Getting Life Insurance After a Stroke


Strokes claim the lives of over 150,000 people each year, making it the third leading cause of death in the US behind heart disease and cancer. For this reason, stroke can complicate the life insurance application process, making it more expensive at a minimum, or unavailable in a worst-case scenario.

What is a Stroke and How Does it Affect Your Health?

The technical term for stroke is cerbrovascular accident or CVA. It is an interruption of the blood supply to the brain. Women represent approximately 60% of stroke deaths, while men represent 40%. Early detection is the key to survival as there are medical procedures that can improve the chances of surviving a stroke, as well as subsequent recovery.

Stroke is caused by blockages in the arteries connected to the brain. It happens when one of the blood vessels either clots or ruptures. Because the oxygen supply to the brain is interrupted, brain cells begin to deteriorate, which could lead to long-term complications as well as death.

There are actually different types of stroke.

The most common is an ischemic stroke, which is caused by an obstruction of a blood vessel that is caused by atherosclerosis. This is where plaque builds up on the blood vessel walls, and either stays in one place in the brain and enlarges (thrombosus), or the clot breaks free and travels to the brain through the bloodstream (known as embolism).

A hemorrhagic stroke is the second most common form of stroke, and takes place when small blood vessels in the brain become weak and burst due to either aneurysms or arteriovenous malformations. The ruptured blood vessels cause blood to accumulate in the brain, damaging brain cells by compressing the brain tissue.

How Life Insurance Companies View Stroke Patients

Because of the many complications involved in a stroke, how it will be underwritten by a life insurance company will vary from one company to another, and will depend heavily on the details.

The life insurance company will want to know how long it has been since your last stroke episode, as well as your age at the time that it occurred. The passage of time following a stroke is very important to the underwriting process. This will give the underwriters an opportunity to evaluate the type and severity of the stroke, the number of occurrences, the presence of neurological deficits, as well as the treatment regimen that you have been given.

Naturally, outside factors will be considered as well. As is the case with virtually any medical event, the insurance company will assess family history, overall health status, weight-to-height ratio, management of blood pressure, and even your hobbies and driving history.

The degree of severity of a stroke is also very important, as this can vary widely.

If you had a mini stroke your chance of approval will be much greater, as long as at least six months have passed since the episode. It will also have to be demonstrated that you have resumed normal activity, that there is no neurological damage, and that you have made healthy lifestyle changes. In this situation you can even qualify for standard premium rates, but there is a strong likelihood of a lower rating nonetheless.

If you experienced a full stroke then at least 12 months will have to pass before a life insurance company will even consider granting you a policy. The company will use this waiting period to determine whether or not the stroke that you experienced was a one-time event – which is critical in the approval process. And as is the case with a mini stroke, the company will want to be sure that you have made healthy lifestyle choices since the stroke, and that there is no neurological damage. If however you have had more than one stroke there is a good possibility that you will be declined.

Alternatively, an insurance company may approve your policy, but do so with a surcharge that will exist for as long as five years. If you have a previous history as a smoker, it should go without saying that the habit will have to go immediately, as smoking has been tied to stroke as a risk factor.

Working With a Strong Insurance Agent Can Be the Difference Between Affordable Life Insurance and No Coverage at All

Anytime you have any kind of major health event, it is very important that you are careful about which insurance company you apply for coverage with. Some companies take a more positive view of a stroke history, while others might reject your application out of hand. Never assume that all insurance companies use the same underwriting criteria, as though it’s an industry standard. It will depend upon the experience that each company has had with the given risk.

Be sure that you’re being proactive in managing your health. That will mean getting the prescribed exercise, modifying your diet as required, minimizing stress, avoiding dangerous behaviors, and taking any required medications and following necessary treatment regimens. Insurance companies will verify as much of this information as is possible with your healthcare providers.

Beyond your own efforts however, you need to work with the right insurance agent. The agent will know which companies take the most favorable view of the person with a history of stroke. There are some companies that are not even worth applying to, and your agent will know who they are. There are others that will take a more positive view, and your agent will know those as well.

If you have had a stroke, and you need life insurance, you must work with a competent insurance agent in order to have any hope of getting an approved policy at a reasonably affordable rate.