Blood Pressure – Insurance and Mortgages

The main difference between a blood pressure measurement taken by one’s own doctor and by a doctor acting for an insurance company, is that the own doctor is more likely to give the benefit of any doubt. Virtually all insurance companies agree that if a high blood pressure is found, the examining doctor can let the applicant lie down and rest for about half an hour, repeat the measurement and use the lower figure if there is one.

Remember that one high measurement does not mean that you have high blood pressure. The single high measurement could have been caused by rushing to get to the appointment on time, or because one needs to empty the bladder or for many other reasons. If either the examining doctor or local GP might indicate a cause for concern, then the answer is to have a series of accurate measurements made on separate days to establish whether or not one really does have a blood pressure high enough to need treatment.

Insurance companies are conservative in their habits. The blood pressure would have to be very high indeed for insurance to be refused out-right, but a weighted premium is likely if one comes close to the usual threshold for considering treatment (about 160/90 mm Hg).

High blood pressure is what the insurance companies regard as a ‘preexisting condition’. This applies to all forms of insurance, not just travel isurance. It is up to the person to inform the insurance company about all preexisting medical conditions, whether or not they specifically ask questions about them. If the existence of high blood pressure is not mentioned then the insurance may turn out to be invalid.

Mortgage companies (like insurance companies) make their profits by calculating accurately the odds on earlier-than-expected deaths in their customers over the periods of the loans of the associated insurance policies. However, they have to get this right for large groups, not for individual. Hence their tendency to put people into categories and not to consider individual circumstances to the ‘extent that the customers might like family doctors also to deal in probabilities, but they are concerned with personal predictions for individuals’.

Until very recently, high blood pressure was generally considered to mainly affect middle-aged and older people, and it was seldom looked for systematically in those under 40 (except in women, where it was often found during routine antenatal care or when they were thinking of starting on the contraceptive pill). In fact, for most people found to have high blood pressures in their 20s or 30s it was either never measured when they were younger, or it was ignored because, although it was considered ‘high for age’, it still fell below the conventional threshold for diagnosing ‘hypertension’ as a so-called disease. So as far as groups of people in whom the statisticians are interested), high blood pressure was to be expected and allowed for in older people but not people of younger age.