Many people experience heartburn.
Most won’t give it a thought when applying for life insurance.
Often referred to as acid reflux, it can have an effect on a life insurance application. The condition is usually well-controlled with behavioral changes and over-the-counter medications. But applying for life insurance with acid reflux could be an issue if the condition becomes chronic.
It is not so much the acid reflux itself, but the complications that it can produce.
What is Acid Reflux?
The technical term for chronic acid reflux is gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD for short. The more common term is heartburn. Acid reflux has nothing to do with the heart. But it does cause symptoms that are similar to a heart attack or heart disease. It’s estimated that up to 20% of the adult population suffers from acid reflux.
Acid reflux is an irritation of the esophagus. It’s caused by stomach acid that leads to burning discomfort in your upper belly or just below your breastbone. The location is why an onset is sometimes mistaken for a heart attack.
If you have acid reflux, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) doesn’t function properly. It normally closes after food passes through it. But if it doesn’t close all the way, or if it opens too often, stomach acid moves into the esophagus. You have acid reflux disease (GERD) if this happens more than twice a week.
Eating large meals is a common cause. It can also come from eating too close to bedtime or lying down right after a meal. It can also be caused by obesity, eating spicy or fatty foods, drinking alcohol, or taking aspirin, ibuprofen, certain muscle relaxers, or blood pressure medications.
In addition to heartburn, symptoms include regurgitation, burping, nausea, bloating and abdominal pain. They most commonly occur after a big meal or when lying down.
There’s no specific treatment for acid reflux. Remedies include antacids, eating smaller meals, and avoiding foods that are likely to cause it to happen. A doctor can prescribe acid-blocking medications.
How Life Insurance Companies Underwrite Applicants with Acid Reflux
In and of itself, acid reflux is not a major problem with life insurance, but rather the complications that can result from an advanced case. Acid reflux can result in damage to the esophagus, which can include ulceration. This can lead to erosive esophagitis and esophageal bleeding.
Barrett’s esophagus is another outcome. It’s when the tissue lining in your esophagus changes to look like the stomach’s tissue. That could put you at an increased risk of rare cancer known as adenocarcinoma. It’s cancer that starts in the mucous glands that line the lower part of your esophagus.
Underwriting will want to determine how severe your acid reflux condition is. They will want to know if you are taking over-the-counter medication and if it’s controlling the condition. You can get an approval with a preferred rating if the condition is well controlled.
Over-the-counter medications used to treat acid reflux include Prilosec, Tagamet, Zantac, and Nexium. They will usually be sufficient to control the condition. Prescription medication can be prescribed if the condition turns into acid reflux disease, and will most likely result in a standard rating.
As is the case anytime you have a health condition, underwriting will also want to know that you are otherwise in good health.
Getting Life Insurance with Acid Reflux
If you suffer from acid reflux, there’s plenty that you can do to control the condition. Taking over-the-counter medications as needed is only one step. Others include:
- Maintain proper body weight
- Avoid eating meals close to bedtime
- Eat lighter meals, especially at dinner time
- Get regular exercise to improve the efficiency of digestion
- Keep your head raised six inches when you’re in bed
- Wear loose-fitting clothing, and keep your belt loose
- Minimize or eliminate alcohol consumption
- Quit smoking – it can irritate the esophagus further
Review the side effects of any medications you are on, and if they contribute to acid reflux, change medications. If you’re on prescription medications, discuss the complication with your doctor. Switching to a different medication can eliminate the problem.
As is always the case when you have a health condition, your overall health should be otherwise excellent. If you have acid reflux disease, quit smoking. It adds an additional risk factor. Other health conditions, like hypertension, high cholesterol, and arthritis, must be well managed.
An Independent Life Insurance Broker to the Rescue…
Acid reflux won’t be an issue for most insurance companies. But there are a few where it could result in a higher premium. That will be the outcome if you develop acid reflux disease (GERD). Life insurance companies never underwrite an applicant based on the current condition alone. They study the data that shows where chronic conditions lead. If they have a negative experience with acid reflux applicants, you’ll pay a higher premium for coverage.
The key is always to make your application with the right life insurance company. Only an independent life insurance broker knows who those companies are. Because we work with many different insurance companies, we know which ones will be best for applicants with acid reflux, and many other health conditions.
We’ll place your application with those companies. And where appropriate, we’ll get pre-approval before submitting a formal application. That will give you the highest likelihood of approval at the best possible premium rate.
As an independent life insurance broker, we work primarily with people who have health conditions. You can benefit from our knowledge and experience, but you’ll never have to pay a higher premium for our services. (No, you won’t save money by “buying direct” – not with life insurance.)
We work for you, not the insurance companies. And unlike an insurance company salesperson, we won’t try to “fit” you into a policy. Instead, we’ll find a policy that fits you. After all, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to life insurance.
If you have acid reflux, or acid reflux disease – or any other health condition – give us a call or complete the brief application on the left side of this article. We’ll get back in touch with you, then get to work finding you the most affordable life insurance policy.