Life Insurance and Heart Valve Surgery – Too Risky for Underwriters?

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Heart Valve Surgery Life Insurance – Too Risky to Approve?

Life insurance after heart valve surgery, will it be approved?  Mitral valve repair, mitral valve replacement, aortic valve repair or replacement: how does this affect life insurance?

These questions will be top of mind after you endure heart valve surgery and we will tackle them in this article.

Questions Answered
While any past or present heart condition will cloud the process, YES you can get quality, affordable life insurance after heart valve surgery.

One key factor is how you apply for life insurance after heart valve surgery. Be careful. Agents unfamiliar with these heart conditions may waste your time — or worse — deny the policy outright.

If you are approved through these agents, it may be at terrible rating with a very high premium.

Here’s the truth

There are some life insurance companies which specialize in these types of “high risk” cases.  They won’t advertise their underwriting guidelines on TV however.  We work with them everyday, and your best chances for great rates will be with these companies.

So if you are looking for the best life insurance companies for heart valve patients, you are in the right place.

For Heart Valve Life Insurance Approvals – Work with Experts

You will want to apply with an independent underwriting expert who specializes in heart conditions. This will give you a higher likelihood of being approved affordably.

When you apply with only one insurance company (like your home / auto insurance company), you are limited to whatever their underwriting guidelines are.  Either you fit them, or you are denied, and trust me: their underwriting is notoriously strict.

On the other hand, an independent expert will preview your application to multiple companies, increasing your chances of being approved at the best rates.  This process is easy and it gives you the ability to choose which policy is right for your family.

The best thing you can do to improve your approval chances is to live a healthy lifestyle.  Follow your doctor’s plan.  Exercise, stay away from tobacco and alcohol; Eat right.

After that, heart valve surgery cases require additional work and documentation, so have your cardiologist’s phone number close at hand.

This article is designed to help you understand life insurance and heart valve surgery and how they relate to each other.

It should give you a better idea of what life insurers look for when reviewing the application of a person after heart valve surgery and what you can do to improve your chances at getting affordable life insurance.

About Heart Valve Surgery

More than 5 million Americans are diagnosed with heart valve disease every year.  For many people, there are no symptoms.  For others, it feels like being constantly out of breath.

Heart valve replacement surgery is one option used to treat damaged or diseased valves in the heart. There are four main valves (mitral, tricuspid, pulmonary and aortic), and each has a flap that opens and closes during each heartbeat.

If one or more of these valves does not open or close properly, it may require treatment up to and including valve replacement surgery. Some forms of heart valve surgery are minimally invasive procedures, but many are open-heart surgeries performed in a hospital setting.

Heart Valve Surgery and Life Insurance

The type of valve replacement surgery performed and the valve that was operated on do not matter that much in terms of life insurance. The main thing that life insurers will want to know is:

Did the surgery work?  Was it a success?

You will be able to receive better ratings with test results showing the heart valve surgery success (and no complications).

There are other questions that influence your approval and health class.

When was your heart valve surgery performed?

Insurance companies will require anywhere from six months to one year to pass before they will consider your life insurance application.

The actual time will depend upon the individual insurer’s requirements, but most will want a year to see how effective the surgery was and whether or not there are complications.

Was the heart valve repaired or replaced?

Heart valves that were repaired will qualify for better rates than those that are replaced.

Usually if the heart valve was replaced, the next question is: prosthetic valve (mechanical) or bio-prosthetic (tissue)?

Questions Answered
The type of heart valve used in replacement surgery – mechanical or organic tissue -is not a big concern to life insurance companies.

Though the bio-prosthetic valve might be replaced in 10 – 15 years, the mechanical valve will need blood thinning medication. The rating for both of these concerns would be about the same.

How old were you when the valve was replaced?

Generally speaking, having heart valve surgery at a younger age is a bad sign for insurance companies. For instance, a person with aortic valve replacement at age 39 might be denied life insurance. If they were approved, it would be at higher substandard rates.

An approval is easier if the same person had their AVR at age 50 or older.  This policy would receive mild substandard rates.

Do you have any other health risk factors or heart disease?

If you have diabetes, obesity, use tobacco or have similar risk factors, it could result in a denial.  Do you exercise regularly and watch your diet?

If so, that will help your case tremendously.

What Medications are you taking after heart valve surgery?

Blood thinners (warfarin, heparin) are par for the course with a mechanical valve.  Are you taking any other medications?  Any pills for hypertension? Any beta blockers for Afib or another cardiac arrhythmia?

Usually prescriptions after heart valve surgery do not result in a higher rating.  So do what your doctor tells you to do!

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Echocardiogram of the aortic valve.  All of the yellow is regurgitation – courtesy of AAFP

Heart Valve Surgery Life Insurance – Approved!

After heart valve surgery, what kind of rates can you expect?  What health class will the underwriters approve?

Questions Answered
All successful applications need the following:

Recent echocardiogram (within 2 years)

An echocardiogram within 1 year if your bio-prosthetic valve is 10+ years old.

Normal left ventricle size and reasonable LV ejection fraction

Preferred Plus / Preferred Rates

Heart valve surgery of any kind is a very serious and significant risk for life insurance companies.  Preferred and preferred plus rates are not possible with this condition.

Standard / Standard Plus Rates

Some companies will approve standard rates, however it is only for the healthiest of applicants and usually for permanent products (not term).  It is still possible however.

For term insurance, standard rates are not likely, though it may be possible in the future.  I can only speculate, however the ideal candidate would have a pulmonary or tricuspid valve repair after age 50 or 60.  They would have cardiologist testing and imaging with ejection fraction of 60% or greater and LVEF stability over 5 years.

To be clear: I have never seen a term life insurance case placed at standard rates or better after heart valve surgery of any kind.  However, underwriting guidelines are always changing.  At the same time, life expectancy for heart valve surgeries keeps going up and people are living longer.

Therefore, I believe standard rates for heart valve term life insurance approvals are in our future.


Most heart valve repair and replacement clients will find life insurance at a substandard health class.

Questions Answered
Term or Permanent Life Insurance is still affordable, even at substandard rates.

Most people overestimate the cost of life insurance by 213%!  Finding the right policy is much more affordable than you think.

Mild Substandard table ratings

This is usually the best case scenario.  These rates apply for aortic and mitral valve repairs with high ejection fraction and little if any regurgitation.  These clients have great exercise stress test results and very stable EF history.  Everything in their profile indicates a successful repair.  Applicants are also older, usually over the age of 50.

Moderate Substandard table ratings

These clients have more moderate regurgitation.  They have surgery at a younger age (25 – 50) or they have additional heart problems like hypertrophy, Afib or other arrhythmias.  We see higher table ratings for mechanical valve replacement patients taking blood thinners too.

With the replacement of multiple valves, or in the case of severe underlying heart conditions, sometimes traditional life insurance is not available.

If this is your case, please call us so that we can quote you personally.

Preferred, Standard or Substandard?  The health class is not the whole story.

One “A+” rated life insurance company will actually charge you less at a higher table than another life insurance company will charge you at a lower table.

This is why it pays to work with an underwriting expert.  We can quote multiple companies and different possible health classes instantly.

Run your own online life insurance quotes

For 99% of applicants with heart valve surgery, instant online quotes will be inaccurate everywhere you look.  It is important to work with an underwriting expert.

Our quoting engine is updated constantly and it is very robust.  However, with heart valve surgery there are too many variables for a simple quoting tool.  You are an individual, your surgery was unique, and your life insurance case will be unique as well.

To get an idea, fill out the quote form and chose “Standard” to get started.

If you have very mild regurgitation, no complications and you were age 50+ for your surgery, add about 50% to the standard rates.  If your regurgitation is higher, you are under the age of 50, or you have other complications, add 100% to the standard rates.

This will give you a ballpark range to start a conversation.

Here’s the Deal: Life Insurance after Heart Valve Surgery

Case Study
Scott was 54 years old. He had aortic valve repair three years ago.  

He was on some medication after the surgery, however his doctor only prescribes a low dose aspirin regimen now.

There were two echocardiograms since the surgery, and they show minimal regurgitation.  He has no other heart conditions, no family history of cardiac disease and he exercises regularly.

Scott was leaving his job to start his own business.  He had life insurance through work his entire adult life.  However, it is usually very expensive to convert group (work) life insurance coverage to an individual policy.  His options for life insurance were out of his budget range.

We needed a bunch of information from his cardiologist.  Once we had that information however, Scott qualified for life insurance at slightly substandard rates.  He found a policy that he cold afford.

A+ rated company for Scott R., quoted on 04/18/2017

Term Life Insurance

Level for 20 Years

$100,000 $250,000 $500,000
Monthly Rate $90.82 $184.62 $352.40

Why does this matter for you?

You want to protect your loved ones and provide for them after you die.  This is personal, I get it.  There are heart conditions on both sides of my family, so this is personal to me too.

Everyone at Heart Life Insurance is here to help.  It doesn’t cost you a dime to work with our underwriting experts and your privacy is guaranteed.  It’s the law.

You are as young as you will ever be today.  Now that you know you can qualify for life insurance protection, what is stopping you?

Start with the simple quote form, and let’s get to work!

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