Finding affordable life insurance when you have pre-existing conditions 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.

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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.

Pre-existing conditions can take many different forms of varying severity. While this list is far from exhaustive, the following could all be considered pre-existing conditions:

  • Dementia
  • Epilepsy
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Mental health conditions (depression, anxiety, etc.)
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy

Basically, any medical condition for which you’ve sought treatment or the advice of a medical professional 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 life insurance 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. However, certain pre-existing conditions are considered higher risk than others. To determine the severity of your condition, insurance carriers will assess each case based on the following criteria:

  • Severity of medical condition
  • Whether the issue is current or not
  • When the diagnosis first occurred
  • Lifestyle considerations that could further increase a person’s risk, such as habitual drinking or smoking

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 it decide whether to approve or deny your application, and what rate you will pay for the coverage you apply for.

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, although rates are generally more expensive and coverage amounts are lower than other types of coverage. 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.

Coverage amounts are usually limited to a multiple of the policyholder’s annual income, which may not align with your needs. 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 might avoid overspending on your policy. Consider these tips to help you buy life insurance with a pre-existing condition.

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 plan with a pre-existing condition, it may be a good idea to communicate any improvements in your health to your insurer. Sometimes, insurance carriers may 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 will likely do more harm than good in the long run, so insurance professionals recommend you be forthright with your insurer to avoid being denied for coverage altogether.

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 off their specific spending habits 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.