Life insurance with pre-existing conditions

Shopping around amongst multiple insurers is the best way to get the most competitive pricing if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

Headshot of Policygenius editor Nupur Gambhir


Nupur Gambhir

Nupur Gambhir

Senior Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir is a licensed life, health, and disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius. Her insurance expertise has been featured in Bloomberg News, Forbes Advisor, CNET, Fortune, Slate, Real Simple, Lifehacker, The Financial Gym, and the end-of-life planning service Cake.

Updated February 18, 2022 | 3 min read

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How much you pay for life insurance is determined by several factors, including your age and health. Generally, the younger and healthier you are, the lower your rates will be, while certain pre-existing medical conditions — including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and depression — will raise the price of your premiums. And, if your condition is severe enough, can disqualify you from getting coverage altogether.

However, having some health issues doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get competitive rates. Every life insurance company evaluates each medical condition differently in their underwriting process, so it’s important to shop around for an insurer that offers the best rates.

Key Takeaways

  • Serious pre-existing medical conditions can raise the cost of your life insurance premiums, and, in some cases, prevent you from getting life insurance coverage.

  • Shopping around amongst insurers is the best way find the lowest prices for your health profile.

  • An independent life insurance agent or broker can help you find the best rates for your specific health history.

What is a pre-existing condition?

A pre-existing condition is a medical diagnosis that you have at the time of purchasing life insurance coverage. According to a study from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, one in two Americans has a pre-existing condition that could affect their cost or eligibility for insurance.

Any health condition you get after your life insurance coverage is active cannot influence the cost of the premiums you already pay and is not considered a pre-existing condition by insurers.

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How pre-existing conditions affect life insurance rates

Insurers collect information about your current health, lifestyle, family health history, and more from the initial phone interview and life insurance medical exam and previous medical records. The information they collect about determines your health classification and how much you'll pay for coverage.

Certain pre-existing medical conditions, red flags in your family history, or lifestyle choices may move you down a classification, which will raise your rates, because they indicate that you pose a higher risk of dying while your policy is active.

→ Learn more about life insurance classifications

How to get life insurance with a health condition

Does it mean you’ll be denied life insurance coverage or get stuck with astronomically high premiums if you have a pre-existing condition? Not at all. Every insurance company has different underwriting guidelines and standards for evaluating medical conditions.

For instance, one insurer might offer better rates for people with diabetes than others. Depending on your treatment plan and the insurer you get coverage from, you can get competitive pricing by shopping around amongst various insurers.

If you’re shopping for insurance with a less-than-perfect health record, the following steps could help you find better rates:

  • Work with an independent agent or broker: A licensed life insurance agent at Policygenius doesn’t work with just one insurer — instead they work with a number of different insurance companies — and can help you find the lowest rate for your health history and lifestyle.

  • Don't hide your condition: Lying on your application is insurance fraud. If the insurer discovers that you intentionally misrepresented yourself in any way, they’ll cancel your policy and won't pay out the death benefit.

  • Use your medical treatment to your advantage: If you’re actively managing your health conditions, life insurance companies will take that into consideration when they assign you a classification. Any documentation of effective treatment could help you get lower your insurance rates.

  • Buy life insurance sooner rather than later: On average, life insurance rates increase 4.5–9% each year that you delay applying. So even if you have a pre-existing medical condition, you might still be able to lock in cheaper rates by applying for coverage today rather than waiting for your condition to change. Many insurers will also reconsider your rate after a year if your health has improved.

Pre-existing conditions and coronavirus

During the COVID-19 outbreak, insurers are approaching applicants with some health complications, such as respiratory conditions, more cautiously. However, although some life insurance companies may postpone your application, many insurers are underwriting health conditions similarly to before the coronavirus pandemic.

Finding an insurer that will give you competitive rates for your specific circumstances during the coronavirus outbreak makes shopping around for a policy all the more important.

What to do if you can't get life insurance

Unfortunately, there are some serious medical conditions that may result in an insurer denying your life insurance application. These could include:

  • Alcoholism or drug use

  • Cancer

  • Recent heart attack

  • HIV or AIDS

  • Kidney disease

Again, every pre-existing condition will be considered on a case-by-case basis, so it’s still worth talking to an agent or broker to figure out what your options are. A life insurance broker can also help you shop around for other companies that will offer you coverage.

If you’re still unable to get a traditional term life insurance policy for existing health conditions, the following are some life insurance options that cover illness:

  • Group life insurance: Many employers offer free or subsidized group life insurance as a benefit for employees. You do not need to answer any questions about your health to get a policy.

  • Guaranteed life insurance: Barring a terminal illness, getting guaranteed issue life insurance coverage is essentially... guaranteed. There is no medical exam or questionnaire regarding your medical health.

Buying life insurance with a pre-existing condition can get complicated, but it doesn't have to be. An agent at Policygenius can work with you to get you the lowest rates for your health profile.

Frequently asked questions

Does COVID-19 affect the life insurance application process or eligibility?

Due to the ever-changing nature of the coronavirus pandemic, some insurers are modifying processes and/or imposing coverage restrictions on certain health conditions or age groups. Speak to a Policygenius agent for free to find out how to get the most affordable policy.

What do life insurance companies consider a pre-existing condition?

A pre-existing condition is an illness or medical diagnosis you received before you got insurance coverage.

Can you get a life insurance policy with a pre-existing condition?

Depending on the severity of your illness and how you are treating it, it is entirely possible to get a life insurance policy with a pre-existing condition — and at a competitive price.

What are the best life insurance companies for pre-existing conditions?

Every life insurance company treats each pre-existing condition differently, so shopping around is the best way to find the most affordable rates.