Life Insurance After An Eating Disorder

Applying for life insurance with a history of an eating disorder is difficult but not impossible. Rates will depend on your time in recovery.

Dealing with an eating disorder can be extremely challenging because they can be both medically and financially devastating while also taking a toll on one’s well being.

The National Eating Disorders Association estimates that as many as 10 million women and 1 million men in the United States battle with anorexia or bulimia, and an additional 13 million struggling with binge eating or an obsession with dieting.

Statistics show that children as young as 8 and 9 years old are being diagnosed with eating disorders. Adolescent girls as still the No. 1 demographic for developing an eating disorder.

Eating disorders can be classified into one of five categories:

  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Binge Eating Disorder
  • Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder
  • Additional Eating or Feeding Disorders

To learn more about each specific eating disorder category, visit the NEDA website to learn about their symptoms, long-term effects and possible warning signs.

According to the NEDA, anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and is defined as self-starvation. The body is denied essential nutrients it needs to function normally, so it is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy. This “slowing down” element can have serious medical consequences – both short-term and long-term.

The following list is a snapshot of consequences that are related to anorexia:

  • Abnormally slow heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Higher risk for heart failure due to low blood pressure levels
  • Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis)
  • Muscle loss and weakness
  • Severe dehydration, which may lead to kidney failure
  • Dry hair and skin
  • Loss of hair
  • Growth of a downy layer of hair (lanugo) all over the body in an effort to keep the body warm

Treatment includes adequate nutrition, bringing weight back to a healthy level, reducing excessive exercise, and stopping binging and purging behaviors. Evidence also suggests that antidepressant medications approved by the FDA may help for bulimia nervosa and also may be effective for treating co-occurring anxiety or depression for other eating disorders, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Since eating disorders are part physical and part mental, individuals may undergoing treatment at a rehabilitation center for eating disorders.

A 30-day stint at a residential treatment center for eating disorders can cost up to $30,000. The 30-day limit is set by health insurance companies as a way of controlling costs.

If an individuals needs to stay longer at the facility, they will either have to pay out-of-pocket or fight their insurance company for more coverage – whether that be an extra day or month.

If you are currently battling with an eating disorder and wish to apply for life insurance, you may face some complications qualifying for coverage. For some insurance companies, it is an automatic decline as the risk is too high, but this doesn’t mean that coverage can’t be purchased at a later date.

Dr. Ann Hoven, medical director for the Hartford said, “Most insurers require at least a year of stability before they will issue a policy to someone who has an eating disorder history.”

When applying for life insurance, you will most likely need to answer the following questions about your past eating disorder and current health status:

  • Were you diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and/or bulimia nervosa?
  • How many episodes of eating disorders have you had?
  • When was the last episode?
  • Has your weight been stable for at least one year?
  • Do you have any other mental conditions like depression, anxiety, alcohol/substance abuse or psychotic disorders?
  • Are you taking any medication to help with your eating disorder?

Generally speaking, insurance companies want to see that you have recovered from the eating disorder and have maintained a healthy weight for at least a year. A longer wait time between recovery and purchasing a policy could improve your rating, as you are less likely to relapse.

Insurance companies will also factor in your overall physical and mental health as well as your family’s health history to determine a suitable rating.

As with any other health-related issue, applying for life insurance with a history of an eating disorder is difficult but not impossible. To increase your chance of qualifying for the best possible policy, consider working with a licensed life insurance agent who can guide you through the process.

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