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Life insurance with pre-existing medical conditions

A pre-existing medical condition doesn’t mean you can’t get competitive coverage. Depending on the severity and your treatment plan, you can still get affordable rates.

Nupur Gambhir

Nupur Gambhir

Published October 2, 2020


  • 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

  • Insurance companies evaluate each medical condition differently during the underwriting process, so it’s important to shop around to find the best prices for your health profile

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

The cost of your life insurance premiums are 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 — are likely to raise the price of premiums and if 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.


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 your premiums and is not considered a pre-existing condition by insurers.

How medical 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/or previous medical records. The information they collect about you is used to assign a health classification that will determine what kind of rates they’ll offer you.

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

Different insurers may use different health classification terms, but they generally look like this:

Life insurance classifications

Learn more about life insurance classifications.


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What medical conditions affect life insurance?

There are several types of pre-existing medical conditions that life insurance companies take into consideration in the underwriting process, including:

However, insurers don’t just assign a blanket classification per medical condition. How life insurance companies underwrite a pre-existing condition will depend on the severity of your diagnosis and your treatment plan.

Can you get life insurance with pre-existing conditions?

Does it mean you’ll be denied life insurance coverage or 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 these and other medical conditions. Depending on your treatment plan and the insurer you get coverage from, it’s entirely possible to find a life insurance company that will cover pre-existing conditions and offer you affordable premiums.

For instance, one insurer might offer better rates for people with a family history of cancer, while another will treat a condition like high cholesterol more favorably in their underwriting. That’s why it’s important to compare rates across multiple insurers, particularly when you’re concerned about how your health could affect your insurance coverage.

Researching and buying life insurance can be daunting, even for those who are in great health. There are dozens of insurance companies to sort through, and it’s not always easy to understand insurance jargon.

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

One of the most efficient ways of finding the best insurance company for your specific health history is to enlist the help of an independent life insurance broker like Policygenius.

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 compare quotes from multiple companies, advise you on the best options for your specific health status and lifestyle, and help you apply. Policygenius agents specialize in high-risk insurance, or finding options for people with complex health histories or lifestyles.

You can compare quotes from multiple insurance companies right now by using the free pricing tool below:

Don’t hide your condition

If you know you have a health condition that insurers tend to penalize, you might be tempted to fudge your answers or even lie during the phone interview portion of the underwriting process. But that isn’t recommended for a few reasons:

First, because underwriting usually also involves a medical exam or a close review of your medical records, the insurer will almost certainly find out about your condition at some point.

Second, lying on your application is technically insurance fraud. If the insurer discovers down the road that you had a previous diagnosis that you didn’t disclose or that you intentionally misrepresented yourself in any way, they’ll probably cancel your policy. And if they discover you’ve committed fraud after your death, they will deny your family’s death benefit claim and your beneficiaries won’t receive the payout.

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.

For instance, maybe you have high blood pressure, but you take medication for it. Or maybe you have diabetes, but regularly check in with your physician and have lab work to show that your blood sugar is under control. Any documentation of effective treatment could help you get a higher health classification and 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.

In some cases — for example, if you only recently quit smoking — it might be worth waiting a year or so to apply. But generally, it’s much cheaper to buy life insurance sooner rather than later.

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.

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What to do if you’re denied life insurance coverage because of your health

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. One major advantage of participating in a group life insurance plan is that your health status won’t determine your coverage eligibility.

While group life insurance usually doesn’t provide enough coverage for most people — and you’ll lose this type of coverage if you leave your job — having some life insurance is better than not having any at all.

Guaranteed life insurance

Guaranteed issue life insurance is a type of whole life insurance that does not require a medical exam and, in many cases, does not require answering medical questions. Barring a terminal illness, getting coverage is essentially guaranteed.

The tradeoff of guaranteed issue policies is that they are much more expensive than traditional term life insurance policies and offer lower benefit amounts. Generally, guaranteed life insurance should only be used only as a last resort.

Life insurance with pre-existing conditions FAQ

What is considered 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.

Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir

Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir is an insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. Previously, she has worked in marketing and business development for travel and tech. She has a B.A. in Economics from Ohio State University.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

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