Life Insurance for Barrett’s Esophagus

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

If you have Barrett’s esophagus, you may be wondering if you are eligible for life insurance. This is a common question, and the answer is yes – you can get life insurance with Barrett’s esophagus. However, it is important to understand what kind of life insurance coverage is available to you and what factors will affect your premiums. In this guide, we will discuss the ins and outs of life insurance for people with Barrett’s esophagus.

What Is Barrett’s Esophagus

The esophagus is a muscular tube connecting the throat to the stomach.

Barrett’s esophagus is a pre-malignant condition stemming from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and sometimes leading to adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. Esophageal cancer is rarely curable with poor five-year survival.

When Barrett’s esophagus is found, periodic endoscopic surveillance is recommended so a biopsy can identify dysplasia or pre-cancerous lesions and thereby prevent progression to overt cancer through resection.

Barrett’s esophagus is typically found upon endoscopic evaluation of patients with heartburn symptoms, reflux (backwash of stomach acid irritating the esophagus), or other upper gastrointestinal symptoms. But it can also be found in persons with no symptoms.

It is easily recognized visually by a characteristic salmon color. The diagnosis is confirmed at biopsy to find a change in the esophageal epithelium called “intestinal metaplasia,” or the presence of goblet cells.

The biopsy report will also include whether dysplasia is present and, if dysplasia is present, whether it is high-grade (moderate to severe) or low-grade (mild).

Cancer risk is highest in those with high-grade dysplasia and lowest in those with no dysplasia. The risk is also higher in those with a long segment of the esophagus compared to those with a short segment involvement.

Because Barrett’s esophagus is common, cancer’s overall risk is low in persons with short segment involvement and no dysplasia.

If there is no dysplasia, follow-up endoscopy and biopsy are recommended every 3 years.

If high-grade dysplasia is present, intense surveillance (every 3 months) is required, possibly surgical ablation or esophagus resection. Low-grade dysplasia requires yearly surveillance.


Barrett’s esophagus may be treated with anti-reflux therapy, but there is no clear evidence that medical treatment alters the disorder’s course. Sometimes, surgery is undertaken to prevent reflux.

Life Insurance Underwriting Considerations For Barrett’s Esophagus

The underwriting consideration for Barrett’s esophagus will depend on the biopsy report. This report will determine if there is dysplasia present and, if there is, whether it is high-grade (moderate to severe) or low-grade (mild).

Since cancer risk is high for those with moderate to severe dysplasia, your application will be postponed until after surgery or when a follow-up biopsy shows that you don’t have dysplasia.

What are some other questions the underwriter might ask?

1. Date of First Diagnosis

This is a common question for people who have a high risk of getting cancer. If you were recently diagnosed with mild dysplasia, your application will be postponed for a year, but only if you have a follow-up biopsy that shows that you don’t have dysplasia.

If you are diagnosed with severe dysplasia, you will likely have to wait two years after treatment to have your surgery. You can expect to pay more for surgery if you have dysplasia.

2. Have You Had Any of the Following Treatments?

  1. Endoscopic procedure: The underwriter will want to know the dates of the evaluation and what the results were.
  2. Surgery: If you have one, you will have to wait two years to apply for a life insurance policy again. If there are no problems and no further surveillance is needed, after five years you will not be rated any more.

3. Are Any of the Following Present?

  1. Dysplasia, low-grade: Some cells look abnormal, but they currently do not have the ability to spread. This is a very early form of cancer of the esophagus.
  2. Dysplasia, high-grade: This is a more serious form of cell abnormality than low-grade dysplasia.

4. Are You on Any Medications or Treatments?

This allows the underwriter to assess how risky it would be to insure you. There are a few treatments available, such as surgery, cryoablation therapy, and endoscopic surveillance.

There are two types of medicines: those that reduce the level of acid in your stomach, and those that boost the movement of food through your digestive system.

The insurance company will decline your coverage if you are having endoscopic surveillance or surgery. If your ailment is controlled by medication and you haven’t had any dysplasia in the past, you won’t be rated.

What If I’m Declined?

Even if your life insurance application was declined by an insurer, you can still purchase life insurance through a guaranteed issue policy.

What Is A Guaranteed Issue Policy?

A guaranteed issue policy is life insurance that does not depend on your health. This means that you will be able to get life insurance even if you have had a stroke and have been declined before. However, there are a few drawbacks that you should consider before getting this type of policy.

Many insurers that offer guaranteed issue life insurance policies have a limit on the death benefit. This amount is usually between $25,000 and $30,000 depending on your age.

If you die from natural causes, your family will have to wait for two or three years before the company will pay the full death benefit. Most companies, however, will pay a benefit equal to the total premiums paid in plus 5 to 10 percent.

Since the insurer is not sure how healthy you are, they will charge you more for your life insurance policy than someone who is healthier.

Although there are some disadvantages to guaranteed issue life insurance, it is still a better option than asking your loved ones to pay your final expenses.

Need Help Getting Life Insurance Coverage?

If you have a preexisting medical condition and want to buy life insurance, you will need help from an expert. This person can help make sure that you get coverage so that you don’t get declined.

Warning: Applying for life insurance without a medical exam can be risky. If you are declined coverage, it could be at least two years before you are able to get any life insurance.

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Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

I’m a licensed financial professional focusing on annuities and insurance for more than a decade. My former role was training financial advisors, including for a Fortune Global 500 insurance company. I’ve been featured in Time Magazine, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, Entrepreneur, Bloomberg, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, and Women’s Health Magazine.

The Annuity Expert is an online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. My goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning or find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates for you. 

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