Buying life insurance when you have a chronic illness

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According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), six out of every 10 U.S. adults have a chronic illness and four in 10 Americans — almost half of all U.S. adults — live with two or more chronic illnesses. Life insurance is an important consideration when you have a chronic illness. It can provide you the peace of mind that your loved ones will be taken care of should you pass away. With the payout from a life insurance policy, your family may be able to more easily arrange funeral services, resolve outstanding debts and pay the day-to-day bills.

Although it can make it more complicated to obtain life insurance, chronic illnesses do not necessarily prevent you from finding a policy. It is still possible to buy life insurance when you have a chronic illness, but you should be aware of what to expect from the process.

What is a chronic condition and how does it affect life insurance?

A chronic condition is one that lasts a year or more, impacts or limits your daily activities and requires ongoing medical care. Many of these conditions can be serious, with the leading chronic diseases in the U.S. including heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes. Other chronic illnesses include high blood pressure, obesity, asthma, high cholesterol, depression and HIV/AIDS.

“Many chronic illnesses are insurable,” said Anthony Martin of Choice Mutual. “In the end, it depends on which condition(s) you have, and the severity of the said condition(s). Some of the most common examples of chronic conditions that are highly insurable are arthritis, diabetes, asthma, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, or mental health issues. Those issues won’t preclude an applicant from qualifying, depending on the severity of their condition. For example, if a person has well-controlled diabetes, they can easily acquire multiple life insurance products.”

Life insurance companies review multiple factors when determining your eligibility for a policy, such as your age and where you live, but there is more to consider when you have a chronic illness. Insurance providers may also consider the severity of your condition, the date of your diagnosis, how well your disease is controlled and your overall health.

“Unfortunately, once a person has been diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness, it will be very difficult to find life insurance coverage because many of the underwriting guidelines used by carriers prevent them from issuing policies to those with such conditions,” said Jen Astacio of Vantis Life Insurance Company.

Life insurance for those with chronic conditions

Life insurance is different for every person and every condition. Some chronic illnesses are more serious than others, affecting which policies you can qualify for.

In general, there are four types of life insurance that may be options for those with chronic illnesses:

  • Traditional life insurance: A traditional life insurance policy may be possible if your disease is well-managed, under control and non-life-threatening. You may need a medical exam, the results of which will likely affect your premium.
  • Simplified issue life insurance: If you have a minor health issue but are otherwise healthy, a simplified issue policy could be a great choice for you. There is generally no medical exam required. These policies instead rely upon your medical history and a health questionnaire for pricing.
  • Guaranteed issue life insurance: These policies typically do not require a medical exam and most people who apply are able to receive a policy. Although it may be a good option if you have a medical condition that otherwise bars you from coverage, guaranteed issue life insurance tends to be significantly more expensive than other types of policies.
  • Final expense life insurance: Designed for policyholders over the age of 50, final expense insurance requires no medical exam. This policy is designed to resolve your final expenses, including end-of-life bills and medical costs, as well as any remaining debts. The death benefit of final expense policies is lower than other policies, generally no more than $25,000.

Although there are several insurance types that you may be able to choose from if you have a chronic illness, the specific type of illness you have will be one of the biggest factors when it comes to eligibility.

Life insurance for people with hypertension and high blood pressure

High blood pressure affects approximately half of all adults in the U.S. today. Insurance companies will review the severity of your case when you apply for life insurance. Companies may also ask if you have made lifestyle changes or if you take medication to control your blood pressure. You may be asked to disclose the age that you were diagnosed, as well.

Life insurance for people with diabetes

Diabetes is another common issue among Americans today, affecting more than 10% of the U.S. population in 2018. The type of diabetes you have — Type 1 or Type 2 — may be a factor that your insurance company will take into consideration. There may be some limitations regarding the kind of policy you can buy, especially for those with more severe cases. Insurers may ask how old you were when you received your diagnosis, what kinds of medication you take and what your most recent A1C reading was.

Life insurance for people with high cholesterol

More than 102 million Americans have high cholesterol, putting them at an elevated risk of heart disease and stroke. There are several factors that life insurance companies may consider when reviewing your cholesterol. Insurers may look at your overall cholesterol number, as well as your LDL, HDL and triglyceride readings. Many insurance companies will also factor in your age and gender before deciding on rates for life insurance with high cholesterol.

Life insurance for people with cancer

Researchers expect that doctors will diagnose 1.9 million new cases of cancer in 2021 alone. Although a cancer diagnosis can be devastating, it is still possible to get life insurance coverage. If you had cancer but are now in remission, you could see affordable rates. You may even qualify for traditional life insurance if you have been in remission and out of treatment for at least two to five years. As with other diseases, life insurance companies may review the type of cancer you have, the severity of your condition and how well your disease is controlled.

Life insurance for terminally ill cancer patients

If you are a terminally ill cancer patient, finding life insurance coverage can be more difficult. Cancer patients often only qualify for guaranteed issue policies. Even then, you may be limited in the kind of coverage you are offered and the rates may be higher than other types of policies. You could also face restrictions on payouts for the first several months or even years of your policy, so it is important to discuss your options with a licensed life insurance agent.

Life insurance riders for chronically ill policyholders

Life insurance riders can offer you a way to customize your policy to fit your unique situation. A rider is an amendment to your policy that adds extra protections where you need them.

For chronically ill policyholders, accelerated death benefit riders, also known as living benefits riders, may be a good choice. With these riders, you may be able to benefit from your life insurance policy while you are still alive.

Colton Castleman, a retirement counselor at Assurance & Guarantee, agreed. “If you have this rider on your policy, it allows you a certain percentage of your death benefit to be accessed with no penalty. This does reduce your death benefit, however, sometimes it’s needed to cover medical costs for treatment or other expenses.”

There are several types of riders that chronically ill individuals may want to consider.

  • Waiver of premium rider: If you have this rider on your life insurance policy before you are diagnosed with a qualifying chronic illness, it may waive your life insurance premiums while the condition persists.
  • Chronic illness rider: As a chronic illness worsens, it can limit your ability to do everyday activities. A chronic illness rider could allow you to use a portion of your policy’s death benefit to provide additional support when you can no longer perform some of the activities associated with daily living, such as dressing or walking.
  • Long-term care (LTC) rider: A long-term care rider may allow you to use your death benefit to pay for a nursing home or other form of extended medical care.

Riders vary from company to company. Obtaining quotes from multiple insurance providers may help you to find a provider that best fits your needs.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best life insurance company?

The best life insurance company for those with a chronic illness will vary depending on each individual’s scenario. Rating factors like your age, health and medical history can impact which provider offers the best life insurance policy for you. Additionally, how much life insurance you want to purchase will have a factor on your premium and eligibility. Getting quotes from several carriers might help you find the best policy for your needs.

What should I do if an insurance company denies my application for life insurance?

When you are shopping for life insurance with a chronic illness, it is possible that your application may be denied. Some providers are more flexible than others, so even if your application is denied with one carrier, you could still find coverage with another company. You may also want to consider purchasing a simplified life insurance or guaranteed issue life insurance policy.

Do I have to disclose my chronic illness to an insurance company?

You should disclose your full and honest medical history to an insurance provider when filling out an application for life insurance. This includes any chronic illnesses that you may have. If you do not disclose your full medical history, it could be considered fraud and might impact your ability to obtain coverage.