Living with epilepsy is frightening. Seizures can happen at any point, and you may feel as though you have very little control over your mind or body.
It is easy to feel as though you are at the mercy of your epilepsy; however, when it comes to finding life insurance, you have options.
This article will cover the basic of epilepsy and what risks life insurance companies look at when assessing an epileptic candidate for coverage.
What Is Epilepsy? Can You Get Life Insurance?
Epilepsy is a chronic brain disorder characterized by seizures and, frequently, other neurological conditions. It can occur genetically or as a result of a stroke or other brain trauma. Commonly, in older individuals, a stroke triggers epileptic fits; however, epilepsy and its causes can vary based on the age of the individual suffering.
Epilepsy is going to cause the insurance companies to view you as a high-risk applicant, but this doesn’t mean automatic rejection.
A seizure is a period of sustained brain hyperactivity. During this period of hyperactivity, nerve cells in the brain cease firing normally and, instead, fire in large synchronized bursts, altering the functionality of the brain.
During a seizure, these electrical discharges can alter an individual’s consciousness, causing uncontrollable muscle twitching, falls, and a period of deep slumber.
The difficulty in underwriting epilepsy for life insurance companies lies in the fact that epilepsy is a spectrum of brain disorders, and is often considered a syndrome – with multiple and unknown causes – rather than a disease.
This means that insurers will look at, not only the risks of seizures but the potential for life-threatening risks surrounding your seizures, such as environment, medication and health complications.
Common Classifications of Epilepsy
When assessing epileptic patients and their risks, underwriters will reference four main seizure classifications, ranging from severe and life-threatening to minor seizures:
- Grand Mal: These seizures can occur frequently (several times a year) or a few times during a person’s lifetime. With Grand Mal seizures, an individual will typically experience an “aura,” which refers to a strange feeling or sensation. During these seizures, falls are common and are accompanied by uncontrollable muscle twitching and loss of consciousness, followed by a period of deep sleep.
- Petit Mal: Unlike Grand Mal seizures, Petit Mal seizures can happen up to several times a day, and are most common in individuals under the age of 20. During these seizures, an individual’ “consciousness” becomes clouded, making him or her unaware of the outside world for a brief period. These typically do not last longer than 30 seconds.
- Partial seizure – complex: A partial seizure originates from one particular location in the cerebral cortex. During these episodes, loss of consciousness is common. “Complex” refers to a partial seizure that has spread to other parts of the body.
- Partial seizure – simple: During a “simple” partial seizure, symptoms are localized in the brain. Those experiencing this type of seizure may also experience trouble with sensory, motor or psychic brain functions. Like “complex” seizures, these also originate from one location in the cerebral cortex.
What Underwriters Look for with Epilepsy
The concerns for each of these classifications vary, which means underwriting epilepsy is a complicated task for insurers.
For example, a seizure can be directly related to a medical issue, such as a brain tumor, stroke or head trauma. Each of these issues comes with its own set of risk concerns; however, perhaps the biggest risk concern for those suffering from epileptic seizures is the risk of accident or harm during episodes.
Because epileptic episodes can lead to severe bodily harm and death, underwriters will look at the degree of control an applicant has over his or her seizures.
This means that the fewer seizures an applicant experiences each year, the better the rating will typically be, although this might not always be the case.
This is why life insurance companies will look at the frequency of episodes, the date of an applicant’s most recent episode and the severity of each episode before clearing a candidate for coverage.
For adults with frequent and recent attacks, insurers will assess risk in a few different ways. For example:
- Does the applicant drive an automobile?
- What is the applicant’s job or occupation?
- In what hobbies does the applicant engage?
- What medications is the applicant taking and to what degree do they control the severity of the seizures?
It is important to note that with epilepsy, the frequency of seizures is just as important as the circumstances during which they occur. The riskier the situation, the lower you can expect to be rated.
Find An Agent Who Understands Your Situation
An individual’s risk is a complicated thing to determine, especially if he or she has epilepsy.
With epilepsy, it is, unfortunately, incredibly rare to find life insurance at a Preferred rating. This is because seizures can happen at any time, whether they are managed by medication or not. Additionally, seizures can be triggered by stress, light sensitivity, alcohol or even lack of sleep.
Due to the unpredictable nature of epilepsy, you will need an agent to help you find a policy that will suit your needs, at a price you can afford.
An agent is helpful because he or she acts as a liaison between you, the applicant, and the underwriters. If your epilepsy poses a risk, an agent will be able to communicate the details surrounding your unique situation.
By personalizing your insurance experience, your agent will be able to find you the most affordable options.
Give us a call today to see how we can help you find the right coverage.