Blindness, Glaucoma and Life Insurance Underwriters

Glaucoma affects over 60 million people worldwide and is one of the leading causes of blindness, so how do insurance underwriters evaluate the conditions and premium considerations when they make their decisions?

Here are the facts from the National Eye Institute:

  • Glaucoma tends to run in families
  • A person can have glaucoma and not know it
  • People over age 60 are more likely to get glaucoma
  • People with glaucoma usually do not experience pain from the disease
  • Glaucoma can be controlled
  • People at risk for glaucoma should have an eye examination through dilated pupils

According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, glaucoma is a disease where damage to the optic nerve occurs leading to progressive, irreversible vision loss. There are typically no early warnings; developing slowly without noticeable sight loss. When vision loss does occur, the disease is generally advanced. But the good news is that with early detection from regular eye exams, treatment options are available.

Childhood glaucoma, also referred to as congenital glaucoma, occurs in babies and young children – though rare. In an uncomplicated case, surgery can help correct the structural defects. Both medication and surgery are required in some cases.

There are several types of glaucoma but two main types are open angled and angle closure.

Open angle is the most common and is caused by the slow clogging of the drainage canals resulting in eye pressure having a wide and open angle between the iris and cornea. The angle closure is caused by blocked drainage canals and has a closed or narrow angle between the iris and cornea. The latter develops quickly and demands immediate attention.

But, how does all this affect applying for life insurance?

If you are blind, life insurance underwriters will typically ask the following questions:

  • What’s the underlying reason, condition or accident that caused the blindness?
  • What type of treatment is needed and how does that affect your mortality?
  • What is the mortality risk associated with the condition?

If in the early stages of glaucoma, without blindness, underwriters will look at how the condition is being presently treated. If in pain and using chronic pain killers, this can be a debit against the better rates. Medical marijuana is now being passed among the states and is being promoted to treat glaucoma which is another factor that is taken into consideration when evaluating the best options for life insurance.

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Blindness, not associated with glaucoma, and let’s say due to an accident or injury with no other conditions or health concerns, generally qualify for a standard rating and the accident must be at least a year old.

However, another option for life insurance is the no-exam guaranteed life. Prices are becoming more competitive as the new year suggests. Some of the key features are increased face amounts and issue ages between 18 and 85. Few health questions are asked and immediate approval takes place within days of the application completed with an electronic signature.

There may be a lot of value to exploring a guaranteed issue policy for someone who has advanced glaucoma, blindness caused by disease and other complications that will offer a lengthy time in the underwriting process and, ultimately, higher premiums.

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