What do I do if my life insurance application is declined?

If you get declined for life insurance by one company, you should shop around to find an insurer that will offer you coverage.

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Rebecca ShoenthalRebecca ShoenthalEditor & Licensed Life Insurance ExpertRebecca Shoenthal is a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert and a former editor at Policygenius. Her insights about life insurance and finance have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, The Balance, HerMoney, SBLI, and John Hancock.

Updated|1 min read

Whether it’s a declined college application, an unreciprocated right swipe, or a denied life insurance application, rejection is never easy. While we can’t help with the first two scenarios, we do have some tips if your insurance application was rejected.

Life insurance companies use a process called underwriting to determine premiums and overall eligibility. Each insurer’s guidelines vary, so a rejection from one company doesn’t mean you won't be able to get coverage elsewhere. If your life insurance application is declined, the first thing you should do is talk to your life insurance agent or broker. We’ll walk you through the next steps.

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Reasons life insurance applications are denied

During the application process, life insurance companies evaluate multiple factors — such as hobbies, family history, health, and age — to determine your risk. Each insurance company calculates these factors and their risk differently. One company may decline you because you have diabetes, while another may accept your application and offer you very affordable rates.

These are some of the most common reasons life insurance applications are rejected: 

  • Chronic illness: If you’re suffering from a chronic illness at the time you apply, the insurer may decline your application. Your chances of acceptance increase if you can show that your illness is being treated through an attending physician’s statement (APS).

  • Lifestyle: Smoking, skydiving, or a history of alcoholism won’t usually lead to a rejection, but you will pay more for coverage.

  • Age: The older you are, the more expensive it is to get insured. Although you still have life insurance options, the policies available may not meet all of your coverage needs or may be very costly.

  • Lying or withholding information: If you intentionally leave out anything the insurance company needs to know on your application or during the phone interview, the insurance company can reject your application outright or increase your premiums later.

What to do after a life insurance application rejection

  1. Talk to your broker. If your life insurance application is declined, your life insurance agent or broker will contact you and explain why. Your broker can then work with you to strategize what to do next and how to get approved from another insurer.

  2. Make some lifestyle changes. Sometimes, insurance companies will postpone your application to another date, usually six months to a year later. In that time you can improve your health or quit smoking to get approved.

  3. Explore alternative life insurance products. If a life insurance company deems you to be high-risk, you may still be able to get insured by purchasing final expense life insurance that offers lower coverage at a higher price point.

  4. Ask your employer about group life insurance. Many employee benefits packages include a small amount of life insurance coverage, called group life insurance, which you’re entitled to even if you have a serious medical condition or a dangerous hobby.

An application rejection doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get life insurance at all. Each insurance company has its own underwriting standards, so your age, certain health conditions, or risky hobbies will be treated differently depending on where you apply.

Comparing rates and talking to a licensed, independent broker like Policygenius is the best way to find the right insurer for you at the best price. To understand why your application was denied and ensure it doesn't happen again, talk to your broker. They'll guide you on next steps, such making healthy lifestyle changes or waiting a certain period before the insurer will reevaluate and approve your application.

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.

Why would a life insurance application be denied?

A life insurance application may be denied if you have high-risk medical conditions, dangerous hobbies, or if you left important information off your application. You may also be ineligible for certain policies due to advanced age.

How long do you have to wait to reapply for life insurance?

It depends on the reason you were denied and the insurance company. If your application was denied due to complications related to smoking, for example, you may have to wait six months or more and show lifestyle changes to the insurer. 

What can make you ineligible for life insurance?

Certain types of life insurance policies, such as term life, are better suited for younger, healthier individuals. However, hardly anyone is completely uninsurable. Final expense life insurance options, such as guaranteed-issue and simplified-issue life insurance, are available to almost everyone.