The Effect of High Blood Pressure on Life Insurance Rates

(4 Minute Read)

doctor measuring blood pressureWhen you apply for life insurance, the underwriters look at a number of different things when determining the rate that you will pay. High blood pressure is one of these critical factors that determine what premium you will pay.

Of course, not all companies have the same rating system for high blood pressure, so you will have to compare in order to get the best rate.

At the same time, you need to be aware that your blood pressure rating will likely have an impact on the price you pay for life insurance.

Determining Your Health Class:

Preferred Plus Preferred Regular
To qualify must have the following reading:
140/90 or under without medication
140/90 or under with medication
or
150/90 without medication
150/90 with medication or
155/95 if age is between 41-60
or
160/95 if age is 61 or older

Does high blood pressure mean high life insurance rates?

Can you get great life insurance with high blood pressure? Thankfully, yes! Life insurance companies have been measuring hypertension for over 100 years and they have designed products for this condition.

According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure based on new guidelines, and many don’t even know they have it. If you take the most recent estimates, we are talking about over 110 million people who suffer from HBP.

With so many people at risk, life insurance companies would be missing out on a high volume of potential clients if they did not offer coverage. They are very familiar with the condition and they underwrite these policies every day.

HBP isn’t always accompanied by physical symptoms–and whether applicants know they have it or not–this condition can play a part obtaining life insurance. It does not, however, have to be a factor that prevents one from purchasing a quality policy.

High blood pressure is one of many health and wellness components that is taken into consideration by life insurance companies to determine eligibility, rating class, and cost of premiums for the policy holder.

Interestingly enough, there are many misconceptions about high blood pressure and its effect on life insurance policies and rates. This article is intended to dispel these misconceptions and provide the reader with a greater understanding of the ways in which life insurance can be obtained at competitive rates. Health and wellness concerns at any age may be an unpreventable factor, but treating yourself with valuable knowledge and understanding about your health and your life insurance options may be the best medicine.

High Blood Pressure Facts

First, let’s get familiar with some high blood pressure facts in the U.S.

  1. High blood pressure is called hypertension and is likely to present with few physical symptoms.
  2. Once high blood pressure is diagnosed, simple treatment options can prevent the disease from doing damage to many vital organs such as the heart.
  3. Blood pressure is measured by two numbers, separated by a “/” – the first number is the systolic pressure (blood pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood) followed by the diastolic pressure (blood pressure when the heart is at rest between beats).
  4. A normal blood pressure range is less than 120 / and less than 80.
  5. Blood pressure falling between 120-139/ 80-89 is considered pre-hypertension, and numbers above 140-159/ 90-99 are considered high.

High Blood Pressure Statistics for the United States

  1. About 110 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure. This statistic translates to 1 out of 2 Americans over the age of 20.
  2. Another 75 million adults have prehypertension.
  3. Only 54% of those with high blood pressure have their condition controlled.
  4. High blood pressure was reported as a primary or contributing cause of death for 414,000 Americans in 2014.
  5. High blood pressure costs the United States $48.6 billion each year in medical care services, medications and treatments, and missed days of work.

What is an underwriter going to ask about my high blood pressure?

Every company is different, however usually you will see the same or very similar questions regarding hypertension. Your underwriting expert should be asking these questions, and you should be ready to answer them.

When were you diagnosed with hypertension?

We see clients with HBP more and more the older they get. Frankly, the arteries just get a little more narrow as we age. So there is allowance at life insurance companies for higher blood pressure at higher ages.

However – having higher blood pressure at a younger age is a warning sign that may lead to higher rates.

What were your most recent blood pressure readings?

Underwriters will usually want to observe the last two years of blood pressure readings because they are trying to establish a trend. Is your blood pressure going in the right direction?

Likewise, looking at a few readings will help them tell if there was an errant test result in there that should be ignored. If there is a proven history of low blood pressure, one bad test will not ruin your chances at a great approval.

What meds are you currently taking?

Life Insurance underwriters will often use automated underwriting to partially assess your file for risk. Part of this is a check of your prescriptions so an accurate recording of your medications and their purposes is crucial.

What can affect your rates in this instance are medications that indicate additional conditions, like Metformin for diabetes or Atenolol for atrial fibrillation. An increasing blood pressure prescription would prompt additional questions because it could indicate uncontrollable hypertension.

Do you have any other risk factors for cardiovascular disease?

There are other things that lead to coronary artery disease and heart failure besides high blood pressure. Things like diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and negative cardiac testing will all be considered as additional risk factors.

What’s your familial history with heart disease and hypertension?

Our health is half genetic, so for applicants under the age of 60 underwriters will want to know about your family’s history as well. Did you have a close relative die of heart disease at an early age? Do you have a history of high blood pressure in your siblings?

Special questions for clients with really high blood pressure

If your systolic pressure is consistently over 150 or your diastolic pressure is consistently over 90, underwriters will want to know if there is any damage or change to your heart muscle itself. To prove definitively they will be looking for an echocardiogram or stress echocardiogram.

Two measurements are important to consider. First is the ejection fraction or left ventricle ejection fraction. This measures the volume of blood pumped out of the left side of your heart with every beat. It’s communicated as a percentage between 30% and 70% and the higher, the better.

Second, on a stress echo is the METS, or “metabolic equivalents of task”. Here underwriters are looking for readings higher than 10 to indicate your heart can handle normal strain of physical exercise.

Life Insurance and high blood pressure: True or False?

High blood pressure is a condition with several unique characteristics that all contribute to widespread myths in regard to obtaining life insurance.Among the more common of these misconceptions are:

Taking medication for high blood pressure will disqualify me for great life insurance rates.

False. Life insurance companies, your family and your doctor all want you to live a long and healthy life. Think about it, if everyone was dying early, the life insurance companies would all be out of business!

In reality, if you take medication for high blood pressure, it can have an effect on your rates, but having your high blood pressure under control will have an even bigger effect. Life insurance companies are far more likely to be concerned with how an individual with high blood pressure is taking the steps necessary to control the disease.

If I have high blood pressure, then I can’t qualify for the best life insurance coverage at the best price.

False. If half of America is suffering from high blood pressure then the life insurance companies have this risk covered and they are able to deal with it effectively. You still can qualify for the best life insurance coverage out there, even with high blood pressure.

I could get better rates if I don’t even mention my blood pressure and go for a ‘No-Exam’ policy.

False. Well … maybe false. How about, it depends? Your best bet is to work with an independent agent who has access to a variety of plans and companies. If you qualify for a “No-Exam” policy and it makes sense to your timeline and budget, then go for it!

You must realize two things however:

First, there is no fooling a life insurance company. They will pull a pharmacy check and your relevant insurance history (also known as MIB). So if you have high blood pressure, they will know.

Second, some of those “No-Exam” policies can be 25% – 35% higher than a comparable policy with an exam. Whether that difference matters to your budget is a conversation for your family and your independent agent.

Can I still get the policy that suits me at a price that I can afford with High Blood Pressure?

Here’s the good news, you absolutely can!

Even with high blood pressure, you can still get the approvals you need; however, you must be aware that the approval and rating classes can be very subjective and somewhat unpredictable. If you are an individual who has decided to begin the process of finding affordable quality life insurance to ensure the financial security of your loved ones, then you can achieve your goal.

However, the nature of insurance underwriting can be complex and difficult to understand, so seeking the advice of an independent agent who can help you comb through all the information is a great first start. Recruiting the assistance of a third party can alleviate the stress of dealing with the insurance companies directly and instead allow you to focus on making sure your needs and budget are met.

With your diagnosis of high blood pressure, an independent agent would underwrite your case in the same manner as any other case that was high risk. You as an individual may be unique, but rest assured that your diagnosis of high blood pressure is not.

Often, individuals who have not sought out the assistance of a third party when searching for life insurance are unaware of how common their health condition such as high blood pressure actually is. On their own, they may incorrectly see themselves as high risk or uninsurable. Luckily, underwriting experts will be able to navigate the insurance process with ease and meet each individual’s needs.

With the help of your agent, you will be assured of getting the best policy at the best rate available. Even in a worst case scenario, your agent can put a policy in place for the short term and work on improving your rating class through updated lab results and treatment records.

What rates can I expect if I have high blood pressure?

Every company is different, however we will give you a general outline of what to expect below.

Preferred or Preferred Plus Health Class

This health class is reserved for the healthiest of the healthy and it is not likely that you will get preferred rates with high blood pressure.

Sadly, HBP does not exist in a vacuum, it often comes with other conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol or a few extra pounds. It’s the combinations of these conditions that tack on additional risk, and this usually prevents people from qualifying for the best health classes.

The exception is if you are older and controlling without medication, and in this case it’s possible.

Standard or Standard Plus Health Class

This is a likely outcome with high blood pressure. As we mentioned before, there are so many people suffering from high blood pressure that it is the ‘new normal,’ especially after the age of 50. Standard rates are very likely, even with a combination of some other minor health factors.

Substandard Health Class

This is likely with high blood pressure combined with other more serious risk factors, such as coronary artery disease, depression or cardiac arrhythmias. This is also likely if you have high blood pressure and continue to smoke, or if your BP readings are higher than 150/95.

Most applicants over-estimate the cost of life insurance by 300%. Many are pleasantly surprised on how affordable it can be, even with rates a little higher than standard.

Why Is High Blood Pressure a Risk Factor

There are various reasons that life insurance companies choose to look at high blood pressure as a rating factor. Some of the reasons that insurance companies include as reasons for including high blood pressure as a risk factor include:

  • High blood pressure can contribute to both heart disease and cause hardening of the arteries
  • High blood pressure can affect your eyesight by hardening blood vessels that will have a detrimental effect on your eyesight
  • Over time, hardening of the arteries can be a contributing factor in a stroke
  • High blood pressure has a detrimental effect on the circulation in your kidneys

Improving Your Life Insurance Rates Despite Your Blood Pressure Rating

Having high blood pressure does not mean that you will definitely pay higher rates because insurance companies also look at several different factors. In addition to high blood pressure, insurance companies look at your complete medical history, the cause of your high blood pressure, the medications you take to control the high blood pressure, the amount of time you have been taking high blood pressure medications, and any steps that you have taken to improve your health and lower your blood pressure.

Of course, some companies do look at high blood pressure negatively, so it’s important to become familiar with which companies will give you the best rates. Especially if you are applying for seniors life insurance, which could already be higher than normal ratings. Its important to educate yourself prior to applying.

Obtaining the Top Rates – Even with High Blood Pressure

In some cases, if you take blood pressure medication that controls your high blood pressure, you may still be entitled to a life insurance company’s best rate. This is particularly true if the medication has proven to help you control the condition.

There are no guidelines that are consistent from company to company when it comes to blood pressure. Therefore, you must do research in order to ensure you get the lowest rate available for your age and health condition. In addition, if you are a non-smoker, you may find yourself with a lower rate in spite of your high blood pressure.

But, again, that is an underwriting preference that varies among life insurance companies. As with any condition, the more companies you research, the better your chances are of securing the lowest available rate.

High blood pressure doesn’t mean high life insurance rates

Currently, there is no cure for high blood pressure; however, it can be controlled, and its threat to your overall health can be reduced. Regular visits to your primary care doctor, adjustments and improvements to your diet, taking medication when needed, and adjustments to physical activity and/or exercise are all paramount to securing the best possible rates on life insurance policies.

Beyond saving money, all of these lifestyle choices and adaptations are crucial to living your longest, healthiest, and most abundant life. Small healthy steps today ensure a better life for tomorrow.

How about you? Your family? Your health? Your future?

Don’t waste anymore time hiding behind misconceptions, falsities, and fear. Recruit the help of an independent agent today and get the best policy for you and your family.