Applying for life insurance after heart stent surgery may seem like a daunting task. Is it possible to get a heart stent life insurance policy approved? Many people with heart disease, angioplasty, heart stents and other cardiac issues feel as though they cannot qualify for normal term life or permanent life insurance policies at all.
Especially with heart stents in place, it may seem as though the policies you can qualify are outrageously priced with unusually poor terms. This does not have to be the case if you know where to look and what to look for.
The key is working with an independent underwriting expert who has access to multiple top rated life insurance carriers.
This is how you maximize your chances for the lowest life insurance rates.
When you are matched with a life insurance company that will underwrite your heart stent condition in the best light, you get the best rates in the market. It’s that simple!
We developed this article to explain what steps you should take to get the top rates for your condition. We also hope to dispel some of the myths that keep many people in the dark about life insurance with heart stents.
Best Rates on Life Insurance with Heart Stent Surgery
Best Rates on Life Insurance with Heart Stent Surgery
A Bit About Heart Stents
Percutaneous coronary intervention, or cardiac angioplasty, is a procedure used to treat narrowed coronary arteries of the heart. These arteries may be narrowed due to blockages or clogging by a buildup of plaque or fatty deposits that develop over time.
This blockage reduces the flow of blood to the heart, resulting in chest pain. If untreated, a clot may form that completely stops the blood flow through the artery, cutting off a part of the heart. This can lead to serious problems such as heart attack and even death.
In order to reopen the arteries and clear the blockage, surgeons perform angioplasty in which they insert a tiny wire mesh tube called a stent. This stent is placed into the problem artery and and set into place with a balloon catheter.
The balloon is expanded and the stent expands with it, inflating until it is set into the walls of the artery. Like a micro erector set of scaffolding, the stent locks in place; after which the artery can expand allowing for more normal blood flow.
Metal stents have been the industry standard in the past, but more recently, doctors have used a device known as a drug-eluting stent which is coated with drugs that slowly release and keep the artery open.
In short, these stents save lives. In about one-third of individuals who have had a PCI procedure without a stent, the artery eventually re-closes resulting in further plaque buildup or complications.
For many people, the event that led to the procedure is a wake up call that causes them to change their lifestyle and begin to make plans in case the worst happens…. ahem, Life Insurance!
Life Insurance and Heart Stents
If you have recently had a stent surgery, you are not alone. Almost 600,000 people benefit from stent surgery each year in America. That’s a pretty big number, and life insurance companies are aware. This represents a significant enough portion of the population that many companies will underwrite the risk “standard” with some exceptions.
Whether you are shopping for term life insurance or permanent life insurance, there are a few questions that will determine your eligibility, rate class and premium costs.
When was your heart stent procedure performed?
Life insurance companies determine eligibility and rates depending upon their own estimated risk. If your stent was put in place recently, it could mean higher rates and more difficult qualifications. However, if it has been in place for more than six months, you could qualify for the same standard rate as individuals without stents.
Within the first six months, you could still qualify as sub-standard or high-risk, though it is usually best to wait.
How many stents do you have? Will you need more?
With only one stent, you could still qualify as standard risk with many insurance companies. If you have two or more stents, you may still qualify for life insurance, but it will mean higher table ratings and a lower health classification.
More than one stent usually results in mildly substandard rates, however coverage is still very affordable.
Before you go in for angioplasty, the cardiologist is likely to note additional narrowing of the other coronary arteries. If it looks like your plaque is progressing, you may need more stents in the future.
This could postpone your life insurance approval or negatively affect your rates.
Where was the stent placed, which specific coronary artery and where?
Different vessels could change what you pay for life insurance. Angioplasty in the circumflex artery is less concerning than a stent in the “widow maker” or left anterior descending artery (LAD).
Also where in the artery matters as well. Bigger, thicker parts of the vessel have bigger, thicker plaques and are more of a concern, and these are the proximal parts of these arteries. As the vessel tapers off and leaves the root, it becomes distal and the blockages are smaller and less concerning.
Bigger blockages mean less blood flow going where it needs to go. So proximal left stents are more concerning and higher rated than distal right side stents.
What event led to the stent in the first place?
Insurance companies will look at the event that led to your angioplasty. Was it a preemptive measure-as was the case for President Bush-or was it a heart attack? If it was performed as a preventative measure, you could still qualify for standard premiums and classification.
However, if a heart attack or some sort of chest pain led to the stent, it will make a life insurance approval more difficult. Your case will be rated and priced based on the more serious event.
What changes have you made after your angioplasty?
Are you living a healthy lifestyle? Have you changed your diet and exercise? Insurance companies want to know. If not, whatever led to the stent in the first place is likely to repeat.
For many people, the heart stent surgery is a wake-up call and they will become healthier in the future because of it.
What medications are you taking?
After stent surgery, patients are prescribed antiplatelet therapy like aspirin plus plavix (clopidogrel) or Effient (prasugrel). This treatment can last a few weeks in the case of a metal stent, to more than a year for drug-eluting or coated stents. These anti platelet drugs are very important to prevent thrombosis or blood clots around the stent.
You will likely be taking cholesterol-lowering drugs and blood pressure medication before the angioplasty, and underwriters will want to see the history of these medications along with your current prescriptions
What were your recent heart test results?
Your cardiologist is your lifeline after PCI and they will use various tests to measure your heart function. When was your last round of tests? What was done? Underwriters want to see EKG’s, echocardiograms, nuclear angiograms, stress tests, and most importantly-your stress echo cardiogram results.
On those echo tests, ask the doctor about your results for left ventricular ejection fraction (or LVEF, or EF). Your EF measures how much blood is pumped out of the heart with each contraction, and to qualify for the best ratings we will need to see 55% – 69% or so.
Life insurers will ask us this question first. In turn, we usually ask you on the first interview when you have a stent.
How is everything going since the PCI?
More specifically, have you returned to work and your daily activities? Are you seeing your doctor and cardiologist regularly?
Was there any cardiac rehab prescribed and if so – did you complete it?
Has there been any chest pain or shortness of breath since your angioplasty? More chest pain or a return of chest pain is not a positive sign for your heart or your life insurance application.
The dirty details about life insurance after heart stents
What kind of life insurance rates can you expect after you have heart stents?
Here is the truth that most life insurance agents won’t tell you – your case is going to be a substandard case.
Wait a minute. My doctor says I’m fine! Why don’t I get the best life insurance rates?
We hear you loud and clear. However, would you expect a car insurance company to give you the best rates after a few car wrecks? It’s the same thing with life insurance. Having an angioplasty procedure is like a car wreck for the most important muscle in your body.
Here is the good news
Over 600,000 people were survivors of angioplasty last year. Due to the law of large numbers, this is a risk that life insurance underwriters understand and will approve.
Here is the great news: Most people overestimate what life insurance is going to cost, sometimes by double!
So just because your case is labeled “substandard” doesn’t mean you will pay an arm and a leg for life insurance. The key to finding the best life insurance for you is to work with life insurance experts who understand these cardiac risks. Use an independent adviser who represents multiple companies.
They will help you find the absolute best value for your health history.
These factors will lead to lower life insurance rates after a stent
How long ago was your heart cath? Your personal angioplasty that was completed 10 years ago looks better to an underwriter than a more recent underwriter.
How old were you when you first got your stents? The older you are, the better. The western diet leads to plaque buildup for most Americans over time. So if you were 60 or 70 before you needed angioplasty, this is a good thing.
How many stents? One stent, one artery is the best case scenario. The more stents, the higher the overall coronary artery disease.
Left side Coronary Artery Stents vs. Right side Coronary Artery Stents: All of your coronary arteries are important, however the left side arteries are the most concerning to an underwriter. Therefore, angioplasty in the right coronary artery or right marginal artery is less concerning and results in a more favorable life insurance outcome.
Where in the artery was the blockage? In anatomical terms, life insurance underwriters prefer cases with a distal stent placement. The distal branches of the artery carry less blood flow and there is less chance for damage to the heart muscle.
What positive lifestyle changes have you made? This should not surprise you, however the best case outcomes happen to clients who exercise, diet and keep the weight off.
What are the most recent test results? The best life insurance cases that fly through underwriting have recent cardiac studies, the gold standard being a stress echocardiogram completed within the last 18 months. Life insurance companies prefer to see resting LVEEF of 55% or higher, great exercise response, METs of 12 – 15 and no evidence of damage to the heart muscle.
These factors will lead to higher life insurance rates after angioplasty
How long ago was your heart cath? We have potential clients who will call us the day after their angioplasty, and this is too soon. Underwriters are concerned about the artery closing up again around the stent and this leads to another angioplasty. Some estimates have this happening about 20% – 30% of the time within 1 year of the PCI.
Therefore, if you are looking for life insurance after a stent, most companies will want to wait for at least 6 months after your procedure.
How old were you when you first got your stents? Younger clients with coronary artery disease and stents are harder to approve for life insurance. Heart problems usually increase with age, so if you are a younger angioplasty patient, your life insurance will be more expensive.
How many stents? Multiple stents in the same place are more concerning than multiple stents in the same artery. Generally speaking, a higher number of stents in more affected arteries lead to higher rates.
Left side Coronary Artery Stents vs. Right side Coronary Artery Stents: When we go over cases where the left coronary artery and the left anterior descending artery were blocked, these cases usually have higher life insurance rates. Plaque buildup in the LAD is very concerning to a life insurance underwriter because of the risk for sudden cardiac arrest.
Where in the artery was the blockage? If you think of your left coronary artery as a tree, the “proximal” part would be the large, thick trunk. Having a stent in the proximal part of any artery is more concerning to a life insurance company because more blood flow was blocked.
Therefore, cases with stents in the proximal part of the artery tend to have higher life insurance rates.
What positive lifestyle changes have you made? Those clients who are still smoking, are overweight, skipped their cardio rehab and don’t take their medicine usually have higher life insurance rates.
What are the most recent test results? Most life insurance companies want cardiac testing with images within the last two years. Sure, your primary physician will give you an EKG or ECG every year, however that’s not enough for a $1,000,000 policy. The life insurance underwriter will postpone the case until you have a more recent echocardiogram, stress echocardiogram, angiogram or heart cath.
On those tests results, if the EF is lower than 45% or the METs are lower than 10, it is more difficult to get your life insurance approved.
Your life insurance underwriting class after heart stent surgery
Your life insurance rates will be based on 4 things: your age, policy amount, plan design, and health class. There isn’t much we can do about your age, and your adviser will work to design a life insurance plan that fits your budget.
Now that you know what life insurance companies are looking for, just what health class can you expect after an angioplasty?
Preferred Plus or Preferred Rates
Preferred plus rates are reserved for those applicants who are Olympic athletes. Very few people qualify at that rate, and zero people qualify after a stent.
This is unlikely however it happens occasionally. Just the existence of coronary artery disease pushes most cases out of the standard range. However, some companies have more aggressive underwriting guidelines for CAD and will offer standard rates to very select cases.
We also work with life insurance companies that will offer standard rates on permanent life insurance products through a “table shave” or “table crediting” program.
Clients who had their stent procedure later in life, with only one affected artery and no other complications might qualify for standard rates.
Mild Substandard Rates
This is very likely. If your coronary artery disease was pervasive, your doctor would have elected a bypass. So the fact that you have stents instead suggests that your CAD is limited to two or less vessels.
Assuming two or less vessels, no complications and recent cardiac testing, mild substandard rates are a reasonable expectation. You can even have other issues like sleep apnea, depression or diabetes and still qualify in the mild substandard class.
Moderate Substandard Rates
This is a likely outcome as well. More than two arteries, more than four stents, or a restenosis of a stent will usually qualify for moderate substandard rates.
Other multiple factors could push the case into moderate substandard territory too, such as:
- Being overweight or having a HiBMI
- A heart attack that caused the stent, or evidence of heart damage (ischemia)
- Uncontrolled hypertension or high blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Sleep Apnea
- Depression or anxiety
- Diabetes diagnosed before age 50 or diabetes with A1C higher than 7
Postponed or Declined
If your surgery was recent, or if you have some important cardiac tests that are scheduled but not completed yet, you can expect your case to be postponed.
It’s rare that we get a case declined for life insurance after a stent, however when it happens the client usually checks all of the boxes in the negative factors listed above.
Life Insurance after Angioplasty – Example Rates
Every single case is different. You and your health profile will be unique, and so will your underwriting decision. It is important that you get our underwriting experts involved in your case early on to qualify you for the lowest rates your health class will allow.
Our goal is to find a life insurance company that will view your angioplasty in the most favorable light (and with the best possible health class.) Otherwise, you will pay thousands more in rates or your life insurance application will be declined outright.
Case Study Results
Ron’s main concern was income replacement. One of his children was finishing college and still lived with Ron and his wife. He planned to retire in about 10 years and had other assets earmarked for final expenses and income after his retirement.
In his case, a 10 year term policy made the most sense. His rates were slightly substandard, however still affordable.
|Term Life Insurance||$250,000||$500,000||$1,000,000|
10 year term, A rated company for Ron F., quoted Feb 2017
Now it’s your chance to make a great decision
Are you going to work with an expert in underwriting heart conditions, or are you going to wait needlessly? Are you really going to risk your family’s future?
What does Tuesday look like for your family if you die on Monday? Where are they going to live? Who is going to pay those bills?
We have success in getting affordable life insurance for clients after angioplasty. Don’t pay more than you need to, let us save you some money.
Put our underwriting experts in your corner and let’s get to work today.
*One quick note about quotes after angioplasty.
Do you want a good estimate, or do you want a pipe dream? When you choose a health class, choose “standard.”
This will give you the closest estimate to rates you can expect for life insurance after angioplasty.