Finding affordable life insurance when you have a pre-existing condition can be a challenge. High-risk life insurance policies are typically much more expensive and limited in their benefits offerings than life insurance products for people without pre-existing conditions. Despite the added difficulty of being considered a high-risk life insurance candidate, there may be affordable life insurance products available to those with pre-existing conditions and strategies you may be able to use to secure coverage.

Key takeaways

  • The severity of your pre-existing condition will determine the level of impact it has on your coverage eligibility and premium.
  • Guaranteed issue, term and group term life policies may be more accessible options for those with pre-existing conditions.
  • You can benefit from lower premiums by applying for coverage earlier in life.

What is a pre-existing condition?

A pre-existing condition is a medical condition that has been diagnosed prior to seeking insurance coverage. While health insurance companies can no longer refuse to cover treatment or raise rates for pre-existing conditions, no such law exists for life insurance carriers. This means that pre-existing health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, cancer and heart disease could all have a negative impact on the premium and breadth of benefits available to prospective policyholders.

Not all pre-existing conditions are weighed equally by life insurers. The impact a pre-existing condition has on your life insurance premium will mostly depend on its severity. In general, the more severe a condition is, the more you can expect it to impact your premium. While the list below is far from exhaustive, the following may be deemed pre-existing conditions and have differing effects on your rate:

Major impact on life insurance premium:

Minor impact on life insurance premium:

Essentially, any medical condition for which you’ve sought treatment or the advice of a medical professional for in the past could be considered a pre-existing condition. The more pre-existing conditions a person has, the higher their perceived risk may be in the eyes of insurance carriers.

How do pre-existing conditions impact my life insurance rates?

While you can generally get life insurance with pre-existing conditions, they might have a negative impact on your premium and coverage options. Insurance carriers use a tiered system to determine the risk of covering you. In general, policyholders are broken into four classifications:

  • Super Preferred (or Preferred Plus)
  • Preferred
  • Standard (or Regular)
  • Substandard

Those with more pre-existing conditions are typically placed in the lower-tier classifications, resulting in a higher premium or even coverage denial. To determine your risk level, insurance carriers will assess each case based on the following criteria:

  • Severity of medical condition: Pre-existing medical conditions that significantly raise your mortality risk will almost always result in a higher life insurance premium.
  • Whether the issue is current: A medical condition that creates serious, ongoing health problems may place you in a higher risk category.
  • Date of diagnosis: If you’ve been living with your diagnosis for a long time, it could indicate to your insurer that your condition will worsen during your policy.
  • How you’ve managed the condition: Pre-existing medical conditions that show signs of improvement and respond well to treatment may result in a lower risk classification. Taking fewer prescription drugs over time or if your prescription dosages have remained stable may be a positive sign to your insurer.
  • Your lifestyle: Habits like smoking can put you in a higher risk class, which means your cost of life insurance will likely increase.

To further understand and determine your life insurance risk, the insurer may ask your doctor for an attending physician statement (APS). The APS will detail any legally-allowed specifics the insurer requests, which may help the company decide whether to approve or deny your application and what rate you will pay.

What kind of life insurance can I get with a pre-existing condition?

While life insurance companies can charge higher premiums or deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, there may still be policies available to high-risk life insurance candidates. The following are just some of the potential solutions available for those searching for life insurance with pre-existing conditions.

Guaranteed issue life insurance

A guaranteed issue life insurance plan could be a good option if you have a pre-existing condition because the policies are guaranteed to be issued. There is usually no medical exam, so those with pre-existing conditions may be able to more easily get coverage through this type of life insurance policy. Guaranteed issue rates tend to be more expensive and coverage amounts are lower than other types of life insurance. Additionally, a guaranteed issue life policy offers lifetime coverage. As long as premiums are paid, you should have coverage until you pass away. Rates should stay the same for the life of the policy.

Term life insurance

Term life insurance is usually a more affordable solution because it is only offered for a set period of time (typically between 10 and 30 years). Policyholders may lock in low rates for coverage and may even qualify for coverage despite having pre-existing conditions. However, it is worth noting that your chances of approval largely depend on the severity of your condition, and your premium will likely be higher with a pre-existing condition than they would be without one.

Group life insurance

It is possible you may be able to access a group life insurance plan through your employer. These policies are offered to a group of individuals at a more affordable rate since coverage is usually basic in nature and costs are split among a large group of people. Group life insurance plans are typically offered to employees as part of their benefits package, and some allow employees to add their spouse or children to the policy. Your employer might even cover the entire cost of your premium, in some cases.

Coverage amounts are usually limited to a multiple of the policyholder’s annual income, which may not align with your needs. Group life insurance plans are not as customizable as private policies, either. However, if you only need coverage to supplement existing life insurance or don’t need a large amount to satisfy your needs, group life insurance may be a good option.

Tips for buying life insurance with a pre-existing condition

Buying a life insurance policy with a pre-existing condition may be intimidating, but some key steps may increase your chances of being approved for coverage. By taking the time to understand how pre-existing conditions may impact the cost of coverage prior to shopping, you’ll be better prepared on the finer points of how to buy life insurance with a pre-existing condition. Consider these tips:

Apply early

The older you get, the more expensive life insurance typically becomes. This is because your insurance carrier assumes that with an older policyholder, there will be a higher chance the insurer will need to pay out the death benefit indicated in a plan. To avoid the higher rates associated with applying for coverage later in life, you may consider applying for life insurance earlier (in your 20s or 30s). Doing so may help you lock in an affordable rate for years to come.

Not only can you typically get more affordable rates when you are younger, you are also usually healthier earlier in life. The older you are, the more likely you may be to develop health issues, which an insurance company may consider a pre-existing condition.

Share improvements with your insurer

If you are approved for a life insurance policy with a pre-existing condition, it may be a good idea to communicate any improvements in your health to your insurer. Sometimes insurance carriers make adjustments to your premium if they see that a health condition has been eliminated or significantly improved.

You may be asked to go through a medical screening or provide evidence of your improvement from a medical professional in order to qualify for lower rates. Discuss your options with your insurance agent to find out how you can get re-rated.

Don’t hide your condition

One of the worst things you can do when shopping for a life insurance policy with a pre-existing condition is to lie about its existence. Insurance carriers typically refer to your medical history before offering coverage to verify your application responses and uncover anything you may have omitted. Even if you don’t tell your agent about your condition, they will likely find out about it through their investigation process. Lying on your application can do more harm than good in the long run, putting you at risk of being denied coverage, policy cancellation or even a denied death benefit. Insurance professionals recommend you be forthright with your insurer to avoid these concerns.

What do I do if I’ve been denied life insurance coverage?

Sometimes, individuals may have life-threatening or untreatable pre-existing conditions which make them a much higher risk than others. If you’ve been denied coverage from multiple carriers, the best way to move forward and find the right plan may be by enlisting the help of an independent broker. These professionals have access to many different insurance companies and, due to their experience, will likely know some tips to help you find coverage.

Alternatively, you may be able to resubmit your application for coverage after waiting for a specified amount of time. Some insurance carriers will consider you if you’ve been previously denied for coverage and you’re able to illustrate an improvement to your condition. For instance, if you have hepatitis C and are denied coverage, you may be able to resubmit an application for coverage once your condition has improved with treatment. You could also consider guaranteed acceptance life insurance, since your medical history won’t preclude you from guaranteed coverage.

Frequently asked questions

    • The best life insurance company largely depends on your individual needs. Some individuals may need more robust coverage options than others depending on their life circumstances. Getting the best life insurance with pre-existing conditions may be more difficult, so you might want to speak with an insurance agent to determine which company and policy type is best for you.
    • In general, individuals may want to base their life insurance coverage needs on their specific financial situation and the needs of their beneficiaries. Calculate the cost of funeral expenses, medical bills, post-mortem tax obligations and personal expenses for your surviving beneficiaries to continue their standard of living over a number of years. If you have children, you may consider calculating these costs for the number of years they have left until entering adulthood.A life insurance calculator may be able to help you determine how much coverage you need. When in doubt, consult with your insurance agent to see what the ideal coverage solution should be for your personal needs.
    • If you hide your pre-existing condition, you could be denied life insurance coverage. Even if the insurance company does not uncover the lie during the underwriting process, it may cause an issue when your beneficiary files a death benefit claim. The insurance company might invoke a contestability clause in the first two years, or an incontestability clause thereafter.This allows the insurer to investigate your insurance application to confirm you were truthful and there were not any underlying pre-existing conditions that could have caused your death. If they find out you lied on the application or hid your pre-existing condition, they could deny the claim, leaving your beneficiary with nothing.
    • If you purchased your policy before you were diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition, it is unlikely that your life insurance policy will be canceled. However, unless you have a whole life insurance policy or a no-exam policy, your premium will likely increase. Lying on your life insurance application about a medical condition may cause your insurer to cancel your policy. Although it may be tempting to omit certain medical information to get a better premium, doing so risks your coverage eligibility entirely.