Guide To Buying Life Insurance with a Pre-Existing Health Condition

Table of Contents

Life insurance policies are the cheapest when you’re young and healthy. When you’re young and in excellent health, every life insurance company is going to consider you to be less of a risk of passing and having to pay out a claim. In return, they can offer a great low rate for coverage.

However, not everyone buys life insurance when they are young and healthy. Maybe life didn’t call for the need for a policy at that time in life.

Not everyone can feel confident that their health will secure them at a great rate. In fact, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sixty percent of Americans have at least one chronic condition. Forty percent have two or more chronic conditions.

If you’re one of them, you might be worried about your ability to get a life insurance policy. The good news is that having a pre-existing health condition doesn’t mean you can’t qualify for a life insurance policy.

It is still highly likely that companies will work with you to get the coverage you need. Your life insurance coverage may also be a lot less expensive than you’re anticipating. 

You have options with a pre-existing condition, and we are going to help find them. Read on to learn more about life insurance with pre-existing health conditions, explore plans that are best for them, and get out best tips for securing a policy.

How Your Health Affects What You Pay for Life Insurance

Life insurance rates are based upon several different factors. The type of contract you choose, your age, gender, tobacco use, and even whether you participate in risky hobbies all play a part in what you will pay for your life insurance.  

However, one of the most significant factors that will be examined very closely is your overall health. Your health, both past, and present is likely to be the largest determining factor on what your life insurance rates will be. It is such a large factor that it can solely determine whether you can qualify for coverage.

When you apply for life insurance coverage, an underwriter from the life insurance company will be assigned to your application to review your risk.

Their job is to assess all the responses to the application questions, review the health information you have provided on your application and examine the medical exam results. It’s also not uncommon for the underwriter to request a copy of your medical records if they need further medical history insight.

The underwriting process is a way for the insurance company to evaluate your overall risk of paying out a potential death claim throughout the time you have your life insurance policy.

If the insurance company’s underwriters view you at low risk of paying out a potential claim due to your health and overall lifestyle, the lower your rates will be.

The greater the risk you are to the insurance company having to pay out a claim in the foreseeable future, the higher your premium will be. If you’re considered to be too high of a risk, the insurance company may choose to decline you for coverage.

How do you know what your risk will be to the insurance company? 

Every life insurance rate is connected to a rate classification, also referred to as health or risk classification.

When underwriting has been completed, the insurance company will assign you a final life insurance rate classification. There are four traditional life insurance rate classifications used by most life insurance companies when assessing an applicant’s overall risk:

  • Preferred Plus – For people in exceptional health. You’ll need to meet strict underwriting standards to be given this classification.
  • Preferred – For people in overall good health who don’t quite meet the standards for preferred plus. Minor pre-existing health conditions may qualify as long as the condition is well controlled.
  • Standard Plus – For people in good health with minor issues. For example, you may have elevated blood pressure or cholesterol that is over the preferred classification guidelines. 
  • StandardFor people in average or standard health and may have an existing pre-existing health condition.
  • Substandard – For people whose health falls below what the company considered to be standard health. 

So, where do you fall if you have a pre-existing health condition?

It greatly depends on the type of pre-existing health condition you have been diagnosed with, the severity of the condition, how long you have had the condition, and whether the condition is currently being treated and under control.

Having a pre-existing health condition also does not prevent you from qualifying for the best health classification either. A medical condition that is less high-risk may still qualify for the preferred classification.

However, if your condition is not well controlled, you might receive a substandard rating or be denied coverage altogether. Additionally, some insurance companies don’t offer coverage to people with certain conditions, no matter how well controlled. This is largely due to the risk of death associated with the condition.

For example, a person with diabetes with an elevated a1c and a bad track record of routine follow-ups with their doctor are at risk of numerous additional health conditions, including diabetic coma and increased risk of death. An insurance company is not likely to offer a policy.

Remember that life insurance companies are evaluating the overall risk potential of paying out a death claim during the duration of you having your life insurance policy. The likelier they’ll have to pay out your policy due to a pre-existing health condition, the more of a risk you represent.

Substandard Table Ratings

Life insurance companies do not exist to provide coverage to healthy people only. Many people with pre-existing health conditions, often viewed as high-risk, can qualify for life insurance coverage under a substandard table rating.

A substandard table rating is equivalent to the rate classification of standard and includes up to 10 table ratings. Each table rating is represented with either a number 1-10 or a letter grade A-J.

For every extra table rating, the cost for coverage increases by an additional 25% to the coverage cost based on the standard rate classification. See below table.

Table Rating Breakdown
Standard Rates + Table Rating = Premium
Standard Table A or 1 = 125%Standard Table B or 2 = 150%
Standard Table C or 3 = 175%Standard Table D or 4 = 200%
Standard Table E or 5 = 225%Standard Table F or 6 = 250%
Standard Table G or 7 = 275%Standard Table H or 8 = 300%
Standard Table I or 9 = 325%Standard Table J or 10 = 350%

As an example, let’s take a look at someone with diabetes since it is a common medical condition that affects 26.8 million adults in the U.S.

Someone with diabetes type 2 over the age of 50 can have a rate class approval ranging from a standard rate classification up to a table rating of a D or 4.

For our example, let’s say our applicant is taking oral medications for his diabetes, but his latest lab tests show that his a1c levels are still elevated. Our applicant is applying for a 10-year term insurance policy and a death benefit amount of $250,000.

Underwriting completed their review of the life insurance application, medical exam, and medical records and approved the life insurance coverage at the rate classification of Standard Table D.

Here is what the premium would look like.

The standard rate classification for a male age 50 non-smoker applying for a 10-year, $250,000 term insurance policy is $44.54. However, the Table D rating increases the base cost of $44.54 by 200% for a monthly premium of $89.08.

While a substandard rating will result in increased rates, for many people, it provides an option to getting valuable life insurance coverage rather than resulting in a decline for coverage altogether.

Health Conditions That Could Raise Your Life Insurance Rates

Every pre-existing health condition has the potential to raise your life insurance rates. The question is, which pre-existing health conditions will raise your rates the most? After all, not all medical conditions increase your risk of death in the same way.

Providing an answer to this question that is 100 percent accurate is near impossible. Only an underwriter from the insurance company you are applying for life insurance coverage will answer this question.

Until your application has been fully underwritten, a final rate classification cannot be determined. However, that doesn’t mean we cannot help provide you with a close to an accurate assessment of how some of the leading life insurance companies tend to rate a few common health conditions.

We have put together the below table representing some of the most common medical impairments and the potential rate classification each impairment may qualify for based on underwriting guidelines from over two dozen companies we work with.

It is vital to understand that the rate classifications shown are not guaranteed and are just an average range of potential qualifications. It also doesn’t mean you cannot qualify for a better rating than what is represented in the below table.

Every life insurance company underwrites risks and medical conditions differently. One company might specialize in offering great rates to applicants with a history of stroke, while another company may be a better choice for applicants with a history of cancer.

We cannot stress enough how important it is to work with an experienced life insurance broker if you have a pre-existing health condition. It can literally save you hundreds, possibly thousands in premium payments.

Pre-existing health conditions rate classification table

Medical ImpairmentAverage Rate ClassificationPreferred PossibleNotes
Alcohol AbuseTable RatingYesMost companies require successful treatment with a minimum of 2 years of sobriety to be considered. A Longer length of sobriety can result in a possible preferred rating. Any current treatment is likely to result in a decline.
AnemiaStandard - Table RatingNoRating will vary depending on severity and type of anemia. Iron deficiency anemia with no underlying conditions may receive a preferred rating. Hemolytic anemia will range from standard rates to table rating. Severe cases can result in a decline in coverage.
AnxietyStandardYesMild cases are likely to result in possible preferred approval. Severe cases resulting in suicide attempts or time off work may result in table rating or decline for coverage.
ArthritisStandard - Table RatingYesMild cases of osteoarthritis can be eligible for preferred rates with 2+ years of well-controlled non-steroidal medications or immunosuppressants. Mild cases of rheumatoid are likely to result in standard to table rated approval. If limited mobility along with other medical conditions could potentially be declined.
AsthmaStandardYesMild cases are likely to qualify for preferred rates while moderate to severe cases will be looking at possible tabling ratings to decline. Smokers are likely to receive a table rating even in mild cases.
Atrial FibrillationStandard - Table RatingNoNon-chronic with no underlying heart disease may be considered at standard rates. Chronic condition will likely result in table rating.
Barrett's EsophagusStandard - DeclineYesRate class will vary depending on medical reports. Most cases are likely to receive a standard to table rating. Preferred is possible if no dysplasia and good follow-ups are done on a regular basis.
Breast CancerTable Rating - DeclineNoRating will depend on breast cancer stage/grade. The majority of cases involving breast cancer will be postponed for a specific amount of years after successful treatment has been completed. Stages 3 and 4 can have up to a 15-year of postponement before consideration can be made.
Bundle Branch Block - RightStandard - Table RatingYesIncomplete and complete with no cardiovascular risk likely to be standard with possibility of preferred.
Bundle Branch Block - LeftTable RatingNoRecent cases are likely to result in a decline.
CardiomyopathyTable Rating - DeclineNoConsideration will require full recovery with stability for at least 6 months. If younger than age 35 will likely result in a decline.
COPDTable Rating - DeclineNoTable ratings will depend on age and severity. Younger applicants are looking at a table rated approval. Older applicants with very mild cases may receive a standard rating but the average tends to be around the low table rating range. If using oxygen or tobacco use, will likely result in a decline.
Colitis - UlcerativeStandard - Table RatingYesRating will depend on severity and age. Mild cases will likely result in a standard approval to low table rating while severe cases will result in a higher table rating or decline. Preferred is a possability is its been at least 5-years since last attack and no other medical conditions.
Coronary Artery DiseaseTable Rating - DeclineNoRating will depend on multiple factors such as age, severity, how many vessels and which vessels effected, treatment, medications, tobacco history, etc. Younger applicants below the age of 40 will likely result in a decline in coverage. Table ratings range from low to mid-table for applicants in Class 1 & 2 CAD range. Class 3 will have a higher table rating with applicants under the age of 50 facing a potential decline.
Crohn's DiseaseStandard - Table RatingYesRating is based on severity and when diagnosis has occurred. Mild cases can result in a possible preferred if over the age of 45 and the condition has been stable for at least two years. Moderate to severe cases over the age of 45 is likely to be a mid to high table rating.
Depression DisordersStandard - Table RatingYesMild cases that don't require medication are likely to receive a preferred classification. Mild cases with medication will range from standard to table ratings if condition has required hospitalization or time off work.
Diabetes
Type 1
Table Rating - DeclineNoDiabetes Type 1 insulin dependent tends to often be highly rated. Control on the medical condition will greatly determine the table rating.
Diabetes
Type 2
Standard - Table RatingYesDiabetes offers a wide range of potential ratings. Companies will view age of onset, how long condition has occurred, medication prescribed and doctor follow ups. Most cases often result in a low to mid table rating. However, a few companies will consider standard, possibly preferred with excellent control and no other complications.
Drug AbuseTable Rating - DeclineYesMarijuana use will depend of frequency of use. Some companies will allow up to a certain limit with the potential of qualifying for preferred rates. Drug abuse other than marijuan use within 2-3 years will likely result in a decline. After year three with no use, will begin with table rating and abrove the longer you have not used.
Epilepsy / SeizuresStandard - DeclineNoEpilepsy ratings will depend on control of the condition and frequency of seizures. No seizures in the last two-years could result in a standard to low table rating while more frequent seizures will result in a higher table rating or possible decline.
Hepatitis A,B and CStandard - DeclineYesHepatitis A and B fully recovered is likely to result in a standard rating with the possibility of preferred. Hepatitis B, if chronic can potentially result in a decline. Hepatitis C with no symptoms can range from standard to table rating. Severe cases will likely result in a decline.
High Blood PressureStandard - Table RatingYesHigh blood pressure or hypertension is a common medical impairment. Preferred rates highly likely especially if controlled with medication. Uncontrolled, untreated BP over 185/100 can result in a table rating or possible decline.
High CholesterolStandard - Table RatingYesHigh Cholesterol is another common medical impairment. Preferred rates highly likely especially if controlled with medication. Uncontrolled, untreated cholesterol over 300 with an HDL greater than 7.0 could lead to a table rating.
Multiple SclerosisTable Rating - DeclineNoRating will depend age of diagnosis, course of disease and response to treatment. Most stable cases viewed as mild will result in a lower table rating wheras moderat case will be higher. Severe cases will result in a decline.
PancreatitisStandard - Table RatingNoA single episode is likely to result in a standard to low table rating. Multiple episodes can range in a mid table rating and if chronic, possible decline.
Parkinson's DiseaseTable Rating - DeclineNoRating will be based on age of diagnosis, progression of disease, sevirity of disease and if there is any presence of dementia. If condition is not severe, a low table rating could be made.
Prostate CancerStandardYesProstate cancer after one year full recovery with normal Gleason and PSA levels (not rising) can qualify for non table rated policy. Could be table rated if 60 and older with Gleason score above 6 and PSA less than 10.
Sleep ApneaStandard - Table RatingYesSleep apnea is often viewed as mild, moderate or severe. Mild cases will range from standard to preferred rate class while moderate and severe cases will be classified at table rated or possibly declined.
Stroke
(CVA, CVD & TIA)
Standard - Table RatingNoWill greatly depend on how much time has passed since stroke and the age when the stroke occurred. If under age 50 likely to be highly table rated to possible decline. If stroke had occurred over age 50 and at least one year time has passed fully recovered a possible rating of standard. 

Looking at the list, it might be easy to see why some conditions will raise your rates more than others. There’s a big difference between cancer remission and taking a daily pill for elevated blood pressure.

That’s why there is no one-rate class for anyone with a pre-existing condition. Applications are reviewed on an individual basis before a final rate classification is assigned.

It is also a reminder that the above table is just an average look as to how a life insurance company could potentially rate your pre-existing health condition, but it’s not guaranteed.

It is possible to receive a better health classification on a pre-existing health condition that you may have been diagnosed with several years ago that has been well control.

Pre-existing Health Conditions That Can Cause a Denial for Life Insurance Coverage

There are times when a pre-existing health condition can result in a life insurance application being denied. This can happen if you have multiple health conditions, a medical condition not being treated or under control, or when you a serious condition that the insurance company considers too risky to insure.

Medical conditions that are most likely to cause a denial include:  

  • Alcoholism
  • A recent heart attack
  • Cancer
  • HIV or AIDs
  • Renal failure

That’s not to say that having one of these conditions means you can’t find a life insurance policy. If you have a condition on this list, you still have options.

Remember that companies consider policies on a case-by-case basis and that companies have their own individual underwriting standards.

Just because a company is unable to offer your insurance doesn’t mean that another company couldn’t offer you a great rate.

That’s why it’s so important to shop around. You should always get quotes from multiple companies so that you know what your options are. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or just want to help find the right policy for you, an agent can be a great resource.

Medical ImpairmentAutomatic Decline Timeline
Abdominal aortic aneurysm corrected surgicallyWithin past 6 months
Alcoholism treatment (detoxification and/or inpatient alcohol program)Within past 2-years or history of treatment and currently using or used in the last year
Alzheimer's Disease/dementiaUninsurable*
Automatic Defibrillator (ACID)Uninsurable*
Bankruptcy - Chapter 7 & 11Not discharged or discharged <1 year ago
Cancer treated with chemotherapy or radiation therapyWithin 12 months
Cirrhosis of the liverUninsurable*
COPD/Emphysema with oxygen useUninsurable*
Diabetes with poor controlUninsurable*
Illegal drug use (other than marijuana)Within 2-3 years
Gastric/intestinal bypassWithin 1 year
Grand Mal SeizuresWithin 1 year
Heart attackWithin 6 months
Heart bypass surgeryWithin 3 months
HIV positiveUninsurable**
Kidney DialysisUninsurable*
Lung disorder on oxygenUninsurable*
Mental disorder requiring hospitalizationWithin 1 year
Myelodysplastic SyndromeUninsurable*
Organ transplant pending or receivedWithin 1 year
Probation/paroleCurrently serving or ended <1 year ago
Pregnant with complications (toxemia, eclampsia, pre-eclampsia)Postponed
Suicide attemptWithin 2 years
Stroke/Cerebrovascular accident (CVA)Within 1 year
QuadriplegiaUninsurable*
Advised major surgery pendingPostponed
Valve replacementWithin 1 year

The above table is a small sample of pre-existing medical conditions that are often classified as a denial for coverage, along with a corresponding timeline. This is not an all-inclusive list of every possible medical impairment that could be classified as a decline or uninsurable condition. *May be able to get life insurance coverage under a guaranteed acceptance life insurance plan.

What Type of Life Insurance Can You Get With A Pre-Existing Health Condition?

It’s not often that a pre-existing health condition would limit what type of life insurance policy you can qualify for. The only general time that this would happen is if a medical condition was such a high-risk that you wouldn’t be able to qualify for any policy that required full underwriting.

However, the type of policy you choose to buy can have a serious effect on your rate. This is especially important if you’re worried about your rates being high due to your pre-existing condition.

When it comes to choosing a life insurance plan, you’re going to have to choose between either term insurance or permanent life insurance.

As a rule, it’s always cheaper to buy a term life insurance policy. A term life insurance policy is a policy that covers you for a set amount duration of time. Permanent insurance such as universal life and whole life insurance are plans that will cover you for your whole life. 

Because term insurance is temporary, lasting anywhere from 10-30 years, the coverage is cheaper as the risk of paying out a death claim will be less of a chance than it would be with a permanent policy.

Since term insurance is cheaper, it generally allows you to get a higher death benefit amount at a significantly lower rate than a permanent life insurance plan. They’re a great fit for people who are looking for coverage that fits their budget.

Unfortunately, standard term policies can be costly if you have a pre-existing condition. Your pre-existing condition could raise your rates substantially.

While you might still find great term insurance rates with a single, well-controlled condition, you might have a more challenging time with a more serious or less well-controlled condition. 

If you’re concerned a standard term policy would be too expensive or denied altogether, read on for some other types of life insurance policies that could help you get the coverage you need. 

Simplified No Medical Exam Policies

Simplified no medical exam policies are an underwriting option commonly found on many of today’s traditional life insurance policies. If offered by the insurance company, this form of underwriting will not require you to take a medical exam when applying for coverage.

The only requirement required is to complete your application and answer all the medical questions listed within the application. You will not be required to take a medical exam at all with this option.

While simplified underwriting can allow you to skip the traditional medical exam often required when applying for life insurance, you’ll still need to meet the company’s underwriting standards.

You can be turned down for a no medical exam policy for having pre-existing medical conditions. Underwriters will look at the information on your policy and check it against databases used by insurance companies. If your health is too high or a risk, coverage can be declined.

No medical exam policies will require you to meet specific requirements to be eligible for coverage. For example, many companies only offer no exam policies to customers up to age 60 to 65.

Death benefit amounts are often limited to a maximum of $1,000,000 or less, and most importantly, your rate classification can often be limited to the standard rate classification at best.

Specialized policies

Some companies offer policies designed just for people with specific health conditions. These policies have different underwriting standards than typical policies and can help you get covered. An agent or broker can help you find one of these policies.

Examples of specialized policies include:

  • Policies for people with HIV
  • Policies for people with diabetes
  • Policies for with people  cancer

These policies still have specific health and qualification standards you’ll need to meet. For example, a policy for people with cancer might specify that you need to be passed a certain recovery period to be considered for coverage. Be as specific with your agent as possible so that they can help you find the right policy.

Simplified issue policies

A simplified issue policy is often associated with a type of life insurance referred to as final expense insurance. These policies do not require a medical exam, and approval is usually based on the medical questions on the life insurance application.

Based on your responses to the medical questions, the insurance company will approve your coverage as either qualified for a level death benefit plan or a graded death benefit plan.

Level death benefit plans are reserved for those in good health or may have a minor health condition treated with medication and have the medical condition under control.

Qualifying for a level death benefit plan will offer lower premiums, and your death benefit will be payable upon death starting from the first day you have your coverage.

A graded death benefit plan would generally be given to someone that may have a riskier health history. A graded death benefit approval would limit the payable death benefit during the first two policy years.

If death were to occur during that time, the death benefit is generally limited to a return of all premiums plus interest paid, which would go to your beneficiary listed on the life insurance policy. After policy year two, the full death benefit is payable.

Final expense insurance plans are designed for those over the age of 50 who may have less than ideal health and do not require a large amount of coverage. These plans are generally purchased to cover any end of life expenses such as funeral costs and other smaller remaining debts.

Coverage amounts are much less than what traditional plans offer. With final expense plans, your coverage amount is limited to smaller amounts that range from $1,000 up to $50,000.

However, having a smaller policy is always better than having no policy at all, and because these plans are designed for older applicants, usually the lower amounts work out perfectly.

Although simplified issues plans are accepting of several pre-existing health conditions, not everyone will qualify. The underwriting standards will depend on the company, but you might have trouble finding a simplified issue policy if you:

  • If you currently live in a long-term care facility
  • Have been diagnosed with your condition within the past two years
  • Are receiving dialysis treatments
  • Have limited mobility that causes you to need a wheelchair

Many insurance companies offering this type of policy will state the eligibility requirements upfront. An agent can help if you’re not sure. 

If you have a condition or two and you’re worried that you’ll be denied a policy that uses standard underwriting, a simplified issue policy could be a good choice.

Guaranteed acceptance policies

Guaranteed acceptance life insurance requires no medical exam or medical questions at all. You can’t be turned down for a  guaranteed acceptance, no matter what health conditions you have.

Like simplified issue plans, most guaranteed acceptance policies are smaller whole life insurance plans often purchased to cover funeral costs and other small end of life expenses.

Since these policies accept everyone regardless of risks, you’ll pay more to have one. Rates for this type of policy can be much higher than other policy types. Plus, the coverage available is often limited to around $25,000.

Another drawback of guaranteed acceptance policies is that your benefit won’t be paid out if you die early in your policy. These plans have an automatic 2-year year graded death benefit. If death occurs in policy years one or two, the payable death benefit is a full return of premiums plus interest.

That might not be a lot, but it would still be better than having nothing in place at all. Guaranteed acceptance policies aren’t a good choice for people who can get approved for other policy types, but they can be the right for people who aren’t healthy enough to qualify for another type of life insurance.

Simplified Issue Vs. Guaranteed Issue: What's the difference?

You won’t take an exam with either policy type, but there are key differences.

Simplified Issue PoliciesGuaranteed Issue Policies
Have coverage amounts of up to $50,000Have coverage amounts of up to $25,000
Immediate death benefit payoutWon't payout in the first two years
Don't accept all applicantsAccepts all applicants
Have premiums that might be more than standard
term underwriting, but less than whole life insurance or guaranteed issue
Have higher premiums than standard term or simplified issue policies.

Employer-Sponsored Life Insurance

If you have a pre-existing health condition, be sure to check to see if your employer offers a group life insurance plan. Many companies offer life insurance as an employee benefit.

While group life insurance will vary, most plans will offer a maximum amount where you won’t be required to take an exam or even apply for this coverage.

Your health shouldn’t affect your ability to get this type of coverage plus, employers often contribute or even cover your premiums’ cost. That means you won’t have to worry about the price or the application.

There are a few key downsides to this type of insurance. First, your coverage might not be portable, meaning if you leave your job, you may not be able to keep the coverage.

This could leave you with no policy and add to the stress of being laid off or switching jobs if you depending on your employer policy.

Another downside?

Coverage with this type of policy is generally limited to about 1-2x your annual salary. When most financial experts say you should have 8-12x your annual income in life insurance coverage, that’s a lot less than most people need.

However, an employer-sponsored policy is a lot better than having no policy in place at all, especially if you have health conditions that would prevent you from getting traditional life insurance.

Accidental Death and Dismemberment Policies

Accidental death and dismemberment insurance or AD&D insurance plans are not the same as traditional life insurance, but they pay a death benefit. For that reason, it is worth a mention.

Accidental death and dismemberment policies only pay out a death benefit if you die in an accident or you lose a limb as a result of an accidentYour beneficiary won’t receive any money if they die from a health condition.

This type of policy can’t fully replace life insurance, but if you’re having trouble qualifying for a policy, it might be a good idea since you will not be denied approval due to health reasons. That means your health is not a risk factor for the company and isn’t used in the underwriting process.

You won’t have coverage for all possible causes of death, but you will have something in place should an accident happen.

Top Tips for Life Insurance When you Have a Pre-existing Condition

Shopping for life insurance with a pre-existing condition can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. There are steps you can take to make the process easier and to increase your chances of approval. Remember, your pre-existing condition doesn’t always mean you’re stuck with a high rate or no policy at all.

Use an Independent Agent or Broker

Agents and brokers can help you get coverage. Insurance agencies are licensed professionals who can show you policies from multiple insurance companies.

They can match with companies that fit your specific needs, and get you quotes from those companies. They can even help with the application process once you pick a company, and in many cases can help advocate for you if you get denied.

You can look for agents who specialize in finding policies for people who consider high-risk applications. These agents have experience matching people with health conditions to the right policy. They can help you feel confident you’ve found the right policy for your situation.

It’s understandable if you’re overwhelmed trying to buy a life insurance policy. An agent can help. Plus, you won’t pay any extra to use an agent because insurance agents are paid by commissions from the insurance company.

Ask about Special Underwriting Credits & Programs

This tip is another benefit to working with an experienced life insurance broker. Several life insurance companies offer underwriting programs for people with pre-existing health conditions and actively take care of their health in other areas.

Some insurance companies will give underwriting credits towards a pre-existing health condition to improve the rate classification if an applicant shows that they are healthy in other areas.

For example, an insurance company’s underwriter may look for the following healthy characteristics to see if there is any room to apply credits to improve a pre-existing health factor that would normally lead to a substandard table rating.

  • Annual checkups
  • Favorable cardiac tests
  • Lifetime non-smoker
  • Regular exercise
  • Labs results within normal ranges
  • Within height and weight standards for age
  • History of good family health

These are a few lifestyle and medical characteristics that insurance underwriters could look for to reduce a table rating on a high-risk pre-existing health condition.

*Every company does not offer underwriting credits, and they are not guaranteed. If credits are available, the underwriter will automatically apply them. The key is applying with a company that offers these programs should you have a pre-existing health condition.

Be Sure to have well Documented Follow Ups

It can help you get approved and help your rates if you can show that your health condition is being treated by a doctor and you have maintained good follow-ups.

Life insurance companies look a lot more favorably on well-managed conditions. You can show that your condition is being managed by providing documentation of the medication you take, the lab work your doctor has done, or even a  statement from your doctor that your outlook on your medical condition is promising. 

It can be beneficial if you can show improvement in your condition. For example, you could show the insurance company that your blood pressure was much higher three years ago, but that with the help of a doctor, lifestyle changes, and medication, you’ve brought it down. This could improve your rates dramatically.

Know that Timing Matters

As a rule, it’s better to buy life insurance when you’re younger. Getting older almost always increases your rates. This is true if you have a pre-existing health condition, too.

Applying when you’re 30 a pre-existing condition will get you much better rates than you would get with that pre-existing condition at 45.

However, there are some exceptions you should be aware of.  It can be harder to get a policy right after a medical diagnosis or medical event.

For example, if you recently had a stroke or just got diagnosed with cancer, there is generally a waiting period before you can be considered for coverage. The only exception to this rule is if you are applying for a guaranteed acceptance life insurance policy.

Get as Healthy as Possible

You might not be able to control your pre-existing condition, but you can control some other health factors. Having an overall healthy lifestyle can make a big difference in your ability to get approved and on your rates.

Even with a pre-existing condition, you can take steps to improve your health. This includes:

  • Quit smoking
  • Take all your medication as ordered
  • Don’t put off doctor follow-ups
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Stay active
  • Eat a balanced diet

Doing these things is unlikely to cure your pre-existing condition, but they could help you get a policy at an affordable rate.

See if You can Adjust your Rates Down the Road

Many health conditions can improve over time. If this happens, you can ask your insurance company if you can take a new medical exam for a potential reconsideration in your rate classification.

Many life insurance companies will allow you to do this, and your new exam results could lead to lower premiums.

Most insurance companies that allow for a reconsideration of rate classification will require that you have had your coverage for at least two years before the request will be considered.

The Importance of Being Honest about Your Pre-existing Condition

It can be tempting to leave information off your life insurance application, especially if you know you have a health condition that often causes raised rates or denials. You might think this a good way to get a policy at a good rate and that you’re unlikely to be found out.

This is never a good idea. You should never lie on a life insurance application for any reason. The insurance company is actually highly likely to find out at some point, and the consequences can be steep.

How does the insurance company find out? They have few ways, including:

  • The results of your medical exam
  • The information they pull from medical and other databases
  • The health records they acquire while investing a death claim on your policy

If your insurance company finds out about your health condition through your exam or other information they get during the application process, they could deny your application.

Your denial, and the reason for it, will be reported to a database called the Medical Information Bureau (MIB). When you try to apply for insurance again, other companies will see this information. This could make it even harder for you to get a policy.

If the company finds out during the term of your policy, your coverage could be canceled. If the company finds out while investigating a death claim, your beneficiary might not get the death benefit payout at all.

This is especially true during your policy’s first two years, known as the contestability period of a life insurance contract. When any death claim is submitted within the first two policy years, the insurance company can investigate the claim to make sure there were no misrepresentations made at the time of the application.

The bottom line is that lying on your life insurance application is a type of fraud. Companies won’t do business with you anymore if they find out you’ve committed fraud.

So, a policy you acquired by leaving out vital information about your health isn’t secure. It might not pay out at all, leaving your loved ones in the same situation as if you’d had no policy at all.

COVID-19 and Pre-Existing Conditions

Some insurance companies are being more cautious than standard with certain conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. This generally applies to conditions that make you more vulnerable to COVID-19, including:

  • Respiratory conditions
  • Conditions that weaken your immune system
  • Diabetes
  • Senior applicants with high-risk health conditions  

However, some companies are processing applications as usual. Ask an agent or broker if you’re not sure.

Life Insurance and Pre-Existing Health Conditions - Final Thoughts

It can be overwhelming to shop for life insurance when you have a pre-existing health condition. You might have a more challenging time finding reasonable rates if you do it on your own.

You might even run into companies that don’t offer policies to people with your condition. That doesn’t mean you don’t have options.  Working with an agent or broker is a great way to find a policy you can afford that offers the coverage you need.

If you’re interested in getting a life insurance policy with a pre-existing health condition, you’re already in the right place. At No Medical Exam Quotes, we can show you quotes from top companies, and we specialize in both companies that offer both exam and non-medical exam life insurance plans.

Fill out our quick form to get started today.

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Jeffrey Manola - Life Insurance Expert

Jeffrey Manola - Life Insurance Expert

Jeffrey Manola is the founder of No Medical Exam Quotes, an online insurance broker with a strong focus on helping people shop for the perfect life insurance policy. Jeffrey is both a licensed life insurance expert and content creator for the website. Before becoming a licensed life insurance agent, he served in the United States Marine Corps. He transitioned from serving his country to helping families find affordable life insurance coverage since 2009. No Medical Exam Quotes is licensed to offer life insurance coverage in all 50 U.S. States.

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