Obtaining Life Insurance If You Suffer From Kidney Disease

Although they may not receive as much attention as the heart, well-functioning kidneys are essential for good health.  When kidneys become diseased, fluids and waste can build up leading to potentially deadly consequences.

If you have kidney disease, depending on your situation, you may or not able to get life insurance, and even then you will need to meet certain circumstances.

The Basics of Kidney Disease

Kidney are organs located near the small of your back and serve to clean your blood, help control your blood pressure, and balance salt and minerals in your bloodstream.  They also remove waste from your blood after you digest your food, use your muscles for various activities and after you’ve been exposed to medications.  Healthy kidneys produce renin, an enzyme that regulates blood pressure and erythropoietin to help stimulate the production of red blood cells.

Kidneys can become damaged when they are injured or if acute renal failure takes place.  Generally, this damage occurs when blood is cut off to the kidneys, there is direct damage due to a traumatic blow, such as in a car accident, or urine backs up in them.  Acute renal failure can happen if:

  • a person becomes dehydrated,
  • they go into shock from a severe infection called sepsis
  • have the flow of urine blocked due to an enlarged prostate
  • take certain kinds of drugs that can damage kidneys
  • develop pregnancy complications such as eclampsia.

Chronic kidney disease takes place when a person’s kidneys don’t work well for at least three months.  Unfortunately, in the early stages of chronic kidney disease, there may be no or few symptoms, and you may suffer from serious damage to your kidneys before you even realize it.

Chronic kidney disease can be caused by a number of things.

Diabetes – one of the most common causes

High blood pressure – another primary cause

Immune system diseases – a person becomes vulnerable to kidney disease if the contract HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B or hepatitis C, lupus or any number of long-term viral illnesses.

Polycystic kidney disease – this takes place when cysts filled with fluid develop on your kidneys.  This disease is usually inherited

Strep throat – by itself is not a problem, but sometimes it can cause inflammation of glomeruli, which are tiny filters in your kidneys.

Urinary tract infections – can produce scarring in the kidneys and becomes a serious problem if the infections reoccur on a regular basis over time.

Long term use of certain drugs – chronic kidney disease can happen with the prolonged use of non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen or ibuprofen over time.

Treating Kidney Disease

If you hope to be insured despite having kidney disease, then you will need to show underwriters that you are doing everything you can to manage your disease.

There are many ways to treat chronic kidney disease, which is can be diagnosed early on by blood and urine tests.  Depending on the severity of your case, you might be referred to a kidney specialist, called a nephrologist for a higher degree of testing and treatment.  In some cases, to get the best possible diagnosis, a kidney biopsy may be performed.

One of the simplest ways to control chronic kidney disease is by regulating your blood pressure.  Your doctor will work with you to lower your blood pressure by modifying your diet and prescribing medications to keep your blood pressure at 130/80 or below.

Your doctor will also attempt to regulate your blood electrolytes.  With chronic kidney disease, you develop high levels of potassium and low levels of calcium, phosphorus, and bicarbonate, causing you to have muscle aches, problems with your heart’s conduction system and other related health issues.

Doctors will also conduct a test to determine if there is a protein called albumin in your urine.  Normally, small amounts are found in the blood, but if elevated levels are found, it could signal that there are leaks in the kidneys which are releasing too much albumin.  This condition can often be prevented through modifications to diet, medications and exercise.

You can also be tested for your glomerular filtration rate which determines how well your kidneys are filtering blood.  You are tested to find out how much creatinine (a waste product) is in your blood.  Based on your score, you may be diagnosed with either a normal or a low kidney function.  A low kidney function indicates damage to your organs and the need to start dialysis or possibly a kidney transplant.

If your kidney disease progresses to the point where you require an organ transplant, then your options will be extremely limited.  Some carriers will write a standard life insurance policy if it’s been three years or more since the transplant and there are currently no complications related to the procedure.  Insurance companies will also want to see that the transplant patient is also in good health and free from any other major health issues.

Because an organ transplant can have a number of complications post-surgery, insurance companies will also want to know:

  • The initial reason for your kidney failure
  • Where your kidney was harvested from
  • What types of treatment you underwent prior to your transplant
  • Whether your transplant took place in the United States or abroad

If a transplant patient does not meet those criteria, then the best they can hope to do is seek out a guaranteed life insurance policy to be written for no greater than $25,000 but requiring no medical exam to qualify.

In all cases, it makes sense to show that you are managing your kidney issues.  Insurance companies will look at everything from your diet, salt intake, body weight, age, and exercise patterns and will also want to know if you have any negative health behaviors such as smoking or if you drink alcohol in excess.

Working closely with your doctor is also seen as a big positive because it means you are committed to living the best possible lifestyle that you can, despite complications from kidney disease.  In fact, it is sometimes possible to get your doctor actively involved in working with your insurance company so that he can put you in the best possible light with insurance underwriters.  It can make the difference between approval or not, or the amount of a policy a company is willing to offer you.