How To Get Life Insurance With Preexisting Conditions

Mature man sitting on bed in bright hospital room
•••

Morsa Images / Getty Images

Life insurance can be surprisingly inexpensive when you’re young and healthy. But not everybody is fortunate enough to have excellent health, and getting approved for coverage can be a challenge when you have health issues. Still, there are several ways to get life insurance at a reasonable rate, even with preexisting conditions.

Key Takeaways

  • Preexisting conditions make it harder (but not impossible) to get life insurance.
  • You may need to pay more for coverage with a preexisting condition.
  • Workplace plans and guaranteed-issue insurance may be available regardless of your health.
  • Consider keeping your workplace coverage and other policies for as long as possible if you have health issues.
  • You may be able to keep your life insurance after you leave your job.

What Are Preexisting Conditions?

Preexisting conditions are health problems that you’re aware of when you apply for insurance coverage. For example, if you received care for a particular condition, it is likely a preexisting condition. When it comes to life insurance, the conditions that demand the most attention are chronic conditions that could potentially lead to an earlier-than-anticipated death.

Can You Get Life Insurance With a Preexisting Condition?

The short answer is yes, you can get life insurance with preexisting conditions. However, health issues can cause complications. You might need to undergo additional screening or complete questionnaires to help your insurer understand the nature and severity of your condition. Or you might need to settle for a guaranteed issue policy with a lower coverage amount and a waiting period for full benefits. While the process can feel intrusive or unfair, it may be necessary to get coverage.

Depending on the results of your medical review, you could have to pay higher rates for coverage. Life insurers charge higher premiums when they believe that covering you involves more risk. Alternatively, you may be able to get coverage from an employer’s plan without having to qualify based on your health, depending on the circumstances. If you already have a term policy, you may be able to extend coverage beyond the end of the term without requalifying for it.

You do not need perfect health to get life insurance. Even with serious preexisting conditions, it may be possible to get coverage at a reasonable rate.

Medical Conditions That Can Affect the Cost of Life Insurance

Insurers know that not everybody has perfect health. Age, lifestyle, luck, and other factors can all impact your health, so insurers offer options to customers with a variety of conditions. They also take a close look at your health issues—including how severe the condition is, what treatment plans you’re using, the duration of your treatment, and more. This helps insurers to understand specifically how the condition affects you.

Some conditions may be more or less important to insurance companies than others. The only way to know how your health will impact coverage is to speak with an insurance agent who is familiar with the insurance carriers you’re considering. Some of the most common preexisting conditions include:

  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Neurological and degenerative conditions
  • Sleep apnea

Many other conditions exist, and they may affect your insurance costs to varying degrees.

Life Insurance Options If You Have a Preexisting Condition

When you have health issues, it’s smart to explore several avenues to get the best coverage.

Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance

Guaranteed issue life insurance is available with no health exam and no health questions. As a result, it should be relatively easy to get approved with preexisting conditions. However, insurance companies expect guaranteed issue applicants to have health issues (and they don’t get the opportunity to review your health). Because of this, coverage is limited and may be more expensive relative to policies that require an exam. For example, death benefits are often limited to $25,000, and there may be a waiting period, such as two years, before the insurer pays full benefits.

Simplified Issue Life Insurance

Simplified issue insurance enables you to avoid a health exam, although you do need to answer health questions. Depending on your specific health issues, this approach might offer a solution. But since insurers can’t examine your health in detail, there’s a trade-off. You may need to pay relatively high rates with simplified issue coverage compared to policies that require an exam or ask more thorough questions.

Life Insurance Through Work

If your employer offers life insurance, you might be able to qualify for coverage automatically. Employer-provided life insurance is likely the least expensive way to get coverage with a preexisting condition, and you won’t need to qualify for it. However, the amount of coverage you receive might be limited to a multiple of your salary. In other words, if you make $50,000 per year, and your employer provides life insurance coverage in an amount 1.5 times your salary, you’d be limited to $75,000 worth of coverage. This may not be enough to fully protect your loved ones. 

When you leave your job, you can potentially take your insurance with you—with no need for a health review. 

  • Portability: Insurance portability allows you to get a term life insurance policy that you control and pay premiums on. However, the premiums rise over time with your age, such as on an annual basis.
  • Conversion: Conversion enables you to switch to a permanent insurance policy. It may initially be more expensive than a term policy, but its premiums will remain level for as long as you maintain coverage.

To port or convert your employer-provided coverage, you should act quickly after leaving your job. You might only have 30 days to complete the process.

An Existing Term Policy

If you have existing term life insurance, it may be possible to convert that coverage to permanent life insurance protection without answering health questions. Doing so leaves you with a permanent policy with a level premium that you can keep in force for the rest of your life. But there may be a deadline for conversion well before your policy’s expiration date—and the younger you are when you convert, the lower your premium will be.

Another option is to renew or extend your term life insurance coverage. If you have a guaranteed renewable policy, you can continue term life insurance coverage without the need for a medical review. But since the new premium will be based on your age, you’ll pay higher premiums after your initial term ends (and premiums rise each time you renew). Still, you could pay less than you would pay for a medically underwritten policy.

Keep your term life insurance in place until you secure adequate replacement coverage. Some coverage is better than none, and you may be able to keep your term life insurance beyond the initial term.

Conditions That Might Qualify for Coverage

Remember that having health issues doesn’t necessarily rule out insurance. For example, some insurance companies offer life insurance for diabetics, although premiums are likely higher in those cases. You can also buy coverage with other preexisting conditions. The ability to qualify depends, in part, on the severity of your condition.

Conditions that respond well to treatment might not significantly impact your insurability. The only way to know is to discuss your health with a licensed insurance professional. Having a conversation before you apply can save you time because some insurers are more willing than others to cover certain conditions. Filling out numerous applications before checking could be a frustrating and heartbreaking exercise.

How To Improve Your Life Insurance Rates

When you apply for insurance, you need to be honest with the insurer, but you can put your best foot forward. These tips may help you save money on your next purchase:

  • Prepare for the medical exam: If you undergo a paramed exam, improve your chances of getting the best results. Get plenty of sleep the night before, stay hydrated, and familiarize yourself with the process to minimize your stress levels (and blood pressure).
  • Stay healthy: Healthy habits can help you throughout life, and that’s especially true as you buy life insurance. With consistent healthy eating and exercise, you improve the chances of getting favorable results on your health review.
  • Apply young: Life insurance is typically less expensive when you’re young, and you may have fewer preexisting conditions. As you age, conditions may emerge or worsen, making it harder to qualify (or to get the lowest rates).
  • Manage your conditions: Dealing with health issues can feel like a full-time job, but it’s crucial to stay on top of your treatment plan—especially when you plan to buy insurance. Keeping up with treatments can minimize symptoms and help convince the insurer that you’re managing the condition effectively.

The Bottom Line

It’s ideal to buy life insurance when you have perfect health, but that’s not in the cards for everybody. If you need life insurance with preexisting conditions, discuss your health with an experienced insurance professional, and evaluate resources you already have available (such as workplace coverage and existing insurance policies). You may need to pay higher premiums or jump through extra hoops, but it’s certainly possible to buy life insurance with serious health issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Life Insurance Accepts Preexisting Conditions?

You can buy both term and permanent insurance with preexisting conditions, but your costs may be higher with certain health issues. Employer-provided policies often cover you regardless of preexisting conditions, and guaranteed-issue policies may also be appropriate.

What Happens If You Hide Your Preexisting Condition?

It’s critical to be honest with your insurance company. Attempting to hide a preexisting condition could be illegal, and insurers may cancel your policy if they discover any efforts to deceive them. Ultimately, your beneficiaries could lose protection.

What Do You Do If You’re Denied Life Insurance Coverage?

If your application is denied due to preexisting conditions, speak with an insurance professional who is familiar with multiple insurers. You can also explore insurance through your job and guaranteed-issue life insurers.

Can You Keep Life Insurance When You Leave a Job?

When leaving a job, it may be possible to continue your coverage with portability or conversion. Especially if you have health issues, it’s smart to keep workplace coverage in place until you have adequate replacement coverage in force. Ask your employer for details about taking your life insurance with you.