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How to get life insurance with a pre-existing condition

If you have a pre-existing medical condition, the best way to get the most competitive life insurance rates is to shop around amongst multiple insurers.

Katherine Murbach PolicygeniusTory Crowley, Associate Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert at 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.

&Tory Crowley

Tory Crowley

Associate Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Tory Crowley is an associate editor and a licensed insurance expert at Policygenius. Previously, she worked directly with clients at Policygenius, advising nearly 3,000 of them on life insurance options. She has also worked at the Daily News and various nonprofit organizations.

Edited byAntonio Ruiz-Camacho

Antonio Ruiz-Camacho

Associate Content Director

Antonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.

Updated|6 min read

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

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

Depending on the scope of your health issue and how you’re 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 is a pre-existing condition?

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.

Which pre-existing conditions matter when buying life insurance?

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

Insurance companies will do their due diligence to confirm your accurate health status when they review your application. In addition to asking several medical questions on the application, they may require you to complete a medical exam and/or share your medical records for evaluation before an insurance policy can be approved. 

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 omit information on an insurance application, this could impact your approval — you could be offered higher premiums, or be declined altogether.

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.

Regardless of the type or severity of your medical condition, working with an independent broker like Policygenius is the best way to find an insurer that will offer you the lowest possible rates for your profile.

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% to 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 life insurance 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.

→ Learn more about how to find the best life insurance policy for you

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Life insurance options if you have a pre-existing condition

If you have a  pre-existing condition, you have multiple options for insurance coverage. Many people with pre-existing conditions will be eligible for term life insurance, while others will do best with a whole life policy

Speaking with a licensed advisor is the best way to determine how your medical conditions will impact your eligibility for insurance, and which product will be best for you in light of your medical profile.  

Level term life insurance

Term life insurance is the best fit for the majority of people. Term lasts only for the time you need it, comes with few tax rules and restrictions, and is generally more affordable compared to other types of insurance. 

Level term, the most common type of term coverage, comes with a death benefit and premium payments that stay the same throughout the entire duration of the policy, making it an easy option to manage. In many cases you can still qualify for level term life insurance with a pre-existing condition.

Simplified issue life insurance 

Simplified issue is a type of whole life insurance, which means it lasts your entire life. Simplified issue life insurance is a good option if term life is not available, or you want something that will last for the rest of your life. However, the coverage is usually for a smaller amount and it’s relatively a more expensive product compared to term life insurance. 

When you apply for simplified issue life insurance, you’ll just submit a short medical questionnaire with your application and no medical exam will be required. For many pre-existing conditions, you’ll be eligible for simplified issue insurance coverage; however, not everyone can be approved. Your chances will depend on your specific situation.

Guaranteed issue life insurance

Guaranteed issue life insurance is a type of insurance policy that’s usually used to help cover the cost of burial expenses. People between ages 45 and 80 are eligible to apply and it’s typically the best option for those who can’t qualify for a standard life insurance policy due to a serious medical condition or terminal illness. 

The application for guaranteed issue life insurance doesn’t require a health questionnaire or a medical exam. As long as you meet the criteria to apply, you’re guaranteed approval.

→ Learn more about the best whole life insurance companies

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

Age

Sex

Non-smoker with a mild condition

Non-smoker with a moderate condition

Smoker with a mild condition

Smoker with a moderate condition

25

Female

$31.84

$45.09

$73.50

$105.32

Male

$39.19

$55.13

$95.50

$135.22

35

Female

$38.17

$55.69

$101.48

$148.79

Male

$45.91

$68.81

$128.59

$197.04

45

Female

$76.28

$111.85

$225.47

$334.99

Male

$96.82

$139.69

$302.99

$450.90

55

Female

$169.46

$250.25

$491.43

$746.07

Male

$239.33

$347.98

$693.61

$1,058.50

Methodology: Rates for mild conditions 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. Rates for moderate conditions are calculated for male and female smokers and non-smokers in a T2 Substandard 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, 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 12/01/2022.

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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 can’t 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.

Can your life insurance policy be canceled because of a medical condition?

The insurance company has no right to cancel your insurance policy unless you stop making premium payments.

However, 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. It’s best to be forthcoming with all information, especially your medical conditions, when you apply for life insurance.

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

There’s no diagnosis that will make you ineligible for life insurance coverage. However, some health issues will make it more difficult to qualify for a traditional life insurance policy regardless of severity.

  • Alcoholism or drug abuse: You’ll be denied coverage for at least three years (and often longer) if you have a history of alcoholism and for at least five years if you were addicted to hard drugs. 

  • 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 you’re still unable to get a traditional life insurance policy for existing health conditions, group life insurance can be an alternative coverage option for you.

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.

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.

More about how to buy life insurance with a pre-existing medical condition

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.

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

Make sure you’re 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.

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. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    . "

    National Diabetes Statistics Report

    ." Accessed November 29, 2022.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    . "

    Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults in the United States

    ." Accessed November 29, 2022.

Authors

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.

Associate Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Tory Crowley

Associate Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

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Tory Crowley is an associate editor and a licensed insurance expert at Policygenius. Previously, she worked directly with clients at Policygenius, advising nearly 3,000 of them on life insurance options. She has also worked at the Daily News and various nonprofit organizations.

Editor

Associate Content Director

Antonio Ruiz-Camacho

Associate Content Director

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Antonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.

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