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Buying life insurance if you have a disability

Adults with disabilities can buy life insurance for themselves or have a caretaker purchase a policy on their behalf. Learn more about how life insurance companies evaluate different types of disabilities.

Katherine Murbach Policygenius

By

Katherine Murbach

Katherine Murbach

Associate Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Katherine Murbach is an associate editor and a licensed life insurance expert at Policygenius. Previously, she wrote about life and disability insurance for 1752 Financial, and advised over 1,500 clients on their life insurance policies as a sales associate.

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By

Maria Filindras

Maria Filindras

Financial Advisor

Maria Filindras is a financial advisor, a licensed Life & Health insurance agent in California, and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius.

Updated|10 min read

Policygenius content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. Learn about our editorial standards and how we make money.

The specifics of your disability will determine what type of life insurance coverage is right for you. Adults with disabilities have the same choices for life insurance as any other adults, although some physical disabilities related to high-risk medical conditions can limit your policy options.

Can you get life insurance if you have a disability?

Yes, you can qualify for life insurance if you have a disability. Having a developmental, physical, or any other type of disability does not automatically disqualify you from getting life insurance coverage. Your application will be evaluated and your premium will be set using the same factors that are used for other applicants, including age, gender, medical history, and hobbies. 

But if your disability affects your ability to work or has serious health ramifications that may affect your life expectancy, you may only qualify for non-traditional life insurance. And the more risk you present to the insurer — medical or otherwise — the higher your premiums will be.

Read on to learn:

  • How to qualify for life insurance if you have a disability

  • Your coverage options if you can’t qualify for coverage

  • How the application process works

  • What insurance companies offer the most competitive rates

→ Learn more about how your life insurance rates are determined

How to buy life insurance if you have a disability

Every life insurance company evaluates disabilities differently, and some of them have stricter rules than others about who they cover. Regardless of the type and level of disability you have, you can take proactive steps to improve your chances of getting approved for life insurance coverage: 

  • Improve your overall health, to the extent possible, to minimize the potential impact of other health conditions on your application. Insurers generally rate people in good health more favorably regardless of other factors, including having a disability.

  • Have clear expectations about the coverage you may qualify for. Insurers cap the death benefit available to you based on your income. If your disability affects the amount of regular income you can earn, it may also limit the amount of coverage you can qualify for.

  • Work with an independent broker to identify the most competitive rates from multiple insurers based on your personal situation. At Policygenius, our brokers are licensed in all 50 states and can walk you through the entire life insurance buying process while offering transparent, unbiased advice.

During the application process you’ll be asked to disclose information about your health and your income:

  • Medical exam: In most cases, you will need to take a medical exam if you have a disability so the insurance company can get a more accurate picture of your health. 

  • Medical records: When you apply for some types of life insurance policies, including term life insurance, it’s very common for insurers to request an attending physician statement (APS) from your doctor or any specialists you have seen to help determine your rates.

  • Health and financial status: The insurance company will verify your medical history through your MIB report. It will also inquire about the source of your income to determine your ability to pay your premiums consistently. Being upfront about these factors will help you move more quickly through the application process and increase your chances of getting coverage at an affordable rate. Misrepresenting yourself on your application could cause the insurer to deny you coverage.

  • Health history: How long your disability has been managed can reflect on your rates. For instance, if you’ve managed your disability for many years, and it doesn’t affect your work or daily activities, you will likely receive lower rates. A recent disability can be more difficult to insure as the insurance company will have a harder time assessing risk — this will depend on what guidance you have received from your doctor, and how your disability is affecting your work and daily functioning. A Policygenius expert can help you determine which type of coverage will be best for you depending on your specific situation and timeline. 

Best life insurance policy types for people with disabilities

Life insurance provides your loved ones with funds for funeral expenses and other long-term needs in your absence, including everyday expenses, debt repayment, and recurrent care expenses. If you have a disability that may affect your ability to support your family financially down the road, life insurance can also provide an alternative source of income. 

If you are shopping for coverage and have a disability, consider who and what kind of expenses you’d like to have covered, including:

  • Dependents

  • Caretakers

  • Outstanding debts

You’ll have two main types of policies to choose from: term life and whole life. Term lasts for a set period and is usually much more affordable than whole. Whole life insurance provides lifelong coverage and has a cash value that can be used as an investment vehicle. The type of coverage that is right for you will depend on your personal situation, and whether your beneficiaries will require long-term financial protection.

Term

Term life insurance is a popular option for people who need a higher amount of coverage to cover a mortgage, for instance, or to provide for any dependents. You only pay for it as long as you need it, and can easily cancel when you no longer have debts or dependents. 

However, term life can also be more difficult to qualify for if you have a disability, especially if your disability is related to a health condition that may affect your life expectancy. Because term in particular is often purchased for income replacement, insurers will also want to confirm that you have enough income to pay for the policy and to justify the desired coverage. 

Whole

A whole life insurance policy is a good option if your disability is likely to worsen as you age or if you know you’ll have dependents into retirement and beyond. You’ll get lifelong coverage and your premiums won’t change. It’s also common to buy whole life insurance if you have a dependent with disabilities. The lifetime coverage means that no matter when you pass away, your dependent will receive a payout.

Like with term, standard whole life coverage may be more difficult to qualify for if you have a disability. However, guaranteed issue whole life insurance can be an option if you are seeking a permanent death benefit but have a complicated health history. Guaranteed issue is a type of whole life insurance that offers near-certain approval to people who can’t qualify for standard coverage.

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Disability income rider

A disability income rider is a policy add-on that provides a monthly stipend to replace your income if you become disabled and unable to work. Depending on the health classification you’re assigned during the application process, your options to add a disability income rider to your policy might be limited. 

If you are not yet disabled and are seeking this kind of income protection, it is usually more cost-efficient to purchase a long-term disability insurance policy. A standalone disability policy will also offer you more robust protection than a disability income rider. 

Coverage for dependents with a disability

If you care for an adult with disabilities who needs lifelong financial support, you have the same options listed above, including term life insurance and permanent life insurance. However, in this case you would be the insured and the death benefit would provide financial security for them in your absence.

As long as your loved one is able to manage their own finances, you can name them as a beneficiary. If they’re unable to do so, you can name a trust instead — the trustee can ensure the death benefit is used for your dependent’s care.

Supplemental needs trusts

If you support an adult with a disability and they are unable to handle their finances or care, you can name a supplemental needs trust (also referred to as a special needs trust) as your beneficiary. 

A special needs trust can help provide money for a person with a disability without disqualifying them from receiving governmental benefits including Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). You can name a trustee, who will manage the funds as directed by you, and a co-trustee, usually a lawyer or a firm, who will ensure that the funds are being used correctly. These trusts can be tricky to lay out. Work with an attorney to make sure they’re set up correctly.

Coverage for children with disabilities

If you have a child with a disability, purchasing a life insurance policy for you and naming your partner or a trust as the beneficiaries can help secure your child’s financial protection should something happen to you. But if your child’s health is likely to worsen as they age, making it more difficult to find an affordable policy of their own, you might want to consider buying life insurance for them.

Buying life insurance for a child with disabilities guarantees them lifetime coverage even if their condition worsens. Shopping for coverage for them while they are young and in good health can also help them be approved for a competitive rate, saving them money on premiums in the future.

→ Read more about buying life insurance for a child with a disability

Best companies for life insurance if you have a disability

The type of disability you have, along with your source of income, will be the most important factors for you to consider when shopping for life insurance. If you receive disability income, look for insurers that view disability income in the same way as they do income from a job as they will be more likely than others to offer you coverage. Some insurers tend to rate certain health conditions more favorably than others, including some types of disabilities, too. Working with a Policygenius expert on your life insurance application can help you find the right insurer for you.

Methodology: How we chose the best life insurance companies for people with disabilities

We don't get paid for our company reviews and use an extensive rubric of criteria covering policy details, price, financial confidence, third-party ratings, and customer experience to assign unbiased ratings out of five stars. Any recommendations we make are based on internal and external expert opinions and data from our Policygenius Price Index, which uses real-time rate data from leading life insurance companies to determine pricing trends.

Our ratings and reviews can help point you to an insurer you can rely on for your family’s financial protection, but the best life insurance company for you is dependent on multiple factors. A licensed agent at Policygenius can work with you through the application process so you’re getting coverage from the best insurer for your circumstances at the most competitive price.

→ Read more about our reviews methodology here

Best overall

Transamerica

4.4

Policygenius rating

How we score: Policygenius’ ratings are determined by our editorial team. Our methodology takes multiple factors into account, including pricing, financial ratings, quality of customer service, and other product-specific features.

Transamerica logo

If you have a disability but are still able to work or your condition is well-managed with guidance from your doctor, Transamerica is a good option to consider.

Pros

  • Competitive rates for term life insurance

  • Lower decline rate compared to other insurance companies

  • Multiple options for lower coverage amounts

Cons

  • Uneven customer experience

  • Most policy changes require a paper form

Transamerica is more likely to offer coverage to people with disabilities than other Policygenius partners. Transamerica also has more options for lower coverage amounts compared with other carriers, who often have a $100,000 coverage minimum. This means that if the offer you receive is pricier than you anticipated, you’ll have more leeway to reduce your coverage, which can help you lower the cost of your policy.

Best for term life insurance

Prudential

3.4

Policygenius rating

How we score: Policygenius’ ratings are determined by our editorial team. Our methodology takes multiple factors into account, including pricing, financial ratings, quality of customer service, and other product-specific features.

Prudential logo

Prudential is one of the top life insurance carriers in the U.S. Like Transamerica, Prudential is a good option if you have a disability and are seeking term coverage.

Pros

  • High financial ratings

  • Competitive approval odds for a range of medical conditions

  • Comprehensive online resources

Cons

  • Very high premiums

  • Mixed customer ratings

Prudential is more accommodating when it comes to certain health conditions than other companies. They are often more likely to extend a term life insurance offer, even if it is at a lower coverage amount (e.g., you may apply for $500,000 but be approved for $100,000).

Best for whole life insurance

Mutual of Omaha

3.4

Policygenius rating

How we score: Policygenius’ ratings are determined by our editorial team. Our methodology takes multiple factors into account, including pricing, financial ratings, quality of customer service, and other product-specific features.

Mutual of Omaha logo

With competitive policy options for people with disabilities and strong financial and customer ratings, Mutual of Omaha is one of the best companies out there.

Pros

  • Competitive approval odds for a range of health conditions

  • No-medical-exam options for certain types of whole life policies

  • Strong financial and customer ratings

Cons

  • Policies are more expensive than average

  • Slow turnaround time

Mutual of Omaha offers several options for final expense coverage — a type of permanent life insurance designed to cover your funeral and burial costs — which are best suited for people whose health conditions might limit their life insurance options. This includes a guaranteed issue option, which means that, as long you are of sound mind, you can apply for guaranteed coverage up to $25,000. Some people may qualify for final expense coverage up to $40,000.

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How much does life insurance cost if you have a disability?

20-year term life insurance rates for people with disabilities

Age

Sex

Non-smoker

Smoker

25

Female

$18.29

$33.96

Male

$20.82

$44.53

35

Female

$21.72

$47.23

Male

$24.90

$55.59

45

Female

$30.04

$93.12

Male

$45.12

$118.12

55

Female

$81.83

$202.57

Male

$103.54

$261.44

Methodology: Monthly rates are calculated for male and female smokers and non-smokers in a T2 Substandard health classification, obtaining a 20-year, $100,000 term life insurance policy. Life insurance averages are based on a composite of policies offered by Policygenius from AIG, Banner, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, SBLI, and Transamerica, and may vary by insurer, term, coverage amount, health class, and state. Not all policies are available in all states. Rate illustration valid as of 06/02/2022.

Guaranteed issue whole life insurance rates for people with disabilities

Age

Sex

$15,000

$25,000

55

Female

$62.3

$110.2

Male

$79.3

$140.2

65

Female

$86.5

$158.9

Male

$118.7

$209.3

Methodology: Average monthly rates are calculated for male and female applicants obtaining a $15,000 or $25,000 guaranteed issue whole life insurance policy. Average Whole life insurance rates are based on policies offered by Mutual of Omaha and AIG. Not all policies are available in all states. Rate illustration valid as of 06/02/2022.

What do life insurance companies consider when you’re applying with a disability?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a person with a disability is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities: [1]

  • Breathing

  • Communicating

  • Hearing

  • Learning

  • Seeing

  • Sleeping

  • Walking [2]

Life insurance companies consider disabilities in the context of how they affect your health and life expectancy. Someone who was born blind would likely be considered lower risk than someone who became blind due to a medical condition such as diabetic retinopathy, for example.

The type and scope of your disability will inform the health classification and premiums an insurer gives you. If you present fewer insurance risks — like complex health conditions — you’ll get a better classification and more affordable rates than someone else who raises some flags. 

Every life insurance application is evaluated holistically and each insurer calculates risk differently, so it’s important to compare quotes and coverage options from multiple companies. A Policygenius expert can help you find the most affordable policy for your personal situation.

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What parts of your health history do insurers look at?

Insurance companies will evaluate several elements of your health history, including time since diagnosis, treatment plan, medication history, and any surgical history. They will also ask about the family health history of immediate biological family members, including parents and siblings. Insurers will also take a look at your employment, and ask if your health has ever impacted your ability to work.

What happens if your disability gets worse?

If your disability gets worse while you have an existing policy, as long as you continue to pay the premiums your coverage will remain active for the remainder of the policy term. If, on the other hand, your disability worsens before you apply for an insurance policy, it will become more difficult for you to get approved. Your options may be limited to guaranteed issue life insurance — a type of whole life insurance coverage that offers near-certain approval and is aimed at covering final expenses.

Can your life insurance policy be canceled?

No. If you have an existing life insurance policy and then develop a disability, your policy cannot be canceled so long as you pay the premiums. 

Life insurance options if you’re denied coverage

If your disability has a significant impact on your overall health or ability to care for yourself, you may not qualify for a term or whole life insurance policy. However, other types of life insurance can provide some financial support to your loved ones:

  • Final expense insurance: These policies — also known as guaranteed issue and simplified issue insurance — primarily cover end-of-life expenses and allow you to skip a medical exam. There are age restrictions for both and health restrictions for simplified issue plans.

  • Group life insurance: Employers and other organizations often supply subsidized life insurance to employees with no health evaluation required. You may be offered less coverage than you need, but it can be an option to receive some form of coverage.

  • Joint life insurance: If your spouse qualifies for traditional life insurance, you may be able to buy a joint policy that covers both of you. You’ll be eligible for more coverage this way, but depending on your plan, you could lose coverage if your partner dies before you, or your plan won’t pay out until after you both pass away.

  • Life insurance for veterans: If you’re a veteran with a disability, you may be able to continue the coverage provided to you during your service. If you became disabled while in service, you may qualify for additional coverage.

Life insurance vs. disability insurance

Having a life insurance policy isn’t the same as having a disability insurance policy. Life insurance provides a lump sum to support your family after you die, while disability insurance provides an income replacement if you incur a disability and cannot work.

You can usually add a waiver of premium or disability income rider to a life insurance policy to waive your premiums or get a monthly stipend if you become disabled, but both are difficult to qualify for and provide limited coverage amounts.

If you want financial protection for your loved ones in the event of your death and a potential disability, it’s usually better to have  separate life insurance and disability insurance policies. Talk to a licensed insurance agent before you apply to compare rates and find the best company for your needs.

Bottom line

Since each person’s health is unique, the best way to determine what life insurance coverage is available to you is to speak with a licensed agent about your specific situation. At Policygenius, we have a team of experts who specialize in life insurance for people with various health considerations, so they’ll be able to walk you through your options and next steps.

References

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Policygenius uses external sources, including government data, industry studies, and reputable news organizations to supplement proprietary marketplace data and internal expertise. Learn more about how we use and vet external sources as part of our

editorial standards.
  1. ADA National Network

    . "

    What is the definition of disability under the ADA?

    ." Accessed June 02, 2022.

  2. ADA National Network

    . "

    What are major life activities?

    ." Accessed June 02, 2022.

Author

Associate Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Katherine Murbach

Associate Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

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Katherine Murbach is an associate editor and a licensed life insurance expert at Policygenius. Previously, she wrote about life and disability insurance for 1752 Financial, and advised over 1,500 clients on their life insurance policies as a sales associate.

Expert reviewer

Financial Advisor

Maria Filindras

Financial Advisor

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Maria Filindras is a financial advisor, a licensed Life & Health insurance agent in California, and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius.

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