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Life insurance for pre-existing conditions

With a pre-existing condition you can still get life insurance, but it can be complex. Here's what you need to know.

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Finding life insurance with an existing illness

To get a traditional life insurance policy, you 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 still options available. This page lists some of the life insurance products that can be purchased by people with a previously diagnosed illness or condition that might make it difficult or impossible to take out other forms of life insurance coverage.

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Options for those 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, or no-medical 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.

Types of pre-existing conditions

Your likelihood of being approved for any kind of life insurance other than guaranteed life insurance depends on your specific condition. Here are some examples of pre-existing conditions that your life insurance company may use to adjust your premiums, or as justification to deny you coverage.


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.


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).


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.


Few insurers sell simplified issue life insurance to people with HIV/AIDS, though this is changing as society gets over the stigma the condition has had in the past. Those life insurance companies that do insure people with HIV/AIDS 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.


Many transplant recipients fear they'll never qualify for life insurance, but it's not the case. Despite immunosuppressive medication and a high-risk of further complications, it's still possible to get life insurance, and sometimes without a medical exam. Take care of yourself, eat healthy, exercise regularly and you can reduce the chances of further complications alleviating any pressure from the insurance provider and therefore, your rate. 

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Regardless of how healthy you are, buying life insurance requires a lot of comparison between products. Get a quote today and let us help you find the policies available to you.

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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.

It’s important to note that even if you’re approved for life insurance, your policy might not pay out if you lie or falsified any information to the insurance provider. After your passing, the insurance company can audit your claim and if you've been negligent or took unnecessary risks, there is a chance they deny a payout. 

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. Get started with a quote today, and we'll help point you in the right direction. is not affiliated or otherwise associated with Hub International Canada.

Frequently asked questions

Can you be denied life insurance for a pre-existing condition?

Can life insurance not payout with a pre-existing condition?

How do I get life insurance with a pre-existing condition?

Matt Hands, Business Director of Insurance

With 6+ years of experience at, Matt’s focus has been on growing its newest business unit, Insurance. He is a thought leader and a valuable resource to respected publications across Canada. read full bio

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