To determine how much you pay for life insurance, insurance companies do a thorough check of your health history and other risk factors like old age and dangerous hobbies. The more risk factors in your history, the more you’ll end up paying for life insurance. Someone who is considered a high-risk applicant by life insurance companies could pay almost 90% more per month than a similar applicant who presents little or no risk to the insurer.
But a pre-existing medical condition shouldn’t stop you from getting life insurance coverage — depending on your treatment plan, you can still get the most competitive prices. And, even if your medical condition is severe, a Policygenius agent will work with you to find the right insurer that will offer you the lowest rates.
While your health impacts your life insurance rates, other factors, such as age, also determine the cost of premiums.
The more severe your condition or inconsistent your treatment, the more you can expect to pay for coverage.
People with more serious illnesses, like kidney disease, may not qualify for a traditional policy.
How your health affects your life insurance rates
Your life insurance premiums are based on how likely you are to die while your policy is active. While your age has a big impact — a 30-year-old pays less than a 50-year-old because of life expectancy, for example — your health history is a major factor.
During underwriting, the insurance company will evaluate your records and assign you a health classification.
The healthiest and least risky applicants will get the best rating and the most competitive premiums — Preferred Plus. Premiums become costlier with each following health classification, ending with a Substandard rating (most expensive), which is also known as a Table rating, and is numbered or lettered (1-10 or A-J).
Life insurance rates for people with health concerns
The chart below shows rates for 35-year-old non-smokers in different health classifications. Remember that you won’t be assigned a classification based on just your medical condition — your rates are also based on other details, like your treatment history and lifestyle.
Methodology: Averages are based on rates for male and female non-smokers buying a $500,000, 20-year term life insurance policy. This calculation is a composite of the carriers that offer policies through Policygenius, including AIG, Banner, Brighthouse, Foresters, Lincoln, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, SBLI, Symetra, and Transamerica. Individual rates will vary as specific circumstances will affect each customer's rate. Rate illustration valid as of January 2022.
You’ll see in the chart above that a female who gets a standard health classification pays almost 88% more for coverage than a female with a Preferred Plus health classification. For men, that number jumps to 90%. People who only qualify for table ratings will pay even more money for coverage.
What medical conditions affect the cost of life insurance?
Life insurance companies will take any pre-existing medical conditions you have into consideration during the underwriting process, including:
Heart disease (such as cardiomyopathy)
Digestive diseases (such as Crohn's or celiac disease)
Your family’s medical history can also impact your rates — especially if there is any history of diseases that are inherited, like breast cancer or prostate cancer.
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How life insurance companies evaluate medical conditions
There are a few key details that insurers will evaluate for any health concern. Showing improvement in some or all of the below can help lower your rates:
Severity of diagnosis: The more severe your diagnosis, the more you’ll pay for life insurance.
Prescription history: Generally, you’ll get lower rates if you’re prescribed fewer medications and if the prescriptions and dosages have been consistent over time.
Treatment history: The length of your treatment, whether your condition has improved over time, and if you’ve been hospitalized recently all affect your rates.
Length of diagnosis: A longer diagnosis can signal that your condition is not improving or could worsen over the course of your insurance policy.
Related health concerns: Some medical conditions can become worse if you have other illnesses or unhealthy habits. If you’re an otherwise healthy person with high cholesterol, you’ll be considered lower risk than a smoker with high cholesterol. 
The specifics of what will earn you a better rate depend on your medical condition and how the factors listed above impact your diagnosis. For example, a person with mild asthma who doesn’t treat it with medicine will probably get more flexibility than someone who doesn’t treat their mild high blood pressure with medication, based on the risk associated with each condition.
Some health issues that will make it more difficult to qualify for a traditional life insurance policy regardless of severity.
Cancer: If you’re currently in treatment or received a cancer diagnosis in the last five years it’ll be hard to qualify for a policy.
Heart attack: Most insurers will decline coverage if you had a heart attack within the last two years or prior to age 40.
HIV or AIDS: Although modern medicine has vastly improved life expectancy for people with HIV, most insurers remain cautious and won’t offer you a traditional policy. 
Kidney disease: A health record that includes a recent or pending transplant, dialysis treatment, or kidney failure will result in a declined application.
If your illness is mild or well-controlled, you are likely to be offered lower rates. But regardless of the severity of your medical condition, working with a broker like Policygenius is the best way to find an insurer that will offer you the lowest possible rates for your profile.
Frequently asked questions
Can you get life insurance if you have a medical condition?
In most cases, yes — although you may pay more for a policy based on your medical history. If you have a severe illness, you may be declined traditional coverage.
Do any medical conditions prevent you from getting life insurance?
People with certain conditions, like HIV/AIDS, will not be able to get traditional life insurance. But you can qualify for coverage through an employer or with a guaranteed issue policy.
How much does life insurance cost if you have a medical condition?
It depends on your diagnosis, treatment, and your overall health. Someone with serious health issues could pay 90% more than their healthier counterpart for a policy.