God bless you.
On Feb. 14, 2001, I ignorantly made a decision that helped save my life but also
killed me, at the same time, in terms of new insurance coverage.
I elected to undergo a triple bypass where University of Chicago hospital cardiac
surgeon Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam surgically rerouted grafted blood vessels around a
50 percent blockage of my main left artery.
Once I did that, neither my current life insurance carriers nor new carriers, offering
better plans, would sign me up for new coverage. I am now locked into the policies
presently in my possession. Their premiums are rising each year. Carriers offering
10-year, 15-year or similar longer-term fixed rates for new coverage refuse to sell me a
policy because their calculations tell them I have a better chance of dying much sooner
than later. Yes, insurance companies play the percentages. While heart surgery alone
made it much, much more difficult for me to get life insurance coverage, my brain cancer
and prostate cancer exacerbated things by making it pretty much impossible to get
good, affordable coverage.
So please learn from my experiences. Upgrade your life insurance policies before
you have a serious operation or you won't be able to do so once you have that operation.
Usually, patients are advised to undergo bypass surgery when there is a blockage of
a minimum of 90 percent or when one has suffered a heart attack or has shown signs of
other such life-threatening conditions. I had not, and still have not, suffered any heart
attack or even angina.
UCMC doctors recommended I undergo the bypass because I had an enlarged
heart from suffering years of high blood pressure and because the 50 percent blockage
was positioned just before a point where that main left artery broke off into several
smaller arteries that drape and provide life-sustaining blood to the heart.
An angioplasty, where that blockage would have been stinted, could have been an
equally effective and less-damaging procedure. But because my oldest sister, Mrs. Maude
Lee Burrell, at that time had been a patient for five months in the famed Cleveland Clinic
awaiting an heart transplant. I panicked and over-reacted by choosing to undergo the
triple bypass as soon as possible.
While there were some costly mistakes in the operations overall (three broken ribs,
being sawed open off-line and failure to stabilize my sternum with experimental titanium
plates), the grafting phase of it was a success. It improved my health and gave me
a much better chance of living longer. But it killed me in terms of getting new coverage.
If I knew then what I know now, I not only would have opted for the angioplasty, I
would have gotten new life insurance coverage with cheaper fixed premiums long before
I even got the angioplasty.
It would have been nice if the surgeons and cardiologists would have warned me of
how surgery would make me un-insurable or make potential new carriers charge me
exorbitant rates. But that's not their job. They are neither insurance agents, nor financial
advisers, nor investment brokers. They are doctors, whose primary, and, often, only
concern is to improve my physical health, not promote my financial betterment or help
So, please beware. If you are thinking of undergoing heart surgery or cancer
diagnosis any time in the near future, make sure beforehand that you have life and
medical insurance policies that offer you outstanding longterm coverage at the best
affordable rates. Then you will be grand-fathered into those rates if and when you have to
have serious surgery or are diagnosed with a serious life-threatening medical condition.
God bless you.