Life Insurance With Pre-Existing Conditions: What You Need to Know

{updated January 2019}

Getting life insurance with pre-existing conditions continues to be a hurdle for many individuals and families.

Life insurance is a thoughtful and efficient safeguard for protecting your loved ones and affairs in the case of your death. In many cases, finding a life insurance policy that fits your needs and budget is easy simply because there are so many options offered by numerous insurance providers.

Unfortunately, people with pre-existing health conditions have difficulty selecting a policy that does not drain their wallet, or an insurance company that will offer them coverage.

While pre-existing conditions can impact or limit your life insurance policy selection, it is not impossible to still get the coverage you want to protect your family later down the road.

What is a pre-existing condition?

In a basic sense, a pre-existing condition is a medical or health issue you may have before an insurance provider offers you coverage. This means if you have diabetes, a heart defect or a chronic illness before you apply for a life insurance policy, you are considered to have a pre-existing condition.

People with long-term or ongoing health issues are labeled as having pre-existing conditions by insurance companies as a way for the provider to determine how much of a risk you are.

Pre-existing conditions tell insurance companies that you have health concerns, which may cost them more money in the long run.

For example, an individual with diabetes who signs up for a life insurance policy can be considered more risky to cover, simply because diabetes can cause a myriad of health issues that lead to death.

In some cases, death occurs before the insurance company has collected a substantial amount in premiums, leading the company to lose money when paying out the policy. For this reason, many life insurance providers are weary about extending coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

As a protection for themselves, many insurance companies will not sell policies to people with certain pre-existing conditions or may charge a higher monthly premium.

What counts as a pre-existing condition?

There is no set list that explains every medical issue considered a pre-existing condition.

Insurance underwriters — financial professionals who evaluate how risky it is for the insurance company to cover applicants — are often the determiners of if you can receive coverage or not based on your health situation.

For this reason, many insurance providers require physicals, blood draws, health histories or other kinds of health analysis to determine if you have any conditions that make you a higher-risk applicant.

Some common pre-existing conditions include:

  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Heart Attack(s)
  • Heart Disease
  • High Cholesterol
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • HIV/AIDS
  • High Blood Pressure or Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Depression or mental illness
  • Chronic health conditions

Insurance underwriters may also calculate other factors to determine if you have a pre-existing condition, such as weight issues, sleep apnea, drug and alcohol abuse, or even smoking.

While many of these conditions can make it more difficult to obtain affordable life insurance, they are not necessary hard and fast reasons for why you cannot get life insurance.

In some cases, insurance providers may offer closer-to-normal premiums if you can show that you are in remission for a health condition, such as cancer, or have made great strides towards improving your health, such as lowering your high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Even if you do not make improvements to your health, some providers will still offer coverage at reasonable rates or provide a policy with slightly different rules, such as waiting periods before your policy can be used.

How life insurance with pre-existing conditions can be hard to obtain.

As we explained earlier, pre-existing conditions tell insurance providers that you may be a riskier applicant to cover, and for that reason, they may not sell you a policy.

While this occasionally happens, there are other alternatives to be aware of if you are seeking out life insurance with a pre-existing condition.

Higher monthly premiums: Your life insurance policy may charge you a higher amount than the average person with the same plan.

All insurance underwriters grade applicants based on their health and group them accordingly into one of four categories:

  • Preferred Select/Preferred Plus: A person in excellent health who has no health risks or family history of genetic conditions (such as heart disease).
  • Preferred: A person in excellent health who may have some concerns such as slightly above-average blood pressure, cholesterol or weight.
  • Standard Plus: A person who has great health but may have minimal health concerns such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
  • Standard: A person who is generally healthy but may have some health concerns or a family history of illness.

Individuals who fall in the preferred plus category will have lower premiums that people in the standard category because they are considered less of a risk to insure.

But sometimes, people with pre-existing conditions do not fall into any of these categories. In these scenarios, you may have even higher premiums if the company chooses to extend a policy to you.

Luckily, if your health is expected to improve, you can contact the insurance company later down the road to request an updated medical evaluation. If you can show improvement, it is possible to lower your premium and change your insurance grading.

Waiting periods: Some people with pre-existing conditions are still able to receive life insurance, though they face limitations such as mandatory waiting periods.

With this kind of restriction, your life insurance policy is in place but cannot be used until a certain amount of time has passed while you are alive.

Some common waiting periods are between two and three years, meaning your family cannot use the policy if you die within that time. During waiting periods, you are still required to pay a monthly premium. 

Longer application process: With a pre-existing condition, your application may take longer to process.

Many healthy people in the preferred plus or preferred categories may have quick approval times, but because there is more risk to analyze, an insurance provider may take longer to determine if you are eligible.

How do I get life insurance with pre-existing conditions?

Shopping for life insurance with pre-existing conditions is as simple as selecting a company and looking through their available options.  Or, find an independent agent who can shop the best life insurance companies for you.

While a pre-existing condition can be a barrier, every insurer offers different options and has different requirements that you may meet.

To help make the process less complicated, consider contacting a PolicyZip life insurance specialist who can aid your search — just fill out the form below or call (888) 211-5685.