The first way to make sure you aren’t overpaying for life insurance with an eating disorder is to get quotes from multiple companies. Not every life insurance company looks at health conditions in the same way. Even then it may come down to the type of eating disorder. One may favor anorexia nervosa over bulimia nervosa. Pica could be in a third category altogether.
Even if you’ve been declined or postponed before, it is possible to find life insurance at good rates. Use the tips and tricks below to ensure that you aren’t paying a cent more than you have to.
The most important part of getting life insurance after an eating disorder is the keyword "after." If you are currently struggling with overcoming an eating disorder, then you may have your life insurance application postponed. Talk with your insurance agent about where you are at in the recovery process before applying.
If you are currently at a healthy weight and in generally good health, you can expect anywhere from a preferred to a standard rating depending on all of the other factors that influence life insurance health classes.
How to Save Money on Life Insurance After an Eating Disorder
Saving money takes a little more effort than calling up the nearest life insurance agent, although it can be almost that easy. Here are several ways we’ve found over the years to help save you as much money as possible.
Use a Life Insurance Needs Calculator
This is the most important tip of the bunch. So if you take anything away from this, make sure you use a life insurance needs calculator!
You can guess how much life insurance you need. You can even follow the old axioms of buying life insurance where you purchase anywhere from three to seven times your annual income. (We’ve heard of people recommending as high as 20x your annual income, but that's just crazy.)
Instead, look at factors that affect your life. How many children do you have? How much do you owe on your mortgage? What is your credit card debt situation? These factors play into how much life insurance you need to cover your family if the worst happens.
When you use a life insurance needs calculator, you know with certainty that you are purchasing the correct amount. You won’t pay too much for coverage you don’t need. Plus, your family won’t be left underinsured if you buy too little.
Pre-screen Your Application
When you have a pre-existing condition, life insurance applications can be tricky. Some companies make a big fuss over certain conditions and brush off others. Then you’ll get a different company that makes a fuss over conditions the first company didn't care about.
The best thing you can do when you’re looking for life insurance with any condition, including previously diagnosed eating disorders, is pre-screen your application.
A pre-screen is just giving your information to your insurance agent up front. Then the agent can send the pertinent medical information to an underwriter (without any identifying info of course.) The underwriter can recommend a health class based on that information.
When you do this with several companies, you can ensure that there won’t be any surprises in underwriting. Surprises like premiums that are 150% of what you thought they would be.
Pre-screening ensures you apply with the company that will offer you the best rates.
Write Down Your Reasons for Life Insurance
Write down your reasons so you can’t go back and justify a decision that might not make sense. If you only want life insurance to fund your child’s education, then you want a term life insurance policy. Buying a permanent life insurance policy in that situation would not be a good use of your money.
On the other hand, if you want your life insurance to cover any estate taxes or burial expenses, buying a permanent policy will serve you better.
Between clarification of why you’re looking into life insurance and a life insurance needs calculator, you know you’re buying exactly what you need.
Use an Independent Agent
Not all life insurance agents are created equal. They all go through the same licensing, but that’s where the similarity ends.
Insurance companies hire captive agents to push their products. That agent is contractually bound to sell only those products. That’s why those companies spend so much on advertising and stick their logo above the agent’s office. State Farm is an example of a captive agent.
But insurance is not a one size fits all product. Each company has different underwriting guidelines. So if you conquered anorexia five years ago, one company might still charge you an extra premium. Another company may look at your medical history and decide it’s far enough in the past to keep you at standard rates.
Independent agents can sell products from many companies. That means they can examine each company’s underwriting guidelines and figure out which ones offer the best rates for people in varying situations. For example, they can select the best companies for someone who has overcome an eating disorder.
Life Insurance After Bulimia - A Success Story
Rob (name changed for privacy) came into our office and applied for a 20-year term life insurance policy. He and his wife just had their first child and they wanted to make sure they could pay for their daughter's college tuition if anything happened to Rob.
The offer came back with a standard health class. That meant much higher rates than he was expecting or wanted to pay. After speaking with the underwriter and Rob, we discovered that Rob hadn't told us he had been diagnosed with bulimia 7 years ago. He had disclosed everything on his life insurance application, but said later he was too embarrassed to talk about it with strangers.
Armed with the new information, including when he started successful treatment with the help of his doctor and psychiatrist, we re-shopped the market for him. We asked Rob to wait on accepting the offer because we thought we could find better rates for the young family.
We pre-screened an application with several companies we'd used successfully in the past for people with eating disorders and one of them came back tentatively offering a preferred health class. The underwriter said that with his current lifestyle and time since he was suffering from bulimia, they weren't worried about relapses or any irreversible long-term damage.
Rob signed the new application and the offer from the new company came back with rates 7% lower than the offer from the original company.
How Does an Eating Disorder Affect Life Insurance?
How an underwriter looks at an eating disorder will primarily depend on the type of eating disorder. Of the main six types, each presents a different challenge to life insurance.
Generally known as anorexia, this eating disorder is life-threatening. It entails:
- Abnormally low body weight
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Distorted perception of a person’s weight or shape
- Excessive limitation of calories
- Excessive use of laxatives or diet aids
- Potential for deadly starvation
Commonly known as bulimia, this disorder can also negatively impact your lifespan. Characteristics include the following:
- Severe self-perception of body mass
- Cycles of binging and purging food
- Lack of control over the food you consume
- Forced vomiting
- Compulsive exercise training
- Use of laxatives or similar products
While not immediately life-threatening, this disorder tends to cause obesity which reduces lifespan. Common factors include:
- Regularly overeating each time
- Eating when not hungry
- Eating food too quickly
The main characteristic of this eating disorder is that the person is inclined to eat non-food items. This may include things like dirt, soap, talcum, cloth, or other potentially detrimental or life-threatening articles.
Life insurance underwriters are concerned with poisoning, infections, and internal problems with the digestive tract.
Rumination disorder generally involves the persistent process of regurgitation of food. Although it sounds like it may be similar to the first eating disorders, it’s not characterized by nausea or gagging. It’s most commonly found in infants and people with intellectual disabilities.
Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
This eating disorder doesn't involve any fear of gaining weight. Instead, the person doesn’t have an interest in eating food at all.
People with this condition tend to avoid foods with specific sensory characteristics such as texture, color, taste, or smell. It can result in significant weight loss to the point of being life-threatening.
The Main Health Issues With Eating Disorders That Worry Underwriters
The reason that life insurance companies are so reluctant to insure people currently suffering from eating disorders is due to the enormous variety of resulting health issues. If you are in the early stages of recovery, talk with your agent about options. You might be postponed for traditional life insurance in some circumstances.
Cardiovascular Health Issues
The body uses food for fuel. When you are not consuming enough food, the body uses its own tissue to replace this lack of fuel. It doesn’t just consume fat. Your body will also consume your muscles, and your heart is a muscle.
Risk of heart failure dramatically increases with eating disorders because the heart rate and blood pressure tend to plummet.
Secondly, purging food will decrease electrolyte levels. Lower electrolyte levels can cause irregular heart rates and can even result in heart failure.
Gastrointestinal Health Issues
Lack of nutrition can result in the weakening of intestinal muscles. Excessive use of laxatives can damage the nerve endings and cause bowel issues.
Repetitious binging and purging can cause blood sugar fluctuations, a block in the intestines, and bacterial infections.
Food binging can result in stomach rupture. Both binging and purging may result in developing pancreatitis.
Neurological Health Issues
While our brains are small in comparison to the mass of the rest of our body, they consume as much as a fifth of our calorie intake.
Lack of calories can impact the fatty layer neurons use in our brains. Damage to this layer can cause numbness and tingling in the extremities.
The lack of vital nutrients such as potassium, calcium, sodium, and chloride can cause electrolyte imbalances. This can lead to muscle cramps and seizures.
Also, eating disorders can affect the heart. If the heart doesn’t pump enough blood to the brain that can cause further problems. Problems like dizziness, fainting, and sleep apnea.
Endocrine Health Issues
The body manufactures its own hormones using both the fat and calories you consume.
When food is severely limited, it can affect the production of vital sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. This can lead to osteoporosis and bone fractures.
It also affects the hormones your thyroid produces. This condition, if prolonged, can cause the body to become resistant to insulin which can turn into diabetes.
Underwriting Factors for Eating Disorders
Life insurance underwriters want an enormous amount of information about an eating disorder compared to other pre-existing medical conditions. Being upfront with all this information is essential. If they catch you in a lie or half-truth, they could deny your application, and that could affect future life insurance applications.
The underwriter will ask for information about both your physical and mental health.
Most people working to overcome an eating disorder require some form of counseling. This can often pair with medication to treat depression or anxiety.
Because questions vary with the type of eating disorder, you may not have to answer all of the following. But it’s good to be prepared with information in case the question does come up.
Type of Eating Disorder
Specifically, the area of major concern to an underwriter is whether the condition diagnosed is Anorexia or Bulimia Nervosa. Both conditions can have the potential of other long-term health effects.
The long-term health effects of Anorexia can increase your risk for osteoporosis or heart failure. The long-term health risks for Bulimia can result in heart attacks, kidney failure, and esophageal cancer.
When the Condition Began
The underwriter will need your age when you were diagnosed and the date of diagnosis. The longer and eating disorder goes on, the more long-term damage it can wreak on your body.
Occurrence of the Last Episode
The underwriter needs to establish your health since you beat your eating disorder. They will also need the dates of any relapses.
Type(s) of Treatment
What type of treatment did you receive? The underwriter will also want to know if you were ever hospitalized along with the dates of hospitalization.
This information will include any medications prescribed and counseling you have received or current ongoing treatment. Underwriters will also consider how well you have followed or are currently to continue to follow your treatment regimen.
Current Weight and Overall Health
The underwriter needs to look at how well you have been able to maintain a healthy weight for the previous year, if not longer. They also want to see that you are continuing to eat a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and have no substance abuse issues.
Existence of Other Health Related Issues
Finally, the underwriter will look at the big picture of your health. They want to confirm that there are no other health issues which may impact your life. This includes issues related to eating disorders - both physical and psychological. It also consists of any health issues unrelated to an eating disorder.
Other underwriting factors which will impact your health class for a life insurance policy include:
- Biological Sex
- Family History
- Blood Pressure
- Cholesterol Levels
- Height/Weight Ratio
- Driving Record
Because eating disorders can cause so many other health issues, insurance companies tend to be cautious about insuring people who are recovering from them. Luckily there are a few who will offer reasonable rates.
If you are otherwise relatively healthy and have been recovering successfully for over a year, you may qualify for a standard rating. If you have been in recovery for over five years without relapse and are in excellent health, you may qualify for preferred.
You can use the Instant Quotes tool on the left (top if you’re on mobile) to compare rates between the two health classes.
Getting Life Insurance Approval with a Serious Eating Disorder
Whether you currently have an eating disorder or are having problems recovering, you can still get coverage.
Guaranteed issue life insurance will cover anyone with few to no questions asked. We recommend this as a last resort type of life insurance because it is more expensive. Benefit amounts are also limited. Usually, they don’t exceed $25,000 per company.
The good news is that there are almost never any health questions and you can skip the life insurance medical exam. Plus, approval is guaranteed.
Conclusions on Finding Life Insurance Approval After Conquering an Eating Disorder
Even with an eating disorder, it's possible to get life insurance. Guaranteed issue coverage can work as a stopgap measure until you can maintain a healthy weight and diet for at least 12 months.
It all comes down to what eating disorder you have or had. Underwriters will rate pica different than anorexia. People who have overcome their eating disorders typically fall between standard and preferred, provided they are otherwise in good health.
If you are still struggling, you might have to hold a guaranteed issue policy temporarily. These policies accept everyone who applies, typically for much lower benefit amounts. But talk with your insurance agent first to make sure there isn't a better solution for you.
How Abrams Insurance Solutions Can Help
We are a small group of independent agents who work closely with underwriters to find the best coverage possible for people with pre-existing medical conditions. We work with 70 of the top-rated life insurance companies in the country to make sure we can choose the companies with the best underwriting guidelines for medical conditions like an eating disorder.
If you’ve been declined before or worry about finding a company who will offer fair rates, we can help.
Give us a call today with any questions at 858-703-6178. You’ve worked hard to get to where you are. Let us help you on this next part of your journey. There is never any obligation to buy.