Buying life insurance can be a confusing and complicated task, especially if your medical history is less than perfect. Insurance companies take on significant liability by issuing policies to people with health problems. Some companies even refuse to offer coverage to those with certain issues. Cardiac bypass surgery is one such issue, but that doesn't mean you can't get a life insurance policy. If you've had a cardiac bypass you should familiarize yourself with how the industry reacts to buyers like yourself and what you should expect if you submit an application.
Your Existing Policies
Life insurance policies that are currently in force are unaffected if you have a cardiac bypass. The provisions and terms of a life insurance contract are stipulated before placing the policy in effect. The price for your coverage is based on the insurance company's risk analysis, which includes a thorough review of past medical problems, as well as a physical exam to gauge your current health status. Once completed and issued, your insurance policy cannot be altered or canceled simply because you experience medical complications.
Getting New Coverage
If you are seeking a new life insurance policy, your cardiac bypass will undoubtedly have a severe negative impact on your ability to acquire new coverage. Life insurance companies conduct in-depth analyses of new customers to determine whether applicants are an acceptable risk. Since your cardiac bypass represents a statistically significant threat to your natural lifespan, life insurance underwriters may be hesitant to approve an application for new coverage. However, every life insurance company uses its own criteria for determining acceptable levels of risk, and while one company may decline your application, another may approve it.
The Longer the Better
Requesting new life insurance coverage immediately following a cardiac bypass will most likely result in the rejection of your application. Insurance companies typically consider the first few years after major organ-related issues to be the riskiest and decline applications submitted during that period. If your bypass was several years ago, and no significant medical issues have surfaced since then, you have a much better chance of receiving a new life insurance policy.
Regardless of when your cardiac bypass occurred, any new life insurance policy you receive will most likely be priced higher than identical coverage for someone without such medical history. This process of charging more money to higher risk consumers is called "rating" a life insurance policy. Depending on the specifics of the issue at hand, underwriters categorize applicants into tables. Each table denotes a threshold of risk for which the insurance company charges a higher premium. Heart-related procedures and complications will result in your life insurance application receiving a table rating.
For those with significant health problems that resulted in the rejection of applications by traditional life insurance companies, an alternative outlet exists that may provide necessary coverage. Guaranteed-issue life insurance is a type of contract that requires no medical exam and no underwriting. Anyone can buy these types of policies, regardless of past or present health problems. Guaranteed-issue policies cost significantly more than those obtained through traditional means, and many contain caveats or limitations on benefits for the first few years after the policy is purchased. However, if your cardiac bypass has prevented you from buying necessary life insurance coverage, a guaranteed-issue company might be a viable option.
Gregory Gambone is senior vice president of a small New Jersey insurance brokerage. His expertise is insurance and employee benefits. He has been writing since 1997. Gambone released his first book, "Financial Planning Basics," in 2007 and continues to work on his next industry publication. He earned a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University.