The life insurance industry depends on the ability to accurately assess risk, and any factor that may decrease a policyholder’s longevity presents a risk. The risk of an insurer paying out a death benefit early is typically offset by charging a higher premium, so understanding how your health can play a role in premiums may give you an idea of what to expect when looking for a provider that fits your needs and budget.
One health risk that can affect rates is high blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to a greater risk of health complications, such as cardiovascular diseases, heart attacks and strokes. In cases of high blood pressure combined with other related illnesses — like heart disease — some life insurers may deny coverage altogether. Typically, though, those with high blood pressure can still find coverage through some insurers.
High blood pressure and life insurance
The Center for Disease Control indicates that almost one-half of all adults in the United States (45%) suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension). Living with high blood pressure significantly increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, which makes those with this condition a greater risk to insure. However, as long as you’re managing your condition with medication and diet, you will likely be able to find life insurance coverage.
High blood pressure factors that impact life insurance
Although each case is unique, there are certain patterns which are evident in the ways in which life insurance companies deal with different types of high blood pressure conditions. These consistencies can help people with high blood pressure better predict and prepare for questions about their underlying health conditions in the application process.
- Blood pressure ranges: Important new medical guidelines issued by the American College of Cardiology in 2017 dramatically reduced the definition of high blood pressure from 140/90 to 130/80. In life insurance underwriting, the closer your blood pressure is to the 120/80 range, the less you’ll likely pay for coverage.
- Influence of age: Older insurance applicants – those in their 50s and 60s or above – may see more leniency in rates associated with higher blood pressure numbers. Many life insurers will issue regular policies to this group even if their blood pressures are elevated.
- General health matters: Life insurance companies will consider high blood pressure in the broader context of your overall health. Lifestyle factors such as exercise, diet and weight will be assessed, and good results can mitigate against the risk of your high blood pressure. Non-smoking, in particular, will generally be a very significant factor in determining risk.
Life insurance companies are typically looking for any positive reasons to write a policy. Before applying, take the time to list in detail all of your healthy habits and positive medical conditions.
Types of life insurance for those with high blood pressure
For the most part, those with high blood pressure — particularly when coupled with otherwise good health — can purchase the same policies as others. The primary difference between a high-blood-pressure policyholder and one with normal readings would be reflected in the rates.
Whole life insurance
Whole life insurance is a form of permanent life insurance, with the insured person covered for the duration of their entire life. The policy provides a guaranteed death benefit and builds cash value over time. This policy is more expensive than term insurance due to the permanency of the policy and anticipated payout, and may be even more costly for a person with high blood pressure. For the assurance of financial protections throughout your lifetime, however, the cost may be worth it for your circumstances.
Term life insurance
Term life insurance is not permanent, but rather covers an insured for a defined period (typically between 10 and 30 years), usually during the period of life when the need for financial protection for dependents is highest. Term life may be a good option for those with high blood pressure when the primary goal is to leave some fixed amount for loved ones to cover unexpected funeral expenses or outstanding debts like student loans. As with other life insurance policies, premiums may be higher depending upon the severity of the insured’s blood pressure readings.
Final expense insurance
Final expense insurance is a limited scope policy and, as the name suggests, is designed to assist surviving families with funeral and burial costs, or other bills. This type of insurance may be the only alternative for some people, particularly if they are on the more elevated end of the high-blood-pressure spectrum or have coexisting medical diagnoses, if whole life or term coverage was not previously obtained. One aspect to consider is that the typical final expense policy has much lower limits than other policies, usually between $5,000 and $25,000.
Frequently asked questions
What is the best life insurance company?
Depending on your circumstances and requirements a number of life insurance companies may be best for you. As an initial assessment, it can be helpful to look at companies with a long and stable financial record, a good selection of policies and pricing and a good customer service reputation. While you may want to get a few quotes to see how much you’ll pay for life insurance, premiums may not vary so much between companies as they will depend on your age and state of health. These are the main factors in determining your premium.
What can I expect during a life insurance medical exam?
Life insurance companies typically require you to complete a medical exam during the application process to provide the insurer with a more accurate assessment of your risk to insure. During the medical exam, you’ll likely be asked for your contact information and for medical information such as any pre-existing medical conditions, recent treatments or medications that you take regularly. Generally, during these exams, a healthcare professional will record health information such as your height, weight and blood pressure, and may also analyze your urine and blood for health issues or drug use. The better these variables are, the likelier you are to receive a lower premium for your coverage.
What if my term life insurance ends and I still want coverage?
You can typically purchase a conversion rider with your term life insurance, which allows you to switch your life insurance to a permanent policy at the end of your term. If you don’t have a conversion rider but still want to continue your life insurance coverage when your term policy ends, your company may allow you to convert your policy to a permanent life insurance, but in some situations, your death benefit will be lowered. The best way to figure out your options and plan for the long term is likely to talk with your insurance agent.