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Life insurance with pre-existing conditions

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Finding affordable life insurance when you have pre-existing conditions can be a huge 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 are affordable life insurance products available to those with pre-existing conditions — they just require additional research to find.

What is a pre-existing condition?

A pre-existing condition is a medical condition that has been diagnosed prior to starting 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 can all have a negative impact on the premium rate and breadth of benefits available to prospective policyholders.

Pre-existing conditions can take many different forms of varying severity. And while this list is not exhaustive, the following are also considered pre-existing conditions:

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

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

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

Pre-existing conditions can have a negative impact when it comes time to determine your life insurance premium rate 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 usually placed in the lower-tier classifications, resulting in a higher premium or even coverage denial. The higher your perceived risk due to pre-existing conditions, the more expensive your premium rate will be. 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

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

While life insurance companies can increase rates or deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, there are still policies available to high-risk life insurance candidates. The following are just some of the life insurance solutions available for those with pre-existing conditions.

Guaranteed issue life insurance

A guaranteed issue life insurance plan can be a good option if you have a pre-existing condition because almost everyone who applies for it is approved. There is usually no medical exam meaning that you cannot be denied for health reasons. Additionally, coverage is permanent so it will last your entire lifetime, meaning that your rates will be locked in no matter how your health conditions worsen as you age. As long as you continue to make your premium payments, coverage will remain in effect.

Term life insurance

Term life insurance is usually an affordable solution because it is only offered for a set period of time (typically between 10 and 30 years). Policyholders can lock in low rates for coverage, and can even qualify for coverage despite having pre-existing conditions. As long as you receive treatment for your conditions and they are under control, many times term life insurance carriers will approve you for coverage even if you have a health condition. However, it is worth noting that your premium rates 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 work. 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 may consider covering pre-existing conditions if policyholders 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 after-life financial needs. Still, it’s always a good idea to take advantage of the plans made available to you since they are much more affordable than coverage options through the standard marketplace.

Things to know when buying life insurance with a pre-existing condition

Buying a life insurance policy with a pre-existing condition can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. By taking the time to understand how pre-existing conditions may impact the cost of coverage prior to shopping, you can avoid overspending on your policy.

Apply earlier in life

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

Improve your health

It might be easier said than done, but making improvements to your overall health can benefit you in more ways than one. Not only will health improvements help lower your monthly premium, but it will also provide you with a higher quality of life overall.

Share improvements with your insurer

If you have a life insurance plan with rates that fluctuate depending on your health, age and other factors, it’s a good idea to communicate any improvements in your health to your insurer. Sometimes, insurance carriers can 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 your pre-existing conditions removed from your profile.

Don’t hide your condition

The worst thing you can do when shopping for a life insurance policy with a pre-existing condition is to lie about its existence. Insurance carriers always refer to your medical history before offering coverage. Even if you don’t tell your agent about your condition, they will find out about it through their investigation process. Lying about your pre-existing condition will do more harm than good in the long run, so it’s always best to 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. Even people who have a history of drug and alcohol abuse may be denied life insurance coverage if they have no history of receiving rehabilitation services for their addiction. If you’ve been denied coverage from multiple carriers, the best way to move forward and find the right plan is 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 and tricks 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 but then receive treatment over the course of a year and are considered cured, you can resubmit an application for coverage.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best life insurance company?

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. To find the right life insurance company for your needs, refer to our list of the Best Life Insurance Companies.

How much life insurance do I need?

In general, individuals should base their life insurance coverage needs off their specific spending habits. 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, calculate these costs for the number of years they have left until entering adulthood. When in doubt, consult with your insurance agent to see what the ideal coverage solution should be for your personal needs.

What happens if I hide my pre-existing condition?

Through your insurance carrier’s process, they will inevitably find out about your pre-existing condition. In some cases, the insurance agent will contact you to review their findings and make adjustments to your application or insurance plan based on your medical background. Other insurance carriers may view this dishonesty in a more negative light and deny you coverage altogether. When it comes time to disclose your medical history to your insurance agent, honesty is always the best policy.

Written by
Carly Severino
Insurance Contributor
Carly Severino is a contributing insurance writer for Bankrate. With experience writing for, and, she has covered a broad range of insurance products.