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Does Life Insurance Cover Death From Cosmetic Surgery?

Most life insurance policies cover surgery-related deaths, but cosmetic surgery may be excluded. When seeking a life insurance policy, it's crucial to know what is and isn't covered for elective procedures such as cosmetic surgery and what additional riders are available in the event of death from surgery that is not medically necessary.

What is cosmetic surgery?

Cosmetic surgery improves appearance, improving self-esteem, self-confidence, and overall well-being. Despite the potential for improving mental health, cosmetic surgery is considered a nonmedical procedure that doesn't improve health. It is an elective surgery, meaning it's scheduled in advance because it's not life-threatening.

Cosmetic surgery is often performed to change the physical appearance of an area of the face or body. Aging individuals may opt for a face or eyelid lift to regain a more youthful appearance, or a woman might want breast implants removed. Cosmetic surgery offers many options for changing an individual's appearance.

The risk of cosmetic surgery

A life insurance policy protects your beneficiaries financially and helps with essential expenses. The premium you pay is dependent on several factors, including lifestyle. Coverage for cosmetic surgery death can vary depending on the policy terms and conditions, and because it's elective, it does fall under the lifestyle category.

It's important to point out that mortality is extremely low for most cosmetic surgeries. Age, health, and the number of combined procedures contribute to the potential risks. For example, someone with diabetes would have a higher risk of more invasive surgeries, as would someone undergoing multiple procedures.

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Types of cosmetic surgery

Cosmetic surgery is a broad term for many corrective and enhancement procedures. Some are minimally invasive, such as laser hair removal or tooth veneers. Other procedures carry a greater risk because they are more invasive and require more than localized anesthesia.

Nonsurgical procedures include:

  • Laser skin resurfacing
  • Derma filler injections
  • Laser hair removal
  • Injectable neurotoxins (BOTOX®)
  • Cosmetic dentistry

Surgical procedures include:

  • Face lift
  • Neck lift
  • Rhinoplasty
  • Liposuction
  • Abdomen reduction
  • Breast augmentation
  • Breast reduction
  • Chin surgery

The above is a list of the more common cosmetic surgery procedures. It is not an exhaustive list of available procedures. Cosmetic surgery can be performed on most facial and body anatomy, including teeth and gums.

The difference between cosmetic, reconstructive, and preventative surgery

When considering a life insurance policy, you want to ensure you're getting the coverage to meet your present and future needs. If you feel you may be a candidate for cosmetic surgery at some point, ask about policies with accidental death and dismemberment riders that specifically cover cosmetic surgery.

Terminology is crucial for life insurance purposes. Understanding the difference between cosmetic, reconstructive, and preventative surgery is essential. Check insurance policies and riders carefully for coverage inclusions and exclusions and know what to expect from your life insurance policy.

Cosmetic surgery is a procedure that is not medically necessary but is done for cosmetic improvements.

Reconstructive surgery is medically necessary for correcting abnormalities such as birth defects or restoring function following surgery or trauma.

Preventative surgery also referred to as prophylactic surgery, is performed in individuals with a high risk for cancer. This can include minor procedures such as mole removal or major surgery such as breast removal. It is considered medically necessary.

Complications associated with cosmetic surgery

No surgery is without risk. Complications can arise during and after a procedure. Smokers and those with obesity or diabetes have a higher incidence of complications such as blood clots and delayed healing. Any complication can lead to death, even in otherwise healthy individuals. Some cosmetic surgical complications include:

  • Anesthesia reactions
  • Infections
  • Profuse bleeding
  • Fluid buildup
  • Nerve damage

Not every complication leads to death, but some can, such as an anaphylactic reaction to anesthesia, surgeon error, or pneumonia following a period of immobility. Some complications can result in the need for additional surgery, which poses an additional risk.

Cosmetic surgery mortality rates

A 2020 report by the National Institute of Health (NIH) indicates that deaths from cosmetic surgery are uncommon. Of the three most common cosmetic procedures, the mortality rate is as follows:

  • Abdominoplasty – 1 death per 13,000 procedures.
  • Buttock augmentation – 1 death per 20,000 procedures.
  • Liposuction – 1.3 deaths per 50,000 procedures.

The mortality rates increase slightly if a patient chooses to have two or more procedures done during one surgical time. The overall mortality rate for outpatient cosmetic surgery is less than one percent per 100,000 procedures.

Life insurance coverage for cosmetic procedures

When considering cosmetic surgery, most health insurance plans won't provide coverage unless the policy specifically covers cosmetic improvements. But what about life insurance? Will a life insurance policy pay beneficiaries if death results from a cosmetic procedure?

The insurance company's obligation to honor the policy depends on several factors, but in many instances, the life insurance policy will pay out upon the cosmetic surgery death of an insured.

First, it's important to note that a life insurance company cannot cancel your policy simply because you choose to have cosmetic surgery. Should you notify your insurer in advance that you're undergoing cosmetic surgery, it will have no impact on your benefits, provided your premiums are current and your policy is in good standing.

Most insurers have payout exclusions, including death from war, suicide, risky behavior, or if the death occurs before the policy's waiting period has expired. Reasons for nonpayment of life insurance benefits include lying on the application, dying while performing an illegal activity, or a high-risk activity such as auto racing, mountain climbing, or scuba diving.

There can be some gray areas when someone passes from elective surgery, but in many instances, the beneficiaries are entitled to receive the benefits.

Life insurance exclusions

Before undergoing cosmetic surgery, contact your insurer and ask if any exclusions would prevent benefits from being paid should complications arise that result in death. You'll want to clearly understand any exclusions that would prevent your beneficiaries from receiving the death benefit.

Some life insurance policies don't pay out if the death is caused by medical malpractice, patient negligence, or if the contestability period hasn't passed. Patient negligence could include agreeing to a cosmetic procedure despite known risks or wanting cosmetic surgery to correct a self-inflicted injury for appearance purposes.

Life insurance policies can vary substantially, and the best way to determine coverage and exclusions is to speak with your insurer.

Should a claim be denied, the beneficiary can appeal the decision within a specified period in many states. A life insurance attorney can explain your options should an insurer refuse to pay a death benefit claim.


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