If you have a preexisting medical condition, you may have trouble finding the life insurance coverage you’re looking for. Insurers may decline you or charge you a higher premium than your peers. You may also see limited policy options and have to go through a waiting period before coverage kicks in.
Even the best life insurance companies are cautious when covering people with preexisting conditions. Many people who receive a rejection notice or unaffordable rates in response to a life insurance application lose hope. But there are life insurance options for plenty of people who have preexisting conditions. Read on to find out how your condition may affect your options—and what you can do about it.
Examples of preexisting conditions for life insurance
A preexisting condition is a medical or health condition you’ve developed before applying for life insurance, such as diabetes or cancer. If the condition doesn’t affect your lifespan, however, it isn’t likely to raise your life insurance rates either.
Still, many conditions could raise a flag among insurers—and increase your rates. Here are some health issues that most insurers consider a preexisting condition.
Life insurance with cancer
Doctors diagnosed an estimated 1.8 million new cases of cancer in 2019.1 Some cancers are more common than others, and survival rates for each kind vary as well. That means some types of cancer will affect your life insurance rates more than others will.
Learn more about life insurance with cancer.
Life insurance with heart disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US,2 so insurers take this condition very seriously. As with cancer, there are various types and degrees of heart disease, so your rates will vary depending on your specific situation.
Learn more about buying life insurance after a heart attack.
Life insurance with diabetes
Nearly 10% of the US population has diabetes,3 but when well managed, this preexisting condition doesn’t have to be deadly. As such, when setting life insurance rates, insurers look at how long you’ve had diabetes and how well you and your doctor manage your condition.
Learn more about life insurance with diabetes.
Life insurance with high blood pressure
While high blood pressure (a.k.a hypertension) itself doesn’t typically cause death, it does put you at risk for both heart disease and stroke—two leading causes of death in the country.4 That’s why insurers typically test your blood pressure as part of the application process, and why lowering your blood pressure may reduce your life insurance premiums.
Life insurance with high cholesterol
High cholesterol can also lead to heart attack and stroke, but many people with this condition have no symptoms. You’ll likely have your cholesterol levels checked while applying for life insurance, but you can also ask your doctor to test your levels ahead of time and adjust your habits to boost your scores.
Learn more about life insurance with high cholesterol.
Life insurance with anxiety or depression
Anxiety is the most common mental illness nationwide.5 Many people who have anxiety are more likely to develop depression and vice versa. Both mental illnesses can affect your overall physical health—and increase chances of suicide. But, like many of the physical health conditions we’ve discussed, well-managed anxiety and depression may minimally impact your life insurance rates and options.
Learn more about life insurance with anxiety and depression.
Life insurance with a terminal illness
If you have a terminal diagnosis, life insurance may seem like a complete impossibility. But the truth is, you may still have some options, like final expense life insurance. You may not be approved for a large amount of coverage, and your premiums will be some of the highest among your peers, but you could obtain a life insurance policy.
Learn more about life insurance with a teminal illness.
What will disqualify you from life insurance?
If you have one or more of the above conditions, you may have to pay higher rates for the same coverage a healthier person would pay. In more extreme cases, you may struggle to find enough coverage at all. But every person’s situation is different, and having a preexisting condition may not automatically disqualify you from coverage.
There are a few things that may result in an automatic application denial. If you lie on your life insurance application, for example, you’ll probably be declined. Or if you’re outside the age range (usually up to 80 or 85 years) covered by a specific product, you’ll be denied.
Possible life insurance disqualifiers
Truthfully, there are few situations in which someone can’t get insurance from any company. But there are plenty of situations that are likely to disqualify you for large coverage amounts, specific products, or affordable rates. Some preexisting conditions fall into this category, but there are a few others as well.
If you’re not working
Having a job tells insurers you’re healthy enough to work. It also helps insurers determine your income, which in turn may determine how large a death benefit is available to you.
You’re on disability
Having a disability doesn’t automatically disqualify you for life insurance. But if you’re unable to work due to a disability, your condition may be severe enough to impact your life span.
Best life insurance policy for people with preexisting conditions
Preexisting conditions may not automatically disqualify you for life insurance, but they may limit your options. Luckily, some types of life insurance are easier or more affordable to buy for people with preexisting conditions.
Guaranteed acceptance is a form of no exam life insurance. If you meet all other eligibility requirements (such as age and income), the insurer can’t turn you down for a policy. But there are some downsides.
You may receive approval for only a low death benefit ($50,000 or less), for example. And there’s a good chance you’ll have a waiting period (such as two years) before your benefits kick in. Finally, this coverage is typically expensive, even though the death benefit is low.
Because those are some steep downsides, most people who buy this coverage use it as final expense life insurance. It may be just enough to cover your funeral, pay final medical expenses, and settle some debt.
Group life insurance with preexisting conditions
If your employer offers group life insurance, this may be your best option for coverage with a preexisting condition. For one thing, group policies tend to cost less than individual life insurance. Prices depend on the age and gender of all employees, not just you. And, because you must work at the company to receive this coverage, the insurer knows you’re well enough to work.
Group life insurance never requires a medical exam, but you may need to fill out a medical questionnaire to help determine your rates. You’ll likely be able to buy low-cost coverage for your spouse and children, too, so if they have preexisting conditions, that could be a huge help.
So what’s the downside? Most employers offer only term life. If you leave the company, you may lose your coverage or have to convert your policy to a costly whole life policy. Unless you simply can’t afford the coverage you need on your own, group life insurance probably isn’t the right life insurance for you in the long run.
Term life insurance with preexisting conditions
Term life insurance is typically the most bang for a lot of shopper’s bucks. Lots of people can buy high amounts ($500,000 to $1 million, or even more) for the cost of a meal out or a few cups of coffee a month. If you have a preexisting condition, your rates will probably be higher. But because the price for term life starts so low already, it could be your best bet.
Here’s the catch: you’ll almost certainly need to take a medical exam, so find out what to expect. And, like everyone else who chooses term life, your coverage will one day expire if you outlive your policy. If you have high coverage needs now (like a mortgage) and lower long-term coverage needs (like final expenses), consider buying two policies to create a life insurance ladder that covers all of your needs.
AD&D life insurance with preexisting conditions
Accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) is a unique type of life insurance. For one thing, you don’t have to die to receive the benefit. You may obtain a partial payout if you lose one or more limbs, for example. On the other hand, if you do pass away, this policy will cover you only if you die in an accident. In short, this policy covers only losses due to an accident.
For people who struggle to find life insurance due to a preexisting condition, AD&D may feel like a lucky find. Unfortunately, AD&D may not be the solution to your problem, since it won’t cover you if you pass away due to illness (a.k.a. your preexisting condition).
AD&D may be best for supplemental life insurance, even for entirely healthy shoppers. So, if you’ve been turned down for other types of life insurance, try for one of the policies above. But if you’ve exhausted other options and still want coverage should you pass away due to a mortal injury, AD&D life insurance could be worth it. This coverage doesn’t depend on your health at all, so your preexisting condition shouldn’t affect your rates.
How to get approved for life insurance with a preexisting condition
If you have a preexisting condition, don’t leave your fate in the hands of an insurer. Instead, try the following strategies while looking for life insurance with a preexisting condition.
Be honest on your life insurance application
No matter how tempting it is to hide your health issue, there are many ways insurers can learn about your health beyond what you include in your application. If you’re caught in a lie now, you risk denial. If you’re caught later, your loved ones may not receive the death benefit payout when you pass away. It’s just not worth it.
Shop multiple life insurance companies
Every insurer uses different underwriting guidelines to decide who to approve and how much to charge. If you’ve been turned down before, don’t give up. You could find a company that doesn’t care about your condition or doesn’t think it’s as big a deal.
Find an agent who specializes in preexisting conditions
If applying to multiple companies seems like a pain in the backside, consider working with a licensed life insurance agent who specializes in clients with preexisting conditions. This professional can do a lot of the legwork for you. And, there’s a good chance this agent already knows which companies are likely to approve someone with your specific condition.
Improve your health and apply again
Depending on your situation, you could work with your doctor to improve your health. If that’s the case, work toward wellness—then apply for life insurance again in a few months or years. If necessary, buy the best coverage you can now and upgrade to something better or cheaper when your health improves.
Life insurance approvals with a preexisting condition
As mentioned above, many people with preexisting conditions see approvals for life insurance. Here’s what to expect if an insurer gives you the green light.
Higher life insurance rates
Unfortunately, there probably isn’t a way around paying higher premiums than your completely healthy peers if you want coverage for your preexisting condition. How much higher your rates are will depend on how long you’ve had your condition, how well you and your doctor manage your illness, and how healthy you are otherwise.
If you’re ready for more specific pricing, use our quote tool to see possible rates from multiple companies, all with just one form to fill out.
Life insurance waiting periods
In addition to charging higher prices, an insurer may also require a waiting period as a condition of coverage. During this waiting period, you’ll have coverage, but not if you pass away due to your preexisting condition. Once you’re on the other side of this period, however, you’ll have full coverage.
Limited death benefits
If you have a preexisting condition, the insurer may approve your life insurance application but with a smaller death benefit than what you yourself chose. If this happens to you, it might be a good idea to buy the policy so you have some coverage right away—and then keep shopping around for higher coverage elsewhere.
Limited rider options
Another way your condition may affect your life insurance coverage is in the bells and whistles department. Most insurers offer riders: coverage you can add to a base policy. But if you have a preexisting condition, you may not be able to buy some of these add-ons. For instance, you may not be able to add the following riders:
Waiver of premium rider
This rider allows you to keep your coverage without paying premiums if you become sick or disabled and can’t work anymore. If you can’t buy this rider, but you’re working, consider buying standalone disability income insurance from a company like Breeze.
Disability income rider
Some insurers offer the option to add disability insurance to your life insurance policy. If you already have a disability due to your preexisting condition, you won’t be able to purchase this rider.
Accelerated death benefit
This rider enables you to draw from your death benefit early if diagnosed with a chronic, critical, or terminal illness. If your preexisting condition is considered chronic, critical or terminal, however, you won’t be able to add this rider.
Best life insurance for preexisting conditions
Shopping for life insurance with a preexisting condition isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to mean spending all your Saturday mornings filling out application after application. Many companies are known for their generous approvals and pricing for people in specific situations. So, start with these insurers.
John Hancock has competitive rates for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease.
If you don’t see your condition here, consider working with a licensed, independent insurance agent to find the right company for you. Or use our quote tool to see pricing from multiple insurers. But whatever you do, don’t give up. People with preexisting conditions may have to fight harder to find coverage, but life insurance isn’t just for completely healthy people.
Life insurance with preexisting conditions FAQ
Can seniors with preexisting medical conditions buy life insurance?
Yes! While every situation is different, many of the policies that people with preexisting medical conditions choose are also great options for people in their 60s and beyond. Learn more about life insurance for seniors.
How does family health history affect my rates?
If you don’t have a preexisting condition but a close family member does, it could still affect your rates. If your close relatives, such as parents or siblings, have a medical condition, you may be more at risk to develop that same condition yourself. It depends on the specific condition, of course, as well as your current health and habits, but you could see higher rates if an insurer thinks you’re at risk for developing a health condition down the line.
1. National Cancer Institute, “Cancer Stat Facts: Cancer of Any Site”
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Heart Disease Facts”
3. Diabetes Research Institute, “Diabetes Statistics”
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “High Blood Pressure Fact Sheet”
5. Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Facts & Statistics”
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