I can aver that getting life insurance after a stroke can be very challenging but this does not mean that it is not possible or that it can’t be achieved at a rate that is affordable.
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All it takes is an understanding of how the underwriting process from a specific insurer works and putting in the extra time and effort to preparing a well-motivated application.
What Is Underwriting?
An underwriter at an insurance company is there to assess the risk of each policyholder.
They use information such as age, medical history, and other factors to determine the risk of providing life insurance to an individual. This risk assessment will then determine how much life insurance is provided to a person, how much they will pay and of course whether or not the insurer will provide coverage or not.
Factors such as a stroke increase the risk of providing life cover. This is because a stroke may result in other serious health issues down the line, may be indicative of another similar event or that a person has health conditions that resulted in the stroke. It will be necessary to convince the underwriter that the risk involved in providing cover is low in order to receive cover at the lowest rate.
The process will require that specific and detailed answers are given to a range of questions that will help determine the risk. These questions may include:
When did the stroke take place?
The less recent the stroke with no recurring events in between, the lower the risk.
Was this a full stroke or a minor event (Transient Ischemic Attack)?
The less severe the stroke, the lower the risk factors.
Are there any lasting physical, neurological or other effects as a result of the stroke?
Any of these effects can negatively affect the chances of the cover being provided or the rate of the insurance policy. However, this once again depends on the severity of the effects as well as the type of effect.
Do you have any other medical condition that is a risk factor for stroke?
For example, hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, diabetes, cardiovascular (heart) disease, etc.
What treatment or medication are you taking as a result of the stroke, to treat the effects of the stroke or the other medical conditions associated with the stroke?
The answers that are given to these questions is critical to whether cover will be provided as well as the premium or rate that will be awarded. It is therefore essential to understand how each of the answers will affect the outcome.
Full Stroke or TIA
A TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) is often referred to as a mini-stroke and does not result in any permanent neurological trauma or brain damage. It is more likely to receive TIA life insurance than for a full stroke which is considered to be a much more serious event and has far-reaching health consequences. However, the type of stroke and severity must be taken into consideration with the other risk factors.
Period Between Stroke And Application
It is unlikely that an insurer will provide cover if an application is made within 1 year of the stroke. The longer the period (without any additional incidences of stroke) the more likely it will be that cover will be awarded. In order to receive the highest rating, it is recommended to wait at least 6 years before applying after a stroke.
Underwriting ratings are as follows:
- Preferred Plus which is given to healthy individuals who have the lowest risk factor. This rating is not available for those who have had either a full stroke or TIA.
- Preferred is a rating given to individuals who carry slight risk and is only awarded if a TIA is believed to be a misdiagnosis.
- Standard can be awarded to TIA or full stroke victims who are otherwise in good health. This is probably the best rating that can be hoped for stroke victims but will only be considered after 6 years without a stroke.
- Substandard may be provided to applicants applying between 1 and 6 years after a stroke and is also dependent on the severity of the after-effects of the stroke. This is the lowest rating.
Lasting Effects or Damage Caused By The Stroke
The lasting neurological trauma or damage caused by a stroke can vary in severity. The greater the severity of the damage, the more likely it is to affect a rating. It is also important to evaluate how this damage may affect a person’s overall health and whether it increases the potential risk of providing life cover.
If there has been any recovery from trauma or damage, this information should be included in the application.
Risk Factors For Stroke
One of the primary goals of an underwriting risk assessment is to determine how likely it is that an individual may undergo a stroke again, especially one that may be fatal. Any risk factors that resulted in the stroke in the first place or may result in another stroke is, therefore, a very determining factor.
It is important to show that steps have been taken to reduce these risk factors such as receiving treatment for high blood pressure or cholesterol. Lifestyle factors that are also considered a risk should also be taken into account.
For example, losing weight, quitting smoking, exercising and eating a healthy diet may all reduce the risk of stroke and therefore be beneficial to a better life insurance rating.
Treatment and Medication
There are a variety of different treatments and medications that may be prescribed after a stroke. These medications or treatments may be prescribed to reduce the symptoms or trauma that was caused by the stroke or to reduce the risk of a future stroke.
Do not forget to include information with regards to all medications and treatments that were received even if they are no longer being prescribed upon application.
After a period of a year to 6 years, it may be unlikely that a person is still being treated for the stroke. However, treatment to reduce risk factors or damage may still be necessary.
Tests, Studies and Medical Reports
It is important to submit any results or reports from any tests or studies that were carried out after the stroke. These may include MRI or CT scans, blood tests, Carotid Ultrasound or other tests. The reports can help identify the cause of the stroke as well as the damage that resulted.
The underwriter can use this information to determine the risk associated with a future stroke occurring as well as the risks that can be attributed to the long-term damage or effects of the stroke. Keep in mind that any medical records that can assist in being beneficial to the risk assessment should be provided.
It is also recommended to request motivations from doctors or other medical practitioners involved with treatment or medical care before or after the stroke. These motivations can speak to the likelihood of a stroke occurring in the future as well as to how treatment has lowered any risk factors associated with stroke.
Challenging a Rating or Decline
If an application has been declined or a bad rating has been received, it is possible to challenge the outcome from the underwriter. The insurance provider is under no obligation to provide a reason for declining your application. However, if you can find out the reason, you may be able to provide evidence that will change the outcome.
It may also be beneficial to approach other insurers as a decline from one provider will not necessarily mean that you will be declined by another provider. You should, however, take the time to find out more about the underwriting rules of each insurer to further improve your chances of success. Underwriting policies and procedures can differ greatly from one insurer to another.
However, before applying, remember that an automatic decline will be received for an application less than 1 year after a full stroke or less than 6 months after a TIA. It is also less than likely that cover will be provided if an application is made within 6 years of a stroke.
Take this time to ensure that you are otherwise in good health and that you take any steps to reduce the risk factors associated with stroke. Remember that good health and associated risk factors will mean a better chance of a successful application as well as a lower insurance rate.
Can you get life insurance after a stroke?
Nothing is written in stone and life insurance providers all use different criteria to determine whether they should provide cover as well as the rate that they should charge. It is therefore advisable to approach numerous providers with an understanding of their underwriting rules and policies and compare rates and the extent or cover that they are willing to provide.
Getting life insurance at an affordable rate is possible if you understand the underwriting process and are willing to wait before making an application.