we recommend giving us a call so we can better estimate your probable rate class. We can be reached toll free at: 855-247-9555. We also encourage you to read Life Insurance for People With Pacemakers.
Lone Atrial Fibrillation
Lone atrial fibrillation is also referred to as low-risk A-Fib or single episode atrial fibrillation. Like paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, symptoms of lone atrial fibrillation include dizziness, chest pains, breathlessness, and fainting.
Lone atrial fibrillation is commonly caused by binge drinking or alcohol abuse, nicotine, infections, caffeine, stress, and low magnesium levels. In addition, foods that are rich in tyramine, (including cheese, wine, bananas, and chocolate), may also trigger an episode of lone atrial fibrillation.
If the lone atrial fibrillation occurred before the age of 60, you may qualify for preferred best rates. If you were 60 or older when the episode of atrial fibrillation occurred, in order to qualify for the preferred best rate class, the life insurance companies will want to see that at least a year has passed since the episode. The company will also ask to see a copy of an echocardiogram that shows no abnormal results.
Other Health Issues that Affect Atrial Fibrillation and Life Expectancy
If an applicant has been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, the insurance company will review their medical records during the underwriting process to determine if any additional health conditions are present. Listed below are some of the compounding issues that are seen as a higher risk to life insurance companies, especially for a client with A-Fib:
- Previous heart surgeries
- Previous heart attacks
- History of strokes
- Excessive alcohol use
- Prescriptions of blood thinners
- History of blood clots or deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
If you have atrial fibrillation and any of the issues listed above, you will want to talk directly to an experienced agent to determine your best options. The agents at JRC Insurance Group are happy to help. You can reach us directly at: 855-247-9555.
What Questions Will My Agent Have When Shopping for My Life Insurance Policy?
Below are a couple of pre-qualifying questions that your life agent will need to ask you during the application process. Answering these questions to the best of your knowledge will ensure that your application is sent to the best company for your individual situation.
What is your current age and when were you diagnosed with atrial fibrillation?
Life insurance companies tend to be more lenient with applicants who have been diagnosed before the age of 60. This is due to the fact that treatments for A-Fib have a higher success rate in people under the age of 60. In addition, individuals with A-Fib are more likely to have a stroke, especially after the age of 60. Despite this, doctors are reluctant to prescribe blood thinning medications to patients older than 60 because of bleeding risks.
What type of treatment, (if any), have you received for your atrial fibrillation? Has your heart rhythm been normal since then?
Life insurance companies prefer to see that your atrial fibrillation has been resolved or is manageable with or without the help of a medication. Additionally, life insurance companies tend more lenient with applicant’s whose atrial fibrillation is not due to underlying progressive heart disease. Because of this, life insurance companies prefer to work with clients who have regular follow-ups with their cardiologist.
Are you currently prescribed or taking any medications for your A-Fib?
Since some medications can help regulate your heart rate, there are many cases in which life insurance carriers see taking medications to treat AF as a positive. Some of the common medications that are used to treat A-Fib are ACE inhibitors, propafenone, dronedarone, beta blockers, digoxin, and amiodarone.
If you have a history of blood clots or DVT, medications like warfarin and coumadin are also commonly prescribed. These specific cases are seen as more severe and we recommend calling us to get a more accurate assessment of your available options.
When was your last echocardiogram? Was everything normal?
When applying for life insurance, the underwriter will want to see a normal ECG reading for the best rates. They also prefer to have a baseline ECG to refer to as this allows them to determine if your A-Fib has progressed over time. If there hasn’t been any changes in your ECG results, this could result in a better rate, as the insurance company will assume your condition is stable.
It is important for anyone who has ever had an episode or episodes of atrial fibrillation to have consistent follow-ups with a cardiologist.
Have you experienced any chest pains or heart palpitations?
If you have experienced any of these symptoms in the past six months, it is a big red flag to the life insurance carriers because these are usually signs of an unstable heart. In this situation, finding a term policy can be a challenge and you will want to apply for guaranteed issue insurance.
Aside from AF, how is your overall health? Do you have any other medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease? Do you smoke or drink excessively?
If you happen to have heart disease or are a smoker, you will likely be denied coverage, but you can still purchase a guaranteed issue policy with up to a $25,000 benefit. If you happen to have coronary artery disease or another disease that may have caused your atrial fibrillation, your rating and premiums will be based on how well you have control over those conditions.
We’re Here to Help With Your Life Insurance Needs
When approving life insurance for people with atrial fibrillation, the carriers want to see that your atrial fibrillation is well-controlled. The better control that you have over your A-Fib, the better “rate class” you will likely receive when applying.
At JRC Insurance Group, our agents are underwriting experts and we are experienced in helping people with all health conditions. We’ve helped thousands of clients find affordable life insurance and we can help you too.
In addition to our advanced underwriting knowledge, our agency is appointed by dozens of life insurance companies which allows us to “shop the market” on your behalf. In just a few minutes we’ll be able to compare rates and underwriting guidelines from 63 top-rated companies.
No matter what your life insurance needs are, give us a call, our agents will be more than happy to show you your best options. You can reach us, toll-free, at 855-247-9555, or request a free quote online here.
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.