Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes seizures. The condition can be genetic, or it can be the result of a brain injury such as a trauma or stroke.
It is an incurable disease but, with proper treatment, seizures can be controlled in most cases, allowing you to live your life.
If you suffer from epilepsy, you may wonder whether or not your condition will impact your ability to purchase life insurance.
For most people with generally well-controlled epilepsy, finding a life insurance policy at a decent rate shouldn’t be too difficult. However, if you have severe epilepsy or you aren’t doing what your doctor recommends to control your seizures, you may have difficulty finding an affordable life insurance policy.
How Epilepsy Impacts Life Insurance
Epilepsy is considered an incurable, but controllable, neurological disorder.
In some cases, having a seizure can be life-threatening, especially if one happens when you’re in a dangerous situation, such as when driving a car.
Because the danger to your overall health and well-being is greater when you have epilepsy than if you don’t, insurance companies may feel that you are at a greater risk of an early death. This, in turn, means that they are at a greater risk of having to pay out your full life insurance policy.
Additionally, epilepsy can put you at a higher risk of developing certain mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts.
This could cause a life insurance company to see you as a greater risk of developing other conditions that could cause you to die earlier than others your age who don’t have epilepsy.
Why Is It Difficult for Those with Epilepsy to Get Life Insurance?
Epilepsy in adults is a lifelong condition that must be managed from the time of diagnosis until death.
If your seizures are frequent or uncontrolled, the chances that you will have a seizure under dangerous conditions, such as while standing on a ladder or while swimming, are higher than in those whose epilepsy is well-controlled with diet, medication, or lifestyle changes.
This possibility that you may die earlier in life than someone without epilepsy makes you a greater risk for a life insurance company to insure.
If your epilepsy is well-controlled and you have fewer than two seizures per year, you are considered less of a risk for the life insurance carrier to insure. The fewer seizures you have, the less likely you are to have a seizure under a potentially dangerous condition, and the less likely you are to die as a result of your seizure.
Those who do not have well-controlled epilepsy, often defined as more than five seizures per year, are at a higher risk of having a seizure while driving a car or in another condition that could be deadly.
For these people, finding life insurance may be difficult, and finding a life insurance policy at a low rate is incredibly unlikely.
Health Factors That Impact the Cost of Life Insurance with Epilepsy
When you apply for a life insurance policy with epilepsy, the company will want to know some details about your epilepsy. These details help the life insurance carrier determine how much of a risk you will be to insure, whether they can offer you a standard policy, and how much your life insurance premiums will be.
Some of the basic information the life insurance company may want to know includes:
- The date of your first seizure
- Whether or not you have a formal diagnosis of epilepsy
- How long it’s been since you were diagnosed
- Whether or not you have a specific treatment plan
- Whether you are following through on that treatment plan, including taking medications, adjusting your lifestyle, and managing your diet
In addition to the answers to the above questions, some other factors about your epilepsy may impact the type of policy you receive and the rate you pay.
These other factors include:
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Type of Seizures
There are four main types of seizures:
- Petit Mal or Absent Seizures: This rare type of seizure is characterized by approximately 15 seconds of abnormal brain activity. There aren’t often warning signs, and to an outside observer these types of seizures can look like a brief moment of non-responsiveness, like you are daydreaming.
- Focal Onset Aware Seizures: This seizure occurs on only one side of the brain. You remain conscious, and the seizure usually lasts about 1 or 2 minutes.
- Focal Onset Impaired Awareness Seizures: This type of seizure is similar to a Focal Onset Aware Seizure, except you are not conscious or aware of your surroundings. These seizures can last for a few seconds up to 2 minutes.
- Gran Mal or Tonic-Clonic Seizures: These seizures are more physical, with a phase of full-body muscle tightening and loss of consciousness followed by spasms. An entire seizure can last from 3 to 4 minutes. This is the type of seizure that most people typically associate with epilepsy.
The type of seizures that you experience as part of your epilepsy can play a great part in the type of life insurance for which you qualify.
Idiopathic or Symptomatic Seizures
If your seizures are idiopathic, meaning your doctor doesn’t know what causes them, you are less likely to receive a low rate on your life insurance.
However, if you experience symptomatic seizures, you are better able to pinpoint what causes them and can help avoid triggering them. This makes you less risky for your life insurance company and may help you get a lower rate.
Choosing the Best Life Insurance Policy with Epilepsy
Type of Policy
Term life insurance policies are, across the board, considered the most affordable option for those purchasing life insurance. These policies cover you for a specific period of time and do not carry any cash value.
If you’re looking for life insurance to help your spouse pay off your home or to pay for college for your children in the event that you die, a term life insurance policy may be the most cost-effective option. A bonus is that many term life insurance policies can be converted into whole life policies without you having to undergo the underwriting process again, meaning that later complications from your epilepsy won’t cause problems in this conversion.
However, if you’re looking to provide an inheritance for your loved one or offer your spouse financial security later in life, a whole life insurance policy may be a better choice.
Overall, whole life policies will cost more money, but adjusting the amount of coverage you purchase can make them more affordable and may offset any increases in premiums that may come with your epilepsy.
Level of Underwriting
Purchasing life insurance gives you two options for the underwriting process: fully underwritten and no medical exam policies.
Choosing a fully underwritten policy means you will have to submit to a medical exam before the insurer makes a final decision on your coverage. If your epilepsy is severe or not well-controlled, medical underwriting could mean you run the risk of being denied or cause you to pay high premiums for coverage.
If you are worried about undergoing a medical exam, especially if you have more than five seizures per year or you are not managing your epilepsy according to your doctor’s instructions, you may want to opt for a no medical exam life insurance policy.
With this type of policy, you fill out a detailed survey about your health on which you are expected to be truthful, but you do not have to submit to a medical exam. These types of policies often have lower coverage limits ($500,000 for term policies and $50,000 for whole life policies), but they may be the best options for those with severe epilepsy.
Amount of Coverage
How much coverage you choose to purchase is decided based upon a variety of factors, including:
- Your financial obligations, such as child support
- Your salary
- The ages of your children
- Whether you have a mortgage or other debt that will need to be paid
If you’re looking to control the amount you’ll pay in life insurance premiums, you may need to adjust the amount of your coverage to reduce that price.
What If You Are Diagnosed with Epilepsy After Buying Life Insurance?
Once you have purchased your life insurance policy and that policy has been issued, your insurance company cannot cancel your policy or raise your rates, even if you are diagnosed with epilepsy.
If you already have a life insurance policy, there are a few situations where a later diagnosis of epilepsy may be an issue:
- You have term life insurance and want to continue coverage: If you wish to purchase a new term life insurance policy - not just convert your term policy into a whole life policy - you will need to go through the underwriting process again, even if you’re purchasing your new policy with the same company. This could mean that your new diagnosis of epilepsy could prove problematic for getting coverage at an affordable rate.
- You have group life insurance through your employer and you leave your job: When you leave your job, you may be given the option to convert your group life insurance policy or port your coverage. Converting or porting your policy does not mean you have to undergo further medical review, but this can be more expensive than applying for life insurance coverage on your own.
You want to increase the coverage limits on your policy: Increasing how much your insurance policy is for may mean you have to undergo additional underwriting. In this situation, your new epilepsy diagnosis could increase your premiums.
Choosing a life insurance policy when you have a life-altering condition such as epilepsy can be challenging. Taking the time to shop around with different carriers, examine your options, and adjust the amount of coverage you purchase may allow you to purchase coverage at a more affordable rate.
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