Buying life insurance if you have a pre-existing condition

Buying life insurance if you have a pre-existing condition

Katherine Murbach PolicygeniusHeadshot of Policygenius editor Nupur Gambhir

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.

&

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 June 22, 2022 | 7 min read

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

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

Katherine Murbach PolicygeniusHeadshot of Policygenius editor Nupur Gambhir

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.

&

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 June 22, 2022 | 7 min read

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

Disclaimer: The content supplied here may be impacted by COVID-19. Contact a Policygenius agent for free to find out more.

If you are shopping for life insurance and have a pre-existing health condition, you might be wondering if you’ll have to pay higher premiums, or if you’ll even qualify for coverage. While several factors, including your age, gender, lifestyle, and health will determine your rates and options, the good news is that having a pre-existing medical condition won’t disqualify you from getting life insurance coverage.

Shopping for life insurance with a pre-existing condition?

Finding coverage doesn't have to be complicated. We've got a team of experts who specialize in life insurance for people with various health considerations, including pre-existing conditions. They'll help you find the right options for your unique needs so you can get covered with confidence.

Can you get life insurance if you have a pre-existing medical condition?

Depending on the scope of your health issue 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. If you’re otherwise healthy, you’ll have multiple options to choose from.

If, on the other hand, your condition significantly impacts your daily function, you might not qualify for term life insurance, which is the most convenient and affordable coverage option for most people. But you’ll still have options.

What do life insurance companies consider when you're applying with a pre-existing condition?

Insurers collect information about your current health, lifestyle, family health history, and other details during the application process, which usually includes a phone interview, and a review of any previous medical records. Depending on your circumstances, the insurance company might also ask you to take a medical exam. The information collected throughout your application will determine your health classification, which will be used by the insurer to determine how much you'll pay for coverage.

Certain pre-existing medical conditions, health issues in your family history, or lifestyle choices may result in a lower health classification for you. This will likely raise your rates because these factors indicate that you pose a higher risk of dying while your policy is active.

→ Learn more about life insurance classifications

What is the definition of a pre-existing condition for life insurance purposes?

Any illness or medical diagnosis you received before you got life insurance coverage is considered a pre-existing condition. According to a study from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, [1] [2] 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.

Having one of the following pre-existing conditions might influence how much you pay for life insurance, but some conditions might have a higher impact on your premiums than others:

High impact on premiums:

Low to medium impact on premiums:

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What medical conditions prevent you from getting life insurance?

Some conditions, like heart disease, HIV, and cancer, may prevent you from getting life insurance. Ultimately, the insurance company will take a look at the scope of your condition and how well you’re managing your health to determine your rates.

How do insurance companies know if you have a pre-existing condition?

Insurance companies ask a series of health questions during the application in order to assess risk and determine your premiums. After you submit your initial application, the medical exam will confirm any conditions like high blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar levels. 

Being upfront about any health conditions will help you move through the process faster and improve your chances of getting better rates. If you misrepresent yourself (or lie) on an insurance application, this could impact your approval — you could be offered higher premiums, or be declined altogether.

How to buy life insurance if you have a pre-existing condition

If you’re shopping for insurance with a pre-existing health condition, the following steps could help you find better rates:

  • Work with an independent agent or broker: At Policygenius, we've got a team of experts who specialize in life insurance for people with various health considerations, including pre-existing conditions. They'll help you find the right options for your unique needs.

  • 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 insurance rates.

  • Buy life insurance sooner rather than later: On average, life insurance rates increase 4.5-9% each year that you delay applying, based on your age alone. 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.

Life insurance options if you have a pre-existing condition

Term

Term life insurance is the best fit for the majority of people who are seeking to protect their income when they need it the most — for example, when their children are growing up or while they are paying off their mortgage. Term lasts only for the time you need it and is straightforward and affordable. In many cases you can still qualify for term life insurance with a pre-existing condition.

Whole

Whole life insurance, which is a type of permanent life insurance, lasts your entire life, but is significantly more expensive than term. It is best suited for high-net-worth individuals or people with long-term financial obligations. If you have a need and the budget for permanent coverage, having a pre-existing condition will not automatically disqualify you from applying, but it may contribute to more expensive premiums.

Riders

If you have a pre-existing condition and are worried about it worsening over time, you could consider adding a few riders to your life insurance policy. Riders are add-ons that can protect you from unexpected circumstances. Options include:

  • Accelerated death benefit rider: This rider allows you to request a portion of the death benefit early if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness or condition. Accelerated death benefit comes free of charge with most term policies. Sometimes this option is also called terminal illness rider.

  • Chronic illness accelerated death benefit rider: This rider allows you to request a portion of the death benefit if you have trouble completing activities of daily living (like bathing and eating) due to illness.

  • Critical illness accelerated death benefit rider: This rider allows you to request a portion of the death benefit if you are in critical condition as a result of a health event, such as heart attack or stroke.

Best life insurance companies for people with 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. To get you started, here are our top insurer picks for people with pre-existing conditions.

Best overall: Banner Life

Cheapest for pre-existing conditions: Protective

Best for seniors with pre-existing conditions: Prudential

Best for COVID-19 considerations: Lincoln Financial

Methodology: How we chose the best life insurance companies for people with pre-existing conditions

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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

4.7

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.

Banner Life logo

Banner has some of the longest term lengths and most competitive life insurance rates, even for people with pre-existing conditions.

Pros

  • Very competitive rates

  • Covers many health conditions

  • Term lengths up to 40 years

Cons

  • Strict temporary coverage eligibility

  • Reconsideration is paid for by the applicant

Banner Life has favorable guidelines with a number of health conditions. They also offer competitive premiums in general, meaning that even if you get approved at a slightly higher health classification, you will still pay less than if you were approved at that same health classification with another carrier. Ultimately, the best option for you will come down to your specific condition and health circumstances.

Cheapest life insurance

Protective

4.9

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.

Protective logo

An easy customer experience, low competitive rates, long term options, and very high coverage amounts make Protective a top-tier choice for people with pre-existing conditions looking for affordable term life insurance.

Pros

  • One of the best values on the market

  • Variety of coverage amounts and term lengths

  • Solid suite of online tools

Cons

  • Slow application approval

  • No no-medical-exam options

Similar to Banner Life, Protective is a highly rated company that offers competitive rates across all age groups and many health classifications.

Best for seniors with pre-existing conditions

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

One of the top life insurance carriers for people with pre-existing conditions, especially seniors.

Pros

  • High financial ratings

  • Competitive underwriting for a range of medical conditions

  • Comprehensive online resources

Cons

  • Very high premiums

  • Mixed customer ratings

Prudential is generally a good option for seniors with a number of conditions. They also tend to give favorable rates for conditions that are associated with aging, such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

Best for COVID-19 considerations

Lincoln Financial

4.7

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.

Lincoln Financial logo

Lincoln Financial offers several policy options with quick decisions and affordable rates for shoppers of all age ranges, including people who have recovered from COVID-19.

Pros

  • No-medical-exam option available

  • Fast turnaround

Cons

  • Expensive permanent policies

  • Few online tools

Many insurance companies will automatically postpone your application for 30 days if you test positive for COVID-19, but Lincoln Financial will only delay applications for 10 days in this circumstance, so you can get coverage quicker upon your recovery. 

Lincoln also has flexible guidelines when it comes to travel and COVID-19. While some companies have restricted international travel during the COVID-19 pandemic due to increased risk, Lincoln no longer has any additional travel restrictions related to the pandemic.

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How does a COVID-19 diagnosis affect your life insurance application?

If you have been hospitalized for COVID-19, many life insurance companies will postpone your application for anywhere between 90 days to six months to ensure a full recovery. 

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, some insurers are approaching people who have health complications, and specifically certain conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), history of lung cancer, or immunodeficiency disorders, more cautiously. This has the most impact on people who are over 60 with several pre-existing conditions, in part because we all become riskier to insure as we age. 

Other companies have returned to their standard approval guidelines for people at this time. Working with an independent broker can help you determine which insurance company is the best fit for you if you have health considerations impacted by COVID. At Policygenius, we’ve got a team of experts who specialize in life insurance for people with various health considerations, including pre-existing conditions. They'll help you find the right options for your unique needs.

How much does life insurance cost if you have pre-existing conditions?

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. That’s why having certain pre-existing medical conditions — including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and depression — will raise the price of your premiums.

Having some health issues, however, doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get competitive rates. Every life insurance company evaluates each medical condition differently in their application  process, so it’s important to shop around for an insurer that offers the best rates. Pre-existing conditions cover a wide range of circumstances, so you could get lower or higher rates than what’s illustrated here depending on your personal situation.

20-year term life insurance rates for people with pre-existing conditions

AgeSexNon-smokerSmoker
25Female$31.93$73.48
Male$39.34$95.25
35Female$38.54$101.36
Male$46.39$128.59
45Female$76.49$225.35
Male$96.97$302.87
55Female$169.65$491.85
Male$239.49$693.49

Methodology: Rates are calculated for male and female smokers and non-smokers in a Standard health classification, obtaining a 20-year, $500,000 term life insurance policy. Life insurance averages are based on a composite of policies offered by Policygenius from AIG, Banner, Brighthouse, Lincoln, 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 6/16 2022.

What happens if my pre-existing condition improves or gets worse?

If your condition worsens after you’ve purchased your policy, your rates will remain the same as long as you continue to pay the premiums. The insurance company cannot cancel your policy if your health worsens, which is one of the benefits to securing a policy as soon as you determine you need it.

If your pre-existing condition improves, you can ask your insurer to look at updated medical records and medical exam results to lower your rate. This process is called reconsideration, and many insurance companies will offer it on a case-by-case basis one or two years after your policy’s been active. You can also apply for life insurance with a different company, and see if your improved health condition will grant you a better rate.

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Can your life insurance policy be canceled?

Your policy will lapse if you stop making premium payments. On the other hand, if you lie on your application and the insurance company finds out that you misrepresented yourself during the application process, your policy could be canceled by the insurer.

What are my coverage options if I’ve been denied life insurance due to a pre-existing condition?

Unfortunately, insurers might deny you coverage if you have certain medical conditions. These could include:

  • Alcoholism or drug use

  • Cancer

  • Recent heart attack

  • HIV or AIDS

  • Kidney disease

Every pre-existing condition will be considered by the insurance company 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 life insurance options may be available to you:

  • 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: This is a type of whole life insurance coverage geared toward paying final expenses. Guaranteed issue life insurance offers near-certain approval odds and doesn’t require a medical exam or questionnaire regarding your medical health.

Frequently asked questions

What is considered high risk for life insurance?

Life insurance companies may consider you high risk if you have underlying health conditions that require extensive treatment or impair your daily function. Life insurance companies also consider other factors, such as a poor driving record, recent bankruptcy, or risky hobbies (for example, skydiving), when accounting for risk.

Can I get life insurance if I’m ill?

Having a pre-existing condition does not automatically prevent you from getting life insurance, especially if your condition is well-managed with medication or any other treatment. If your condition limits your ability to work or function independently, it will limit your coverage options.

Can you be denied life insurance for high blood pressure?

You won’t be denied coverage for well-maintained high blood pressure, even if you are on medication. But if your high blood pressure remains untreated or is combined with other medical complications like heart disease, you could be denied coverage.

How can I get cheaper life insurance if I have a pre-existing condition?

Make sure you are following your doctor’s guidance and treatment plan. Next, speak with a licensed agent. Working with an independent broker like Policygenius will help you find the insurance company that will provide the cheapest rates for your specific condition.