What You Need to Know About Lyme Disease and Life Insurance

July 27, 2017

Did you know that a tiny, spider-like creature can torpedo your chances of being approved for a life insurance policy? It might sound strange, but unfortunately, it’s true. A single bite from a blacklegged tick—a nasty little critter that lives in grass, bushes, trees, and plants—can infect you with Lyme disease, a potentially life-threatening illness that can be difficult to cure.

How Lyme disease affects the body

In approximately 50 percent of Lyme disease cases, the infected person develops a round, red rash at the site of the tick bite. Some people experience flu-like symptoms like muscle pain and a fever. If the infection is treated with antibiotics during this first stage, the patient can make a full recovery.

However, some people experience no initial symptoms. And in many instances, patients are misdiagnosed because Lyme disease symptoms look very similar to other health issues like arthritis, depression, and even heart problems. When left untreated, the infection can spread to the organs and nervous system. In 40 percent of cases, it leads to serious long-term health problems including coronary disease, respiratory issues, arthritis, and a weakened immune system.

Does it affect insurability?

When a Lyme disease infection is promptly and properly treated, it’s possible to make a full recovery within two weeks to a month. Unfortunately, almost half of all patients experience long-term health problems, and a small number develop permanent health issues.

If you’re planning to purchase health insurance and you’ve been diagnosed with Lyme disease, your best course of action is to get the right treatment and postpone your application until you’ve made a full recovery. Unfortunately, this could take much longer than you’d like.

If you absolutely need life insurance and you’re still experiencing symptoms, then your insurer will probably assign you a table rating. This basically means that you’ll be put into a risk category based on your overall health, lifestyle, and medical history, along with a subcategorization that reflects the amount of risk the Lyme disease adds. For example, if you’re a 35-year-old, healthy non-smoker who’d normally fall into the preferred category, you might have to pay an additional 20 percent on your premium until you recover from Lyme disease. When you no longer experience any symptoms, you can ask for a reassessment.

Protect yourself

Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 300,000 Americans are infected with Lyme disease each year. Unfortunately, that number is growing, with at least 34 new cases per hour!

The best way to protect yourself against Lyme disease is to prevent any contact with ticks. While they’re rare in arid areas like Arizona and New Mexico, they can be found in the rest of the U.S., with the largest concentrations in New England, along the East Coast, and around the Great Lakes. If you—or your pets—spend time outdoors in any of these areas, you’re at risk for tick bites. You can reduce that risk by avoiding high grass, heavy brush, and woodland areas; covering up any exposed parts of your body; and using an appropriate insect repellent. After returning indoors, immediately check your clothing, gear, and body for ticks. If you have pets, check them too, because they can unwittingly carry ticks into the house.

To learn more about how Lyme disease can impact your insurability, contact Liberty Financial Group. Our independent agents can help you determine which life insurance company can offer you the best coverage for your situation.

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