If you are one of the millions of Americans who suffer from liver disease, you may be wondering if you are eligible for life insurance. In this guide, we will discuss the basics of life insurance with liver disease and answer some common questions.
Underwriting Life Insurance With Liver Tests
Liver enzymes are commonly tested upon the life insurance application. Although other tissues may produce them in the body, an unexplained elevation of one or more of these enzymes concerns impaired liver function.
The liver tests most commonly encountered by the underwriter include:
- AST (aspartate aminotransferase), formerly SGOT(serum glutamic oxaloacetric transaminase)
- ALT (alanine aminotransferase), formerly SGPT(serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase)
- GGT (gamma-glutamyl transferase or transpeptidase) or GGTP
Elevations of AST and ALT are usually caused by some type of liver damage that allows enzymes to “leak out” of cells.
The degree of elevation roughly parallels the extent of liver cell damage. ALT is the most specific enzyme, being produced primarily by the liver. The liver produces AST but commonly rises from simple muscle trauma. GGT is a susceptible enzyme for the detection of early liver disease or damage. It is also an inducible enzyme, meaning that it will rise when the liver is actively metabolizing some types of drugs or toxins (like alcohol).
Many impairments may cause elevations in one or more of the liver enzymes:
- Hepatitis, especially viral hepatitis (Hepatitis A (HAV), Hepatitis B (HBV), Hepatitis C (HCV)
- Fatty liver, often associated with diabetes, obesity, elevated blood fats, or excess alcohol
- Liver cancer or metastases
- Alcohol use
- Some medications, such as Dilantin, phenobarbital, allopurinol, and many others
- A variety of infiltrative diseases of the liver
- Biliary obstruction, including conditions such as gallstones, primary biliary cirrhosis, cancer, and cholangitis
Underwriting abnormal liver tests aim to determine the underlying cause and then classify the risk accordingly. Many of the conditions listed above are quite serious.
In summary, when faced with abnormal liver enzymes, an underwriter will consider the degree of elevation, results of other blood tests, the clinical history, and the current physical findings. Some follow-up investigations might help clarify the picture.
- Was the applicant taking a medication that was not initially mentioned?
- Was there a documented viral illness before the blood draw?
- Has the client been evaluated by his or her own physician for chronic elevations?
The underwriter will also consider the condition of the blood specimen, particularly hemolysis, which could affect the test results. A non-fasting state does not affect any of the liver enzymes.
What If I’m Declined?
Even if your life insurance application was declined by an insurer, you could 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.