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Life Insurance for Pre-Existing Conditions

To get a traditional life insurance policy, you will usually need to answer a medical questionnaire and undergo an examination before being approved. If you have a pre-existing condition like cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, it can be difficult to get life insurance, but there are options available.


What options are available for people with pre-existing conditions?

Depending on the severity of your condition, there are many types of life insurance you may qualify for:

  • Guaranteed life insurance is life insurance that you can qualify for regardless of your medical history. Guaranteed life insurance policies are much more expensive than other kinds of life insurance, and they only pay a small death benefit—typically around $25,000; up to $50,000.
  • Permanent life insurance covers you for life, as long as you continue paying your premiums. This kind of insurance is limited to people with minor pre-existing conditions, like well-managed high cholesterol. If approved, you will probably get what’s known as a “rated” policy, meaning you’ll pay higher premiums.
  • Term life insurance covers you for a specified term (typically 10, 20 or 30 years), and may be attainable if your condition isn’t likely to affect your health within the term. Term life premiums will also be rated if you have a pre-existing condition.
  • Simplified issue life insurance is life insurance coverage that’s based on a medical questionnaire, but not a physical examination. Simplified issue life insurance has higher coverage levels and lower premiums than guaranteed life insurance. It’s also easier to get for people with pre-existing conditions than traditional life insurance, although your policy will probably still be rated. (Note that there are many other conditions that cause a policy to be rated, including something as simple as being a smoker, so don’t feel discouraged if your policy is rated due to a pre-existing condition, as it’s more common than you’d think.)

How likely are you to be approved with a pre-existing condition?

Your likelihood of being approved for any kind of life insurance other than guaranteed life insurance depends on your specific condition:

Diabetes

Life insurance companies will consider a number of factors for customers with diabetes. People with diabetes have the best chances of qualifying for life insurance when they’re a healthy weight, not dependent on insulin, and not suffering any kidney damage. Your age can come into play as well; people with diabetes who are older but in otherwise good health have shown they can manage their disease and will have an easier time being approved.

High blood pressure

Because high blood pressure has been linked to more serious events, like heart attack and stroke, it makes the list. If you have high blood pressure, the best thing you can do to improve your chances of getting life insurance is control your weight and try to keep your blood pressure down. Different insurance companies also have different standards of acceptable for blood pressure, so making an informal inquiry before applying for life insurance might give you a better idea of which companies are more likely to accept you. If you keep your blood pressure down for 12 months prior to a medical exam—just like if you quit smoking for 12 months before a medical exam—your premiums can be lowered.

Cancer

While great advances have been made in identifying and treating different types of cancers, life insurance companies still see a great risk in offering insurance to survivors. You’re most likely to be able to get coverage if you’ve had a highly treatable form of the disease, and have been in complete remission for at least two years, (but the longer, the better).

Stroke

If you’ve survived a stroke, insurance companies will ask about any permanent damage, what medications you take, and when you had the stroke. If it’s been over two years and you’ve recovered well, you may be able to get life insurance. You’ll have better chances of being approved if you have good blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and if you don’t smoke.

HIV/AIDS

Few insurers sell simplified issue life insurance to people with HIV/AIDS. Those that do look for people who have lived at least 3–5 years beyond diagnosis, are able to live a normal life, and are continuing to effectively control the virus with medication.


It’s important to note that even if you’re approved for life insurance, your policy might not pay out if you die as a result of your pre-existing condition.

When to apply for life insurance with a pre-existing condition

Life insurance companies will be most likely to work with you when you’re in good health and your pre-existing condition is well managed. Typically, that means a minimum of two years without any unfavourable changes to your health status. The older you get, the more likely it is you’ll develop a complication, or another condition that might end your chances of being approved. That’s why it’s important to apply for life insurance at a young age—ideally before any conditions develop—and be diligent in maintaining your coverage.

The danger in being turned down for life insurance

Regardless of your pre-existing condition, having been turned down for any life insurance policy in the past will be a red flag on any subsequent life insurance applications, even with different companies. That’s why it’s important to do your homework and understand your odds of your application being approved. A qualified insurance broker can help recommend life insurance products that you’re likely to be approved for, and make inquiries on your behalf.